The dining room seats 600 at the new Ikea store in Renton. Swedish pancakes are $2 and $1buys a hot latte. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Ikea culture: New store offers fans more cheap, chic wares

There’s something about Ikea.

Some people love it. They will travel hours for Swedish ingenuity and meatballs, spend hours perusing the warehouse labyrinth of cheap and chic, then devote hours at home assembling furniture that is distinctly Ikea.

Others don’t get the appeal of pallets of products that look brand-centric and have strange names in all caps with odd accent symbols. If forced to go along, though, they can nap, undisturbed, on the furniture during the wait or ponder the meaning of GRÖNSAKSBULLAR.

The newly built 399,000-square-foot store that opened in February in Renton probably won’t change how you feel about Ikea, though there are more meatball choices and things to see — and more places to snooze.

“Everything is bigger and more. Every department is bigger,” Ikea spokeswoman Annie Boeckman said. “It’s about 50,000 more square feet of inspiration.”

Or perspiration.

“From the entrance to the exit it’s a mile,” Boeckman said. “The average shopping experience is about 2 to 2.5 hours, to go upstairs, eat and go downstairs as well. Some spend way more time.”

The new two-story store is less like a rat maze than the old one, which was all on one floor. It is right next to the old Ikea, built in 1994, which is being torn down and will eventually provide 1,600 parking spaces. In the meantime, there are shuttle services available at peak times.

Boeckman said out of the 43 U.S. Ikea stores, the Renton store is among the top five busiest on any given day. Saturday is the store’s busiest day, with Tuesdays and Wednesdays the slowest.

Inside the new store are 43 room settings, three model home interiors, a supervised play area and a whopper of a dining room.

It seats 600 bodies big and small, with tables of different heights and styles. It opens an hour before the store to serve $2 breakfasts. A buck buys a piping hot latte. A meatball plate is $5.

The meatballs are now available in chicken or veggie versions (the aforementioned GRÖNSAKSBULLAR). Baby food and bibs are available. You might need a bib, too, to protect your shirt from encounters with lingonberry jam.

The dishes are white ceramic, the trays fit on carts that wheel everything to the table without a spill. It’s pure Swedish-designed genius.

There’s even a tiny sink in the restrooms, especially for kids.

The Renton store is the only one in the state. There also are Ikea stores in Portland and Vancouver, B.C.

From Everett during non-peak commuter times on a weekday it took more than an hour each way taking I-405 to reach the Renton store.

It’s a long way to go just for meatballs, but you can bring home some candles, clamp lights, cute tables, pickled gherkins and loads of inspiration.

Ikea must-haves:

Dishes

Storage items

Bold rugs

Party supplies

Travel toiletry bottles

$1 soft-serve frozen yogurt cones

Before you go:

Download the Ikea app to browse, make a shopping list, scan bar codes, add products and navigate the store.

Set up login for free Wi-Fi (cell coverage can be dicey in the store).

Get an Ikea family card for discounts and special offers (the app can be used). Members get free coffee or hot tea every visit.

Wear sensible shoes.

Empty the car to make room for the must-haves and then-somes.

Ikea trivia

There are 392 Ikea stores in 48 countries, including 43 in the U.S. It was founded in Sweden in 1943.

The new Renton store employs about 425 workers, including some 50 new hires.

The 244,000-square-foot solar array atop the building is the largest in the state, consisting of a 1.13 megawatt system built with 3,268 panels that will produce about 1,261,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually for the store.

The children’s play area (for children 37 to 54 inches tall) replicates the look of a typical Swedish farmhouse and forest.

The store has measuring tape, pencils, maps and three types of carts.

The food market sells frozen Swedish meatballs that are the same ones at the restaurant. It also sells things such as marinated herring and seaweed pearls.

If you go

Ikea Renton, 601 SW 41st St., Renton; www.ikea.com/us/en/store/seattle.

Store hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Restaurant hours: 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

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