Thursday, August 21, 2014

Falling in Love at IKEA by Milou Koenings

Our dining-room table lost a leg.  Let’s not go into what (or who) might or might not have been on it when that happened! 

table and two chairs
The table was thirty-years old.  That leg had been reinforced too many times to count.  

It was time for a new table.   


Having to make a major purchase like that didn’t do much to lift my spirits.

Good news, though:  IKEA was having a sale.

Bad news: Even at IKEA’s prices, a table the size we need was going to set us back. 

There was no other choice, though, since not having a dining room table was just not an option for us.  It’s where we cook, peel vegetables, knead bread, do homework, run “Mommy’s summer camp,” finger paint, sew clothes, read the paper, iron, knit in the evenings, check our emails, write novels, and — oh, yeah — also eat all our meals. 

So off I went, heavy-hearted and too light-of-pocket.  I knew exactly which table I was getting (the longest one possible) and I was not — you hear me? — not! — going to browse.

This was an important resolution, because I love IKEA.  I can get lost there for hours.  I love the shopping carts for people in wheelchairs.  I love the circular bar where moms can perch and enjoy a cup of tea or lunch while their babies and toddlers play safely in the middle of the circle.

I love the super-cheap breakfast:  fresh roll, sliced Swiss cheese, olives, tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, butter, a small croissant, jam, and a choice of cappuccino or orange juice — all that for less than the price of coffee in the city. What’s not to love?  

Of course, that’s where I started, figuring I needed to fortify myself for the coming ordeal.  I was surrounded by grandparents who obviously had discovered a day at IKEA is the best deal around when you want to take out your grandchildren for breakfast and fun.  I saw all these grandparent-grandchildren groups later, watching the juggler and the puppet show in the air-conditioned lobby.

Thus, well-fed and smiling at all the happy, rambunctious kids around, I went to find the table section.  I set off with a determined step and made it half-way through the living room area.  But that’s where the first “apartment” is.  For those who aren’t familiar with how this company sets up its stores, it has sections that are designed as mini-apartments, to showcase how to use their products to maximize minimal living space.  

Everything matches.  Everything is clean and neat and has its place.

This one was modern and sleek.  Black-and-white framed prints on the wall, stainless steel galley, leather couch — on which sprawled Alpha Hero, in his jeans, shirt open, reading a corporate report, his glasses pushed above his forehead, cockily beckoning me with a raised eyebrow … uhm … right.  I think not. 

I retreated quickly and strode through the bookshelves, holding my hands up to the side of my face as blinders.  I faltered when I caught a glimpse of the breezy chintz curtains in another mini-studio.  The dishes in this kitchen were patterned in delicate pink buds.  The glasses on the shelves were tinted rose.  The bed in the corner was romantically draped with a tulle mosquito net. 

Sweet Heroine was sitting at the little table (painted raspberry), her blond hair pulled back in a neat ponytail, a cup of tea (in rose-bud sprinkled china) before her as she made notes to herself.  A slight frown on her otherwise perfect brow suggested not all was perfect in Sweet Heroine’s world. 

I glanced around. This would not do.  “A little too much pink, girl,” I muttered as I forced myself back on track.   

But before I could get to the tables, I had to traverse yet another apartment.  It was barely larger than the previous ones. There was a kitchen — patterned dishes but stainless-steel cookware.  I nodded in approval.

The living area had the kind of love seat you just want to sink into with your beloved and never climb out of. Nice. A leather arm chair. Okay. A double-bed loft with slightly mussed sheets had a neat home office tucked underneath it.  French windows opened up to a postage-stamp sized balcony with wrought-iron furniture.  There were candles on the table, a night cityscape twinkling below. 

A warm breeze lifted the tendrils of Sweet Heroine’s hair as Alpha Hero stared deeply into her eyes.  They leaned slowly toward each other, an invisible, magnetic bond drawing them ever closer … a bond that would last forever, like the gold of their wedding bands that gleamed softly in the night.

A kid on a tricycle careened out of control and smashed into my calf, knocking me off balance.  I caught myself on the balcony railing, my arm whipping right through Alpha Hero and interrupting the kiss. 

I figured that was a sign I was supposed to get on with it.  No more hallucinating ... um, I mean ... browsing.

How I picture our table.
I bought the table. Its color doesn’t match anything in our house, but it was the only one in the store big enough and sturdy enough.

At the curb I found two young men — future alpha heroes in training? — who kindly loaded it into our not-so-mini van. 

Sweet Heroine and her search for love started developing as I drove the long way home.  Alpha Hero's background.  Their first meeting ... A kiss on the balcony of a homey, romantic apartment built for two — it would be the perfect ending for a book, wouldn’t it? 

An hour later, I pulled into our driveway.   A mess of bikes blocked the way to the garage.   I could hear Laurie Berkner — rock-star of the six-year-old set — blasting from the living room.  I took my jacket off before even getting out of the car, to keep it safe from the dirty hands that were sure to decorate my dress in the next few minutes.   

A lot closer to reality! Photo by Nat West, cc-by-2.0
The grass was muddy where the kids had been running through the sprinkler — and the sprinkler was still dripping.    

I went to the wall to turn off the tap and noted the three-dimensional footprints in various sizes that led the way to the front door, like avant-garde street art.

I couldn’t help grinning.  If Sweet Heroine and Alpha Hero were as perfectly matched as the furniture and throw pillows in their IKEA display, they had better enjoy their quiet balcony now because, no matter where the novel stops, I hope for them that what they have to look forward to is the perfect table in the middle of a muddy, mismatched, drippy, noisy, joyous riot.

What's the most essential or meaningful piece of furniture in your home?

Milou Koenings writes romance because, like chocolate, stories with a happy ending bring more joy into the world and so make it a better place.  

Her new release, Reclaiming Home, A Green Pines Romance, is available at Amazon

You can find her on her website,, on Facebook, Goodreads or Twitter.


  1. I love IKEA! I don't get there often, but always find little treasures.

  2. Cute!

    Ikea is a tourist destination for our family and friends.

    1. If the number of grandparents I saw there with their grandchildren is any indication, same here!

  3. My grandmother carved wood furniture. I have a beautiful desk she carved filled with her recipe books and memories.

    I think I missed the IKEA gene.

    1. What a beautiful thing to have. I bet working there must be pretty inspiring!

  4. You can really tell a story. Reading your post made me want to read your books!

  5. Thanks, Angela!

  6. I love your table. We have a huge kitchen table that we bought at a local furniture store where we have found a lot of cool stuff. I've never lived close to an IKEA store. We did buy our wonderful mattress there when we first moved to AZ because there was a store in Phoenix, where we often fly in and out of.

  7. I've never been inside an IKEA store, although there's one on I-10 which I've driven by dozens of time traveling in and out of Phoenix. It sounds like a place my credit card would thank me to avoid.