We are planning a quick trip up to Chicago in the near future and I am debating an IKEA visit. I hadn't trolled the mega store's website in a while and found some pretty cool new pieces that might be worth a detour.
I think the key to shopping at IKEA is to know that it shouldn't ALL come from IKEA. You should be selective and think about what elements you can mix in to elevate a particular item. My big generally rule is to hone in on more accent pieces rather than major staple items as 1.) I would worry about the quality of say a sectional and 2.) their pieces tend to be more on trend and its nice to be able to purchase these types of items without making a huge investment. To further speak to point number 1, I look at items where quality control is maybe not as big of an issue. For example, I probably won't buy a large area rug from IKEA for fear of it shedding all over the place and quickly falling apart. I would (and have) purchase a cowhide as it is obviously a natural material that is pretty much the same whether you buy it for $200 or $1000. To further elaborate on point number 2, I would not plan a space around an IKEA item or if I did I would use it as more of a stand in item while I searched for its replacement. This is because again a nervousness about quality and use but also because I think great spaces are full of items meant to last. You can just sort of feel a richness and depth to a space when it contains pieces that were handcrafted and produced/selected with care.
Take this MELLBY chair for example.
This is what I might regard as a great stand in piece. You could purchase one or a pair of these chairs and they could look amazing in a space. Upholstered chairs are, however, more of a staple piece than an accent item. Meaning that if used a lot or placed in direct sun it will most likely show wear fairly quickly and will need to be replaced sooner rather than later. Perhaps with this Goodland chair from Design Within Reach which looks almost exactly like it but will most likely stand the test of time and wear much better.
Another example of a stand in piece would be this STOCKHOLM swivel chair.
For me, this light is more of an "on trend" item that I might eventually want to replace with something different. However, it is a copy of a very classic design by Stilnovo.
Other current IKEA items that I just like and could work as more accent pieces include this funky little outdoor bench...
This interesting floor lamp...
And this media unit which I think could be cool used as a bench...
Want to see more IKEA picks? Check out this old post.