Everyone has their guilty pleasures. The things that you enjoy a little TOO much. For some it's Mallomars. For others, it may be a TV show like Gossip Girl or Project Runway. For me, I am embarrassed to admit that what tops my list is a trip to the local IKEA. Yes, you heard me right. Those Swedes have got me hook, line and SATER.

First, there is the ideology. Great Design at Great Prices. Their stores have big signs that say things like "We'll never stop making good design affordable." Right on brother. Then, there is the Environmental aspect. Flat pack to save on shipping. Put it together yourself. Genius. I think that when you go for a job interview, they should just leave you alone in a room with an EXPEDIT shelving unit and an Allen wrench and just see what happens. If you can do it in under 10 minutes, you're hired. (Just make sure you recycle that cardboard package.)

Secondly, there is the store design itself. The entire apartment in 250 Square Feet. The maze like layout with shortcuts for people in the know. It's an experience to say the least. I won't even talk about the restaurant, where you can get an entire hot meal for $4. To sum it up, they definitely get you thinking.

Lastly, and most importantly, is the sheer volume of their offerings. Other than the exterior shell of a house, they've got it. From napkins to bed frames, they have thought of everything for home AND business. And of course, everyone knows how affordable it all is. For the life of me, I can't understand why people would shop at places like Walmart and Bob's Discount Furniture when you can get thoughtful, well made products at IKEA.

I first discovered IKEA when I was in college. It was then that I purchased my first BILLY bookcase. After that, it was the KLIPPAN Sofa, the POANG chair, you know the drill. You stock up on all of this cool looking stuff and then your friends come over and ask, "Where did you get this? IKEA? Really?" And then IKEA began to grow, adding other systems and finishes to their lineups. Black-Brown began to pop up on everything from LACK shelves to kitchen cabinets. Architects in NYC started specifying IKEA kitchen cabinets for apartment renovations due to their durability and affordability. Stores started popping up everywhere.

Now I have taken my share of criticism for endorsing IKEA among colleagues in the past. Some say that the stuff is not made well. Some say that it is cheap. I would be remiss if I did not mention those criticisms. But here's the rub: No other company is focused on affordable, accessible modern design like IKEA. It's not like there are alot of other options. For a recent project, I was trying to find a sofa with a boxy shape and square armrests. I went to Raymour and Flanagan. Nothing but poofy sofas. I went to Ashley. No dice. I even went to Bob's. Total waste of time. I finally found a 79" sofa at Macy's for $699. When I told the salesperson that I would take it, he said the lead time was 12-16 weeks. I passed.

Yes, I also looked at Crate and Barrel, Room and Board, and the local furniture stores. I found nothing that was less than $1000 for what I wanted. Room and Board came the closest, but had an 8 week lead time. Still not happening. Only IKEA offered the product that I needed. A boxy brown leather sofa, in stock for under $500. Sold.

So, I admit it. I love IKEA. I wouldn't say that I would go out and furnish an entire project from there, but I do selectively purchase staple items and then use the savings to splurge at other stores. And the best part is, they continue to get better. They improve the systems that are lacking, and stick with the systems that are great. They understand what people are looking for, and find a way to deliver it to them on budget without compromising Design. As a company, they act responsibly towards the environment and pass those responsibilities along to the customer. What more could you ask for? How about a free Cinnamon Roll with that Swedish Meatball lunch? Now you're talking my language...