When I was a kid, going to IKEA Singapore was the most exciting thing in the world. IKEA was, hands down, the best amusement park in town in the ‘90s. Times were simpler then.
But now that I’m in a stage of life where I actually NEED furniture, it’s a whole different story.
I hate having to walk along the IKEA-prescribed labyrinth (shortcuts = death), and I can never find the items I want because everything is grouped by “rooms” instead of product type. Also, the mushy young couples fantasising about their dream (identical Scandinavian) homes keep getting in my way.
Plus, IKEA is no longer the go-to shop for cheap furniture, now that shopping online through Taobao, Qoo10, FortyTwo, HipVan etc. is the norm. Or at least, that’s my impression of the furniture market. Let’s see if my hypothesis checks out.
IKEA Singapore vs online price comparison – is IKEA still the best place for cheap furniture?
Below are 7 popular types of furniture that Singaporeans buy from IKEA. I picked one of the bestsellers for each category and checked the price against that of the online competition.
|Furniture type||Price at IKEA||Competitor price|
|Shelves||$179 (IKEA Kallax)||$99 (FortyTwo)|
|Sofa bed||$249 (IKEA Balkarp)||$199 (HipVan)|
|Table||$199 (IKEA Lisabo)||$139.90 (Jiji)|
|Chair||$109 (IKEA Poang)||$99.90 (Jiji)|
|Wardrobe||$335 (IKEA Pax)||$99 (Furniture Mart)|
|Bed||$199 (IKEA Tarva)||> $200 (various sites)|
|Curtains||$49.90 (IKEA Majgull)||$48.90 (Qoo10)|
Read on for a more in-depth look at the individual products.
IKEA shelves vs FortyTwo shelves
Shelves are probably the most popular IKEA product. After all, the brand’s most iconic pieces include the Billy bookcase (that classic IKEA bookshelf everyone grew up with) and the Kallax series (those satisfyingly square open shelves).
Let’s take a closer look at the Kallax shelves. Like many IKEA products, this comes in a plethora of modular units so you can mix and match, but the basic 4-by-4 shelf with no add-ons costs $179.
The versatile square design has been copied quite a lot, and I’ve seen similar products in many places from Jiji (from $169.90 to $249.90) to Muji ($53 x 4 = $212). However, IKEA’s Kallax is still the best value.
If you don’t mind a back – i.e. you don’t plan to use it as a divider – FortyTwo has probably the cheapest dupe around: the $99 Declan bookshelf in walnut or sonoma oak. At 120cm wide x 180cm tall, it’s narrower but taller, which makes it a bit more space-efficient.
IKEA sofa bed vs HipVan sofa bed
IKEA may not be the first place you go to for sofas per se. But if you’re shopping for something that can transform into a guest bed or just a day bed for naps, the IKEA sofa bed selection is better than that of atas sofa brands like DaVinci or Cellini.
There are quite a few designs to choose from, but one of the most affordable and popular models is the $249 IKEA Balkarp sofa bed. It’s simple (though a bit spartan) in design, and you can easily adjust the sofa back just by pushing it.
Just like the IKEA shelves mentioned above, this sofa bed design is widely copied, and it’s available at many price points. Here’s a $169 one on FortyTwo, a $199 one on HipVan and a $269 one on Castlery.
My favourite is the HipVan one, which is well-designed enough such that the grey version doesn’t look like a prison cell bed. The frame is made of strong eucalyptus wood rather than particleboard, and more importantly for golden butts out there, you can test it out at the HipVan store at the Cathay.
IKEA table vs Jiji table
Blond wood, rounded corners and splayed legs – you may have noticed this particular aesthetic while shopping for tables and chairs online, but what you might not have realised is that it (probably) originates from the award-winning IKEA Lisabo table.
It may look a little twee, but this little IKEA table is a versatile style that functions as either a dining table or a study desk. At $199, it seems a steal.
This style of table absolutely dominates Taobao. Just key “Nordic table” into EZbuy and you’ll get page after page of results, with some sellers offering custom-made versions. Of course, buying and shipping furniture over from China is a hassle, and language barriers are only the half of it. You need understand the shipping options available for Taobao too.
Locally, this design isn’t quite as ubiquitous as in China, but I lucked out and found this Jiji Eames-style table for $139.90 (bigger size, approx. same as the IKEA one). You can even top up $9.90 for assembly service.
The one thing to note is that the tabletop is made of fibreboard rather than solid wood, so it looks cheaper, but is more resistant to humidity (i.e. spills) than natural wood.
IKEA chair vs Jiji rocking chair
If you’ve never seen one of these, you must have come from another planet. Like the Billy bookcase, IKEA’s Poang chair is one of those enduring pieces of furniture that ensures the brand will never go out of business.
The Poang chair is, frankly, a beautiful piece of engineering. It’s deep and cushy, while being sturdy and stable despite the fact that your butt is simply suspended in mid-air.
This rocking chair has a 10-year warranty, which must mean that the frame, which is made of strips of wood glued together, is incredibly strong. The cushion will wear thin quite a few times before the frame even starts to give way.
Clearly this feat of glued-wood engineering isn’t easy to replicate, because knockoffs of it are not widely available. I did see a shameless $99.90 duplicate on Jiji, but why bother? The real deal is only a few bucks more. If you really want to save, you can easily buy a second-hand one for under $50 on Carousell
IKEA wardrobe vs Furniture Mart wardrobe
You’d think that IKEA, the world’s number 1 retailer of fibreboard shelves (OK – I made that up, but it’s close enough), would sell cheap wardrobes. After all, what’s a wardrobe but a few pieces of chipboard screwed together into a box, right?
The IKEA Pax series is very popular, but I’m guessing that’s mainly due to the modular design of the units – you can mix and match different units to fit your space – and not price. The basic 2-door wardrobe (100cm x 236cm) starts at $335, and for the faux wood stain one, you’ll need to pay $540.
If you’re looking for a decent-sized, basic, two-door wardrobe, there aren’t a whole lot of budget options. There’s this clinical-looking $99 Bostrak (80cm x 180cm) and the 3-door Dombas for $199 (140cm x 181cm).
A quick search on Qoo10 led me to quite a number of viable alternatives. This bestselling “Britian” wardrobe from Furniture Mart (75cm x 183cm) costs just $99, while the prettier Haido wardrobe in oak stain (73.7cm x 170.2cm) is $125.
As for quality, since wardrobes aren’t really load-bearing (unlike shelves) I personally don’t mind particleboard. Furniture Mart also offers free delivery and installation, so you can catch any defects, like misalignment or gaps, on the spot.
Winner: Furniture Mart
IKEA beds vs …?
As long as you’re looking for something simple and functional – i.e. not some sort of crazy four-poster princess bed straight out of Arabian Nights – IKEA is a great place to shop for a bed frame.
After checking out the competition, my conclusion is that IKEA beds are probably the best in the market in terms of affordability and quality.
One of the best buys is the IKEA Tarva bed frame ($199 for queen size), which is just a simple pine wood frame with slatted base.
I’ve searched the usual cheap furniture shops and found that it’s astonishingly hard to find a queen sized bed frame under $200. Queen beds start at $279 on HipVan and $599 on Castlery, for example.
You can, however, opt for a cheaper faux leather bed frame which FortyTwo usually sells for under $100, or a simple divan bed base which should cost around $150 on Lazada and Qoo10. But personally, I’d rather get a solid wood frame, because the last thing you want is a flimsy bed giving way while you’re in slumberland. (Talk about a rude awakening!)
By the way, you can also add on a mattress while you’re at IKEA, because IKEA mattresses are pretty affordable, even if they don’t feel quite as plush as the King Koil and Tempur varieties.
IKEA curtains vs Qoo10 curtains
Never in my life have I associated IKEA with curtains, so it was a surprise to learn that IKEA curtains are one of their bestsellers. So I checked out their curtain selection and came across their budget blackout curtain range, called Majgull ($49.90 a pair, 145cm x 250cm).
The price may seem steep for essentially 2 large pieces of cloth, but as someone who needs complete darkness to sleep, I totally appreciate how the Swedes are with me on the importance of removing light pollution.
I was pretty confident that I could find cheaper blackout curtains on Qoo10, but this didn’t turn out to be the case. When I keyed in a similar size, these Jade blackout curtains start from $54.10, while these from Sol Home & Living start from $48.90. So I’m guessing you can’t get decent blackout curtains for under the $50 mark, at least for the ones that actually work.
But watch out for IKEA delivery charges…
So, in our final tally, IKEA actually does come out tops for 3 out of 7 furniture categories (chair, bed and curtains). Not bad!
However, the one big difference between shopping at IKEA and buying from these online retailers is… IKEA DELIVERY. Or the lack of it.
See, most online retailers give you free delivery once you hit a certain amount, and with big items like beds and wardrobes, you’re almost always guaranteed free delivery. On the other hand, you need to pay IKEA delivery fees if you can’t or won’t fit your furniture parts in the car:
|Purchase mode||IKEA delivery option||IKEA delivery fee|
|Online store||Parcel delivery (up to 24 kg / 1.4m length)||$10|
|Online store||Truck delivery (above 24 kg / 1.4m length)||$70|
|Physical store||Standard delivery (up to 5 items)||$35|
|Physical store||Standard delivery (up to 10 items)||$55|
|Physical store||Standard delivery (more than 10 items)||$65|
|Physical store||Kitchen delivery||$75|
I think I speak for all Singaporeans when I say paying for delivery sucks. I already spent so much money with you, why must I pay for delivery!?
What’s worse is that you have to assemble the item yourself after it’s delivered. Most of us Singaporeans have very important things to do on weekends, like playing FIFA on PS4, rewatching Meteor Garden on Netflix, or sending the kids to tuition. Who has time to fiddle with Allen keys?
Well, IKEA also offers paid assembly service (full details on IKEA delivery fees here) in addition to delivery, but that’s hardly going to go down well when many furniture retailers include assembly costs in their fees.
So before you take the plunge, bear in mind that there are hidden costs (whether you pay in money or effort/time) to buying furniture from IKEA Singapore. Then again, there are meatballs.
Shopping at IKEA for furniture – love it or hate it? Tell us why in the comments!