Fun first date idea: IKEA

Category:  Opinions
Thursday, January 30th, 2020 at 8:03 AM

Valentine’s Day. The day where people gather to celebrate love, or something made up by the card and candy companies to gain a profit, depending on your point of view. 

It’s a day where couples spend time together and where buying an assortment of flowers, chocolates, wines and cards of affection are the norm. However, it’s also a day of chance. A day where you gather the courage to ask out your crush — that one chance to tell them how you feel. You hope they feel the same way and say yes to a first date. 

Most people planning this first date would go to a fine restaurant, a walk in the park, or a movie. Those are all fine, but I feel there’s a better choice. For me, the best place for a first date is somewhere love can bloom over a selection of fine furniture: IKEA.  

Yes, IKEA. The Swedish furniture store whose locations span across the U.S. and the world. Family trips there were common when I was growing up, and both my sister and I got bookcases, bureaus, beds, lighting and decorations from the store. We went many times, all the way through my years in high school and college. I would people-watch while looking at rooms, and I realized long ago it’s a weirdly perfect place for that first chance at impressing. There are many different stores, so I’m going to be using the location in Pittsburgh as an example. 

When you first walk in, it’s an open area with a display, usually a bed, and couches to sit on. This is where you can wait to meet your date. The natural lighting and open area make it perfect, since you’re in an open, public area rather than a noisy bar or restaurant. Once you meet your date, both of you would walk up the stairs and go to the restaurant just to the left. The food is great, with options such as Swedish meatballs, salmon and braised pork, all with vegetables and mashed potatoes. It’s served quickly, so there’s little time for any awkwardness with small talk before the meal. Sitting down, the two of you would have lots of natural light from large open windows. There’s also a patio on the roof for days with good weather. You two can bond over lingonberry drinks, while talking about your experiences and getting to know each other. For some, the food can bring back memories of recipes you’ve made with friends, family or found on YouTube or Pinterest. It’s a relaxing atmosphere, free of any kind of distractions.

From there, you get to the showroom. For those who haven’t been to an IKEA before, there are two main showrooms: one upstairs for furniture and another downstairs for decorations. As the two of you walk, there are things that attract the eye; that have a certain aesthetic. It’s stimulating for a conversation, since there are so many interesting products that have a unique feel to them. One of the nice things about this store is there is a relatively low price point for many items, including furniture. For my generation, that’s great since you get the benefit of a low price with an artistic feel (a vibe similar to what you can find on Pinterest). Going along a set path, it’s comparable to a walk in a park, with trees equaling different beds and bookcases and with smaller rooms pre-decorated. It sparks an artistic inspiration, as if reflecting the fact that this is your dream apartment or home. Perhaps it’s the perfect apartment or home you can share with a loved one someday. 

You can discuss colors, patterns, different designs, shapes, and functionality of different products while taking pictures and writing down information. The upstairs showroom is well organized where different products for different rooms are grouped together. Tape measures are provided, or perhaps you brought your own. There’s nothing more romantic than sharing a tape measure and trying to figure out where that BILLY bookcase will fit, and which type to get.

The downstairs showroom focuses more on decorative and organizational products rather than just furniture. It’s full of kitchen utensils, plates, rugs, lighting and lamps, comforters, pillows, organizers for different things around the home, laundry items, wall decorations and more. Perhaps a set of glasses catch your eye, or a framed piece of artwork. I remember seeing framed pictures of different places, such as the skyline in Pittsburgh or places from around the world. This is the perfect opportunity to talk about places you’ve been, or travel aspirations for the future. The second most romantic thing to being in Paris with your crush is talking about that framed picture of the Eiffel Tower. 

There’s also artwork of wooded forests obscured with fog and different artistic interpretations of elk and flowers. So, if nature and hiking is a common interest, it’s a perfect time to bond over it, along with how it reminds you of “The Witcher” on Netflix, the 2018 film “Annihilation,” or your favorite fantasy RPG.

Other highlights of this section include the lighting and plants. Setting the perfect lighting is key for a dinner date at a house or apartment, and you can find the perfect lighting your date enjoys. Perhaps it’s traditional candlelight, decorative lamp shades, a whimsical VINTERFEST light in the shape of mushrooms, or a variety of lamps and string lights. Nothing says surprise romantic lighting like a STRÅLA table decoration, which contains a white forest with a red cabin enclosed in a snow globe; the door of the cabin has a heart carved into it. 

The plant section includes a variety of cacti, ferns, garlands and flowers. This would be a good chance to give your date some flowers, in a show of affection or to display how they would be perfect for the vase they just bought.

The final sections are ones of true teamwork and reward — the warehouse, and even better, the café and grocery store. Nothing shows compatibility like wandering through an organized warehouse to find several boxes that contain your new bookcase. After you check out, you can share a cinnamon roll and coffee while looking at the grocery section with Swedish foods and drinks. For desserts to take home, there’s nothing tastier than cookies with raspberry filling, or cream cakes with an almond paste. You wash it all down with lingonberry or elderflower drinks, of course. Afterwards, you part and perhaps even make plans for another date, a movie or even putting together your new IKEA furniture. But working together to build it is a big test, perhaps even a rite of passage for marriage.

As I finish making my argument, some of you may think I’m either a hopeless romantic, crazy, or have way too much free time on my hands. All of these things are true. But the fact remains that some of my fondest childhood memories happened at an IKEA, and it’s an experience I want to share with the person who I love and adore. And definitely with my children someday. This first date will be a memory that will last a lifetime, I guarantee it. Love can come from the most unexpected of places, perhaps even an IKEA.

Tags: first dates

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