Try IKEA online and find the inspiration you’ve been missing out on

IKEA is the world’s largest furniture retailer but many Americans still live far from their stores and have never visited one. Here’s how to shop online and why I think it’s worth it.

There are 37 IKEA stores in the United States. Image from Google Maps.

My first trip to my local IKEA was in February this year. I drove over 4 hours that day and went alone. It was exhausting and I should have prepared better for this trip or at least had lunch at their café. There are obvious benefits to shopping in-store: you get to see and touch items firsthand, measure them in person, access to the showroom, sales only in-store, etc. However, I think that IKEA can be successfully shopped online. Since February I’ve placed three online orders and I’m pleased to report no serious mishaps. In fact, I ended up with an extra item by mistake and I got to keep it. Non-furniture small item shipments start at only $9 through FedEx (at least in my area) and you can basically pile your cart as full as you’d like without any upcharge. Of course, do get a shipping estimate on your cart before you check out to avoid any surprises.

One reason I will continue to shop IKEA is that the retailer plans to offer fully sustainable materials in its furniture and textiles by 2030, either through recycling or renewable resources. I find this to be an admirable step to ensure responsibility and restraint when it’s so easy for big companies to ignore and shrink away from the reality of global climate change. IKEA is also notable for its flat-packing methods which also helps cut down on material usage and transportation costs.

Navigating the IKEA website

It doesn’t feel as user-friendly to me as say, Amazon, but once you know the general layout you’ll be fine. These guys here are your buddies:

I recommend creating an account if you plan on saving items to lists because it could wipe them out if you don’t. I also recommend joining the IKEA Family program because it’s free and you get access to exclusive sales. No credit card number necessary.

Across the top header of the website there are general menu options. The Products menu provides a drop-down of all IKEA departments. Inspiration takes you to what is essentially IKEA’s blog. You can find anything from news on press releases to gardening ideas to tips on styling your shelves. These are pretty self-explanatory. The parts of the website I most enjoy, however, weren’t readily apparent to me. The galleries.

The galleries are my happy places. Unfortunately I haven’t found anywhere yet that links all the galleries together. You would think that Inspiration would but it doesn’t.

Pssst. The gallery is all the way at the bottom. Image source.

Each gallery is essentially a showcase of a department. It’s a glorious place where you can view all the styles your heart desires without the excessive text of the catalog. It’s easy on the eyes and will leave you wanting more. Simply click on an image to view the room and scroll down to see all featured items.

Since I think it’s a pain to have to sift through departments to find the galleries I’ve collected all the prominent links I could find and here they are.

A lovely retreat provided by the Outdoor Gallery.

Time to go gallery-hopping.

Auction house picks for Sunday, May 19 2019

All items will be auctioned by Bluegrass Auction and Appraisal in Lexington, KY. All photos belong to them. Note that this link may be broken in the future or changed as they update their site to the next auction. You can bid online or in person and here are their instructions.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with this company nor do I claim to represent it. I’m someone who likes auctions and I like to keep track of the interesting items that appear and let others know how to get them too.

Here are the items I’ve curated from their 12 pages of content:

  1. Glass perfume decanters The dark ruby red is gorgeous. I’m imagining myself sitting at my dressing table, record playing as I sip from a delicate stemmed wine glass.
  2. Oil on canvas signed “Daniel” I’ve bought several original art pieces from BAA and I love each and every one. I like this piece especially because I admire still art as a solid traditional subject. I like the sense of depth created in this painting and the rich coloring of the fruits.
  3. Pendant light This is funky and I dig it. What are the clear pieces on the end, tiny boots? Whatever they are I’ll take three.
  4. Pair of red lanterns At first glance I thought these were a little too garden chotsky but consider the possibilities. They would look positively ethereal with a large pillar candle by the poolside at night or in your garden walkway.
  5. Tiffany & Co sterling silver chopsticks Now this is fancy eating. I’m impressed they still have their dust ruffle (carrying case?).
  6. 1920’s Persian rug I’m a little obsessed with rugs.
  7. Custom upholstered settee Holy cow what a piece of furniture! I’m not one for cow prints but this is truly a one of a kind little couch. Whoever purchases this is brave and I hope they will honor it. You’ve got to have the proper aesthetic to bring it home.

I hope I’ve piqued your interest in auctioning. You can find some truly unique finds and great deals if you know what to look for, when to go, and how to bid.

The Monetization of the blogosphere: is anybody real out there?

Instagram promoters. Micro-influencers. Social media gurus. They are all just different ways of saying advertisers by contract, essentially. To be clear, I’m not here to argue that sponsored content is all unethical by nature. The problem I see is that advertising has taken over not only social media but our entire lives. The social media marketing phenomenon is but a symptom of a larger problem, the blurring of lines between personal life and business opportunity.

There has never been a more auspicious time for business marketing and analytics than the present. Our reality is like a business executive’s enchanted wet dreams come to life. We can be sold a product without even leaving the house! Or the couch, for that matter. Ads aren’t just on TV and billboards anymore. The other day I pulled into a gas station that had little TV screens IN THE GAS DISPENSER. I couldn’t escape it. Anyway, not only can we make purchases nearly anywhere and anytime, companies are collecting information about us and our habits at almost every moment and very likely without our consent (cough, Equifax, cough). What could go wrong?

As the saying goes, if it’s free, you’re the product. Facebook listens to you and sells your data. You know that. Google tracks your movements on the web and took out its clause about not being evil on its corporate code of conduct. Big whoop. Target once correctly predicted a woman’s pregnancy through her shopping habits and started showing her baby ads and coupons. I don’t have a snap back for this one…Let me put this to you in Big Millennial Terms™: we’re living in a Capitalist dystopian society where anything we say, do, tweet, or scorn, will be used to sell us something. People online who we thought were sharing something they were passionate about in their life turned out to be living embodiments of pop-up ads. This may lead us to question: who else is lowkey slipping in paid content? Is anybody real out there?

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Nowhere is this reality as present as in our online experience. In its early days especially, sponsored content was often not disclosed. Whether due to ignorance, carelessness, or deceptive business practices, many social media users still struggle to properly disclose the material connections they have to the content they produce. In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission sent out over 90 letters to influencers and marketers warning them of this behavior. They have since provided a how-to guide on product endorsements as well as a question and answer guide on social media content.

Native advertising and content marketing have become ubiquitous social media experiences and ultimately, this contributes to a troublesome new normal for us, the blurring of lines between personal life and business opportunity, as I stated in opening. It can be hard to discern if a post contains affiliate content or advertising and some forms of marketing are made to reinforce this. Native advertising is one such example. Curata explains the purpose and scope of native advertising clearly:

Native advertising: The content may appear to provide value, but that goal is secondary to selling a product or service. Often the advertorial may try to solve a problem that conveniently involves buying the brand’s product or service. However, the content of native advertising generally does not have inherent value without the reader buying a product or service.

Done right, native advertising is incredibly effective and social media users seem to prefer it since it’s less ostentatious. Michael Gigante compiled an impressive list of 40+ Advertising Statistics for 2019 which show how important native marketing is to companies. Here is my selection from his list:

  • Native advertising was the fastest-growing advertising segment, with 35 percent growth between 2017 and 2018. (eMarketer
  • 70 percent of users would rather learn about products through content than traditional advertisements. (Content Marketing Institute)
  • Native ad spending is projected to increase to $41.1 billion in 2019. This means native advertising will account for 61 percent of total digital display ad spending in the U.S. (eMarketer)
    Native video advertising accounts for 56 percent of video ad spending. (IAB 2018 Video Ad Spend Study)

In my view, the danger in native marketing lies in its subtlety insofar as it is unrecognisable as marketing and in its extensive promulgation. I’m simply tired of encountering this type of content everywhere I go. I think that the content we find online doesn’t accurately reflect the world we live in and I’m not the only one. The PEW Research Center published a study on Attitudes toward Algorithms: The Content People See on Social Media last year where social media users were surveyed about their emotional responses and attitudes on social media platforms.

Most think social media does not accurately reflect society

Granted, this study is not about advertising in particular, rather it is about how satisfied or dissatisfied people are with social media algorithms and the content that is promoted to them. Another interesting figure in this study is the commentary that, “Users’ comfort level with social media companies using their personal data depends on how their data are used” as shown below.

Some 47% of respondents said that it is not very acceptable or not at all acceptable for social media sites to use their data to show them ads for products or services. Another 41% find it somewhat acceptable while a mere 11% say it’s very acceptable. In other words, we’re not feeling it, brands. We like our privacy and we like our platforms to be transparent about what they do with our data, for the most part.

Now, before you try to destroy me with a strongly-worded comment or e-mail, WordPress is no exception in the social media monetization revolution. I realise that you may actually see ads on this website and that you might have seen a pop-up about cookies. So you get the tummy tea or whatever for now. I’m sorry. Don’t click it. Better yet install Adblock Plus and uBlock Origin. These extensions are gifts from the gods.

When I started this blog (not long ago…) I chose the completely free option. At almost one month old I decided to upgrade In Via Lexington to a premium account. More options, a registered domain, fancy themes, etc. This is what I was after. Now, I have not monetized this blog and I have no plans to do so, given the entire article you just read. As I learn more about building and customizing my website I will be able to make more informed choices on what is shown on it. As I understand, only the business option will allow WordPress users to remove all WordPress.com advertising. From this description alone I do not know if they mean advertising WordPress itself (which I am fine with, this is my platform and I support it) or third party advertising working with WordPress. If you know about this please let me know at invialexblog@gmail.com or drop a link in the comments.

In closing, I have squarely expressed my distrust of and near disdain for branded and promoted content online. I admit that my article has been one-sided and focusing on the negative aspects of social media monetization without showing how positive it can be for content creators to secure a means of living and connecting with others. I have no doubt that this is a non-issue for many people and an incredibly lucrative opportunity for some. However, for people like me, we see an all-encroaching wave of advertisements and unsolicited and disingenuous content blocking out what we view as the original purpose of online communities and social media: simply sharing our personal experiences and not expecting any special reward for it or compensation. The “reward” is forging a new community and fostering long-term relationships with people we know and trust. At least, that’s how I see it.

For further reading, I recommend:

Thrifting Lexington, KY

This article is about my recommendations on new-to-you shopping in the horse capital and surrounding metro area. This is an opinion piece and I make no personal profit from it.

My personal go-to: Goodwill

Yes, of course Goodwill would be on the list. But have you been to any others in town besides the one closest to you? It’s probably worth the trip. Here are my favorite Goodwills in Lexington:

  • Goodwill off Maple Leaf Drive. This one has higher prices than several other locations I’ve noticed but it’s worth it. They generally have better quality furniture, goods, and clothing. I’ve found great art here. Example below.
Cute find for $15 at Goodwill. 36 by 36 and like new. Crooked because hanging canvas is hard.
  • Goodwill on Leestown Rd. This is my favorite one for furniture. Scored this full dining set (minus the glass top) for $89 here. The staff is super friendly too.
Yup, the sunflower art used to hang over it.
  • Goodwill at Brannon Crossing. This one is most people’s favorite and for good reason. Huge selection, good prices, and the location is convenient for Jessamine County folks. I don’t have a picture but I’ve found a lot here over the years. Usually the best Goodwill for purses and accessories.

For premium finds

  • Room Service. They say they’re the oldest consignment shop in town for home furnishings. Their collection is impressive. I haven’t bought anything from here yet but it’s absolutely worth a look.
  • The Great Room on Southland. They strike the perfect balance between new and second-hand items. Beautiful couches, solid pieces, and fine art. Plus there’s restaurants nearby to grab a bite to eat after you shop.

Niche and one of a kind places

  • Scout. This place is ultra-retro and modern meets throw-back in one. Last time I visited they had plenty of conversation pieces. Scout is a must for serious collectors with a taste for the weird (in a good way).
  • Peddler’s Mall on New Circle. For genuine (still dusty) antiques this a great stop. That isn’t to say they don’t have brand new stuff too. I can spend hours in a haze walking from booth to booth. I can’t describe them very well because there is seriously anything you could imagine at the Peddler’s Mall. Signed baseball cards, humidifiers, cherry wood entertainment centers, 50’s dresses, you name it, they have it.
  • Street Scene next to Coffee Times. I adore this shop. They specialise in home goods and fashion from the 50s, 60s, and 70s mostly and they are fabulous. Funky cat-eye glasses, vintage whiskey decanters, and art deco earrings are a few things I’ve wanted from here.
  • Pop’s Resale. For vinyl record lovers, old school gaming, and vintage clothes. I believe they still have bands play in-house occasionally.

Home Improvement

  • Habitat Restore. Furniture on the left side of the store is fancier than the right side. If you must have a couch tonight get it here. If you’re renovating your home on a budget consider their kitchen cabinets, tables, doors, etc. Between the Restore and Lowe’s you could build a house ground up. There are smaller items as well. I recently bought a couple of hanging planters, 99 cents a piece. You can’t beat that.

Online mentions

  • Craigslist Lexington. Found my couch here as well as some IKEA dressers. I love Craigslist. Check often, use the search bar, and filter by owner if you don’t want annoying ads.
  • Offer Up. Type in your zip code to see what’s available here in town. They also offer shipping on some items so you might be able to branch out a bit.
  • Let Go. Honestly I haven’t figured out the difference between Let Go and Offer Up. You’ll find many people will cross-post their items hoping to reach a bigger audience. It’s an extra place I will check when I’m searching for a particular item.

That’s about it. Get out there and thrift!

Style spotlight: r/malelivingspace

Malelivingspace is a community on Reddit that describes itself thus: “MaleLivingSpace is dedicated to places where men can live. Here you can find posts discussing, showing, improving, and maintaining apartments, homes, domiciles, man caves, garages, and bungalows.” It boasts over 350,000 users but you needn’t be of the male persuasion to browse or even post.

Here’s a sneak peak at some of the top posts. I hope you treasure the contrast as much as I do.

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The blue is phenomenal. Picture ledge is balanced. Plants are a nice touch. This space is calm and inviting. Perfect if you like modern design and cool tones.

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Ah, the bare essentials. I feel for this redditor. In his post he says he was cheated on so he had to move. As far as living spaces go, everyone has to start somewhere.

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This community has a sense of humor. One redditor managed to distill r/malelivingspace to its purest essence– mid century chairs, industrial lamps, and naturally, posters lamenting over the cost of these chairs and lamps.

Rabbits make great pets–as long as you do your research

Bunnies are cute! This is true. Many people consider them to be easy cage pets ready for your attention when you want to give it. A bunny can live this way, but it probably won’t be very happy. You don’t want an unhappy bunny, do you?

I’m here to help you reconsider what you know about domestic rabbits. Why am I credible though? I’ve kept a happy and healthy bunny for 5 years, since he was a wee 9-week-old. I’ve learned a lot about what to do and what not to do with rabbits. Most of this is because I plunged myself into books and online resources. The rest was getting to know my bunny. His name is Maximilian. We usually just call him Bun, Ribbit, or Fluffy Baby. He has many more names…

Rabbits are not beginner level pets. I said it. They are also not good pets for young children. I know your 4-year-old loves bunnies and wants a fluffy friend but give them a toy bunny instead. Rabbits are fragile, easy to scare, and improperly handling them can lead to injury and death. You can prevent a tragic death like this by not purchasing that cute Easter bunny for your kids. Wait until they are old enough to learn how to gently handle an animal and as always you are the adult and you are fully responsible for your animal’s care, not your children.

I digress. Apart from my warnings let me tell you what a gift it is to have a rabbit. My rabbit does not like to be picked up but he is still a snuggle bunny. Maximilian will hop up to me and demand my attention with little boops on my ankles. I’ll sit down with him next to me and he’ll rest his little chin on my knee. He likes gentle scritches above the nose and behind the ears. He does this thing with his teeth slowly that’s kind of like the rabbit’s version of a cat’s purr. He nudges me when I stop petting. He loves to share banana treats. He will always beg for more sitting up on his back feet. Sometimes when he naps in the afternoon I’ll catch his fluffy little feet pitter-pattering in his dreams. When we get ready for bed at night he is so excited for his pellets that he honks loudly while running his bunny 500. He is one of my greatest joys.

Thinking about bringing a little joy to your home? Here are my suggestions for a first-time bunny owner.

Your space

Your home is your bunny’s home. Or it should be. Domestic rabbits belong in the house. The outside world is fraught with predators and poor weather conditions. It can also be terribly isolating.

A cage is a temporary home for a rabbit, not a permanent living space. They need plenty of space to run and jump and hide. They can’t do this in a 2 by 2. Kennels (or cages) are, however, excellent little home bases for the rabbit. Think of it as their bedroom. It should be their space where they feel safe. In their bedroom they need:

  • A litter box
  • A water bottle or dish
  • A hay rack or feeding bin
  • Toys
  • Something soft for their feet like a towel

The more time they spend in their kennel the more enrichment and space they need. Maximilian “goes to bed” every night in a medium sized (for dogs) kennel. He is an 8 pound bunny and his kennel is sized for dogs approximately 20-45 pounds. I put him up at night because he can be mischievous. He once got behind our refrigerator and tore open the water hose to the ice maker. Not a good night.

Consider letting your bunny have the run of a whole room or better yet your entire house or apartment. The more space they safely have access to the better. This means you must rabbit-proof your space (there are lots on great resources on this like The House Rabbit Society). Go with what is practical for you and your housemates. If you are bringing a bunny home for the first time confine her to one room so she doesn’t get too overwhelmed.

Your budget

Rabbits can cost a lot more than you think. I spent about $400 last year on vet visits and medicine alone. Maximilian had an ear problem and although it didn’t cause him much pain or harm from what I could tell it still needed to be addressed. It took a long time to sort it out and I even changed vet offices.

Rabbits do need to see the vet. They should go about once a year and as needed. When you bring home a new rabbit let them adjust to their new home and them take them to the vet for a wellness check-up. A simple online search should yield local results for vets with experience in rabbit care. Do not take your rabbit to a vet who doesn’t treat rabbits. They have unique bodies and a vet who treats cats and dogs is obviously educated but not appropriate. Did you know that rabbits are physically incapable of throwing up? They also cannot fart. How do you feel about that? I for one am pretty happy knowing this. Rabbit farts would be hilarious though.

Rabbits need to be spayed or neutered. They have a high rate of reproductive cancers and there are already SO MANY rabbits in shelters. As cute as they are, we don’t need to introduce more rabbits to the world and children can learn about the wonders of birth on YouTube on other sources.

Budget for:

  • A sturdy, good-sized kennel
  • Cleaning products for the kennel/litter trays (be very careful and do not use caustic chemicals!)
  • Yearly and emergency vet visits
  • Spaying/neutering costs (check your local pet shelter for low-cost options or get yourself a critter who is already snipped)
  • Lots of hay (try Chewy.com or your local pet store)
  • Simple, no-frill feed pellets for young rabbits (restrict pellet feed for rabbits older than about 6 months)
  • Enrichment toys (this can be super cheap thankfully)
  • Litter for the litter boxes (this one always gets me right in the wallet)

Your time

Most rabbits love attention. They can be like cats sometimes though. One day they barely acknowledge you and the next day how dare you not pet them? Ideally, rabbits will have friends who are other rabbits and not just goofy humans. My bun is an only bun and it would be difficult to introduce another rabbit into our household at this point. You are not a bad person for keeping one rabbit.

Do consider a pair if you can afford it and have the space. They can keep each other company while you are away. Be careful though. You can’t just go out and get two random rabbits, put them in the same cage, and expect them to get along. They are like people. Some don’t get along. If you are acquiring a bonded pair of rabbits then congrats! The hard work is already done for you. If not, do not despair. Keep your rabbits separate at first. Make sure they have their own “bedrooms” and litter boxes. They can get territorial. The best match is generally a spayed female rabbit and a neutered male rabbit.

As you might guess, since I have only one rabbit, I do not have experience in bonding. 101 Rabbits has an excellent video on this subject:

Your personality

There are many types of rabbits. When I was looking for my rabbit I picked Maximilian because he was the first rabbit who came back to sniff my hand after I picked him up and set him back down. I felt like he chose me.

Rabbits come in many different shapes, sizes, colors, and attitudes. Some have droopy ears (lops) and others, like Maximilian, have ears that point straight up:

Here he is!!!! The Bun, the Myth, the Legend, Maximilian with Santa Paws.

My point is that no two bunnies are exactly the same. Most are quite intelligent, especially with puzzles, and especially when treats are at stake. I find it easy to get along with rabbits. My rabbit naps all afternoon and when I get home he comes running to greet me when I call for him. If you’re seeking a non-traditional fluffy companion the rabbit is a good option. If you hate messes and cringe at the sight of a litter box, bunnies are probably not for you. That’s ok. Keep looking for your companion.

Funnily enough, I think rabbits consider themselves to be very tidy. They do seem to want everything to be in perfect order. To my dismay, Maximilian will topple over his potty on occasion and he thinks it’s great. I strongly disagree. But it’s hard to talk to a rabbit and even harder to discipline them. They don’t understand punishment and it’s not nice or helpful. It’s much better to reinforce good behavior by giving them something they like or petting them softly and saying kind words.

If you want a pet rabbit, go out and meet some bunnies. Get to know them a little. Give them a chance. Everybody has a personality and everybunny has one too.

The Beauty of Unsplash.com

I could not recommend a better website for free photos. There is a huge selection, great variety, categories, and search tools to help you explore. You can sign up and create collections if you want but it isn’t necessary to sign up. Downloading is free and unlimited.

Check out their license statement:

All photos published on Unsplash can be used for free. You can use them for commercial and noncommercial purposes. You do not need to ask permission from or provide credit to the photographer or Unsplash, although it is appreciated when possible.
More precisely, Unsplash grants you an irrevocable, nonexclusive, worldwide copyright license to download, copy, modify, distribute, perform, and use photos from Unsplash for free, including for commercial purposes, without permission from or attributing the photographer or Unsplash. This license does not include the right to compile photos from Unsplash to replicate a similar or competing service.

https://unsplash.com/license

If you see a photo on In Via Lex that isn’t tagged “personal photography” then 98% of the time it came from Unsplash. I’d love to create a shoutout page to credit artist’s photos I’m using but the list would be huge. Perhaps I’ll settle on trying to add credits to photo descriptions.

Make an account– or not. The choice is yours. Go forth and bring art to the world.

Have a favorite website for photography? Tell us about it.