Why Do Kids Get All the Fun? An Ikea Designer Shopping List for Adults

Why Do Kids Get All the Fun? An Ikea Designer Shopping List for Adults

That dreaded unnamed season about 5/8ths of the way into summer that you don’t want to even think about: Ikea Season. You’ve got to make the inevitable pilgrimage for the kids going off to college, and for the clever teens who have presented well-reasoned arguments for room upgrades under the guise of increased productivity.There’s nothing “designer” there, right?

But while the kids are off picking selecting lamps, mirrors, and all sorts of plastic, we think these items are stylish, super reasonable and worthy of a grown-up abode. Just don’t tell anyone where you got them!


Orchids and Bamboo

designer orchids

I’m always shocked at how nice and inexpensive they are, especially the colorful orchids! Why buy the plastic ones? That’s a designer no-no!


Velvet Curtain Panels

designer velvet curtains

Great for a guest room, these are a steal- their thickness belies their affordability.  Hem them yourself. Spring for a Bedazzler if you’re an overachiever.

Terracotta Wine Chillers

designer wine cooler

For your “deck wine”

Simple White Plates

designer plates Ikea

I just bought these and have never been happier. Perhaps the best bargain of them all. Simple bliss

Pillow Covers & Down Inserts


designer pillow covers

There’s a time I want a gorgeous custom designer pillow. Other times I like to switch them out for the season. Guiltless.

Oversized Paper Napkins

I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a party without these babies. The size makes them seem oddly luxurious.

Minimalist Picture Frames

designer picture frames.

A designer gallery wall to remind you of your newly off-to-college kids? Done.

Happy Hunting!

Dean Malambri

President, Dean Alan Design

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In Praise of Ikea from a Snobby Designer

In Praise of Ikea from a Snobby Designer


A while ago, we had a fabulous party at home for Alan’s 50th birthday. We hired an Italian chef from one of our favorite restaurants who serenaded us with endless of delicacies like burrata cheese, seafood ravioli, lollipop style lamb chops- it was non-stop, orgiastic culinary bliss. All on what I thought were designer plates.

Halfway through the night (and after a few glasses of wine), I asked the chef, “Where did you get those plates?” They were simple:  white, sturdy and without a big ridge- the perfect canvases for his gourmet delicacies. I thought he was going to spout off a name like Vera Wang, or some collection from Williams-Sonoma. Instead, he replied with one famous Swedish word:  IKEA. What?

Our new dinnerware: Fagrik Collection from Ikea. $24.99 !

Our new dinnerware: Fagrik Collection from Ikea. 24 pieces for $24.99 !


I love these too. But each plate runs $30!

I love these too. But each plate runs $30! Do the math: that would be almost $720!

Alan and I spend a lot of time cooking. It’s one of our passions. We’re always running off to ethnic grocery stores for crazy ingredients like galangal, garam masala or black sesame seeds. Ditto for the heirloom vegetables at Farmer’s Markets.

A Designer Praising Ikea?

As interior designers, we mistakenly thought it important to make a statement with our dishes. Ours were a funky Bohemian mix of different colors and patterns. We thought they were cool. Yet we struggled how the green plate didn’t set off the herbs well, or how our homemade Sunday Italian “gravy “didn’t look so great on the red plate. And then what combination of colors and patterns if you were having 8 people over? Yes, the Instagram struggle was real. And then I had my Eureka, quasi Bill Clinton 1992 campaign realization: IT’S THE FOOD, STUPID!

There's my Thai Turkey Roll Ups, resting comfortably upon my new cheap plate!

There’s my Thai Turkey Roll Ups from a recipe here, resting comfortably and my new cheap plate!

Designer Tabbouleh

Homemade Tabbouleh salad with homegrown tomatoes, cucumbers, mint, and parsley,

I’m not here to say that we think Ikea lighting is just as good as something beautiful from say, Visual Comfort. Or that since that Ikea barstool looks just like the Bernhardt one, it must be just as good. These should be durable things, bought very infrequently. Our parents and grandparents used to save up to buy a Stiffel lamp. Or a Henredon sofa. But for a host of everyday, and even a few designer staple items, Ikea can’t be beat. Some people call their products “democratically designed.”


So we trekked out to the great Swedish Temple of Blue, bought 2 eight piece sets for $24.99 each and have never looked back. They don’t get hot like my oh-so-hip stoneware did. They don’t draw attention to themselves. If they break, I don’t freak out.

We’re not out to impress people with how we overspent on dishes. We want to delight friends and family with gorgeous, homemade food. I’ve got that Italian grandmother streak in me.

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