After moving out of his first apartment and into his first house with his wife, Robert Platt Bell, a patent attorney in Jekyll Island, Ga., knew he had outgrown Ikea furniture. He was 35.
He’s one of many people in their mid-30s who self-identify as too old to buy furniture from Ikea, the Swedish-based build-it-yourself home furnishings and decor company. The peak age of an Ikea shopper is 24, and popularity drops altogether after 34, according to anonymous transaction data gleaned from tens of thousands of loan applicants analyzed by student loans and personal loans lender Earnest.
Ikea is a one-stop shop, Bell said. “It caters to the ‘have it all’ mentality, where you can furnish an entire room in one afternoon.”
Younger shoppers are attracted to Ikea because of its low prices and sleek design. Aside from taste in decor, furniture choices depend on living situations — what works for a renter may not work in the long term for a homeowner. Take Bell, for example. He still has a few Ikea pieces but has opted in the past to sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor to save for a more expensive but, in his opinion, better bed. “In retrospect, I wish I had bought less Ikea furniture and bought high-end items because I ended up buying those things anyway,” he said.
Some people are never too old for Ikea, though. The furniture giant is all about “urban living on a budget,” but it’s also struck a nerve among the second-home set, as Elite Daily reported. In September, the store said it was opening more “click-and-collect” stores and reported that sales were up more than 7% to 34.2 billion euros (around $ 38.4 billion at the time) for the year ending Aug. 31, while same-store sales rose 4.8%. (Ikea declined to comment on the demographics study.)
The right furniture comes down to the right living scenarios. More expensive, though durable, furniture might not make sense for a renter who isn’t sure of her next steps or where she’ll live. “When you put down roots and buy your first-time home, you might feel the incentive to buy furniture that’s built to last,” said Catherine New, senior editor at Earnest. A $ 3,000 couch that costs $ 1,000 to move may not make sense.
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Meanwhile, as Earnest data found, shoppers tend to migrate to stores like Crate & Barrel, the Container Store TCS, -5.78% and Williams-Sonoma WSM, -7.53% as they age and then later stores including Home Depot HD, -1.02% and Lowe’s LOW, -1.59% , suggesting a more hands-on approach to the home.
If you’re looking for furniture a bit more permanent, and are willing to spend a bit more, there are options. For some, it’s taking the plunge and spending more than a few thousand dollars on beds, mattresses and couches. For others, like Bell, it’s finding the value in hand-me-downs and curbside pieces that can become beautiful again with a little cleaning and reupholstering. “Furniture should be more than a temporary thing,” he said.