The Best Stuff From IKEA, According to Wirecutter’s Obsessive Staff
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The Best Stuff From IKEA, According to Wirecutter’s Obsessive Staff

Jun 14, 2023

We're no longer updating this piece, although we still think many of the recommendations here (if still available) are great.

IKEA is the first stop for many people after they move into a new home or when they’re renovating an old one. Not everything at the big blue box is a winner—some stuff feels cheap and falls apart quickly. But there are seemingly endless options to fill up every room of your living space.

Wirecutter’s staffers have long taken advantage of IKEA’s wide range of offerings, from sofas to storage to … Swedish chocolate? Yes, even that. We’ve refreshed our list of IKEA recommendations to bring you the 18 items we love the most.

Skubb box ($5 for a set of six at the time of publication)

I impulsively picked up a set of these drawer organizers that someone had abandoned in the IKEA check-out line, and I’m glad they did. Since then I’ve repurchased them four times.

These boxes, which come in multiple sizes, are ideal homes for items you just want a low-effort way to store: balled-up socks, cotton totes you don’t feel like folding, lipstick tubes that would otherwise roll around the bottom of a drawer. The neat rows of boxes in my vanity give me such peace of mind.

Assembly takes seconds—you simply pop the sides open and zip the bottom flap shut. During my move last year, the collapsible function made the boxes really easy to pack away.

—Brittney Ho, audience development coordinator

Pax wardrobe system (price varies)

Whether you’re organizing a walk-in closet or storing office supplies, the Pax system is endlessly customizable. We put a two-frame Pax, with classy glass sliding doors, in our bedroom as a wardrobe. And we placed another set, with more-utilitarian doors (including a mirror), in our small entryway to hold shoes, coats, and outdoor gear. There are many ways to organize the interior, and IKEA offers a range of compatible doors, handles, and lighting. So the Pax can suit whatever look you’re going for (as long as it’s relatively modern). We also recommend the Pax in our closet organizing guide.

—Winnie Yang, supervising editor

Elvarli storage system (pricing varies)

IKEA’s Pax system seems to be better known, but we used the modular Elvari system to add drawers, a rod, and deep shelving to a small, dark closet in my daughter’s bedroom. It was easy enough for two not-very-DIY-savvy adults to install in an afternoon. This system looks nice, is incredibly sturdy and functional, and costs a fraction of what a professional “custom closet” system would go for. I love that we can change the configuration as our needs evolve.

—Courtney Schley, supervising editor

Pudda basket ($10 at the time of publication)

While navigating the maze at my local IKEA, the Pudda basket stopped me in my tracks. Though I rarely buy on impulse, I was so taken with its textured felt, folded design, and exposed stitching that I put four in my cart, with no idea of what I’d use them for. It turns out that I use them for a lot. I’ve used Pudda baskets to corral socks and underwear when I ran out of drawer space, to hold paper hats on New Year’s Eve, and to collect my baby’s toys. The Pudda looks good enough to sit out in the open, even if the items inside are sloppy. Its moldable fabric squeezes into spaces where stiffer bins might not fit. And the Pudda basket stores flat. In the two years I’ve had them, these baskets have been in constant use.

—Jennifer Hunter, senior editor

Råskog cart ($30 at the time of publication)

The Råskog cart has a cult following in the craft world. There’s even a Facebook group called Pimp My Råskog—with more than 23,000 members posting hacks and makeovers. Around my house, this cart’s smooth-rolling wheels and size of this cart make it ideal for closet and office storage. I have one in my studio for my planners and stickers, and there’s another in our playroom for my 6-year-old’s art supplies. We also keep a Råskog in our mudroom to hold anything we want to grab on our way out the door, including winter gloves and sunscreen.

—Jackie Reeve, senior staff writer

Kallax shelf unit ($80 at the time of publication)

Before I was a Wirecutter-er, I was an elementary school librarian, and I’m also a mom. These shelves are my absolute favorites for storing children’s books. Books for kids can be pretty big—many are more than a foot tall—and my school library shelves were often frustratingly short so that we could fit in as many books as possible. This meant a lot of books had to be turned sideways to fit, making it harder for young kids to read the spines. At home I’ve always used the Kallax units, in several different sizes, for my daughter’s library because every cubby has just over 13 inches of storage height. Plus, the construction is solid enough to hold lots of heavy books without the shelves sagging. My daughter’s books fit beautifully, and only the occasional giant tome needs to be turned sideways.

—Jackie Reeve, senior staff writer

When we moved into a small apartment in 2015, my husband and I bought two Kallax shelf units. Since then, these shelves have made one cross-country move and joined us in a total of four different apartments. We’ve put them to a number of different uses over the years, and their cube layout makes it easy to fit baskets and bins or to go for more-open storage. For us, the shelves’ depth has made these perfect for storing vinyl records. And that depth has also accommodated our constantly growing book collection. We’ve gotten to the point where each cube is filled with two rows of books, with our current favorites getting the prized spots in the front row. When the shelves are set up horizontally, their tops have also functioned as a sort of mantelpiece, where we’ve placed framed photos, plants, mementos, and greeting cards. So these shelves often end up holding many of our most beloved objects.

—Laura Mitchell Tully, strategic planning lead

Ivar storage shelving (pricing varies)

Visitors constantly compliment our Ivar shelving. Unlike other systems, this one is not mounted, so it’s perfect for a temporary installation. My design-savvy roommate configured two of them to maximize the space in our prewar Brooklyn apartment. One holds three bikes (with bike hooks from Lowe’s), a pegboard for climbing gear, and many rows of shoes; it also discreetly houses a litter box. The other holds a record player, books and games, and air conditioners in the off-season. Ivar’s options are nearly limitless.

—Anna Perling, staff writer

Eket cabinet with four compartments ($55 at the time of publication)

The modularity of the Eket system is its biggest strength. My wife and I recently created a custom-looking bookcase-and-storage combo by combining two different pieces from the collection. We stacked two of the honey-brown cabinets atop the white cabinet with doors and legs to create a wall-spanning bookcase-and-storage combo, and it basically looks built-in because it covers nearly an entire wall.

—Erik Erickson, director of platform engineering

Billy bookcase ($50 at the time of publication)

I’ve used Billy bookcases in multiple apartments, and they’ve served different essential purposes. In a tiny kitchen in a rent-stabilized one-bedroom, a slim Billy with a minuscule footprint (15 by 11 inches) and towering height (79 inches) provided much-needed pantry space while taking up barely any room. The addition of a glass door made it look kitchen-appropriate while also allowing me to glimpse what was inside. Later, when I moved into a larger space, I lined up three white Billy bookcases with height extenders, to create a bookcase that guests often mistake for built-in.

Next to that, I appended a low, slender Billy unit with an opaque white door, to hide odds and ends like pens, stamps, surgical masks, and dog treats. I placed a decorative dish on top, and that’s where I drop my keys when I come home. The Billy series is so great because of its versatility—it makes usable space out of very little. And Billy units are neutral enough to take on the feel of a room, while enhancing it with sheer utility. Plus, these units are easy enough to build on your own, and there are few surprises once you have the finished product. What you see is what you get. The shelves are adjustable, so they can accommodate books and other items of different sizes. Considering their low price, it’s hard to find anything about them that warrants complaint.

—Gabriella Gershenson, editor

Norden gateleg table ($200 at the time of publication)

I used to live in a tiny Brooklyn apartment with barely any space for a dining table. That’s when I came across the Norden on a tiny-living TikTok. People loved it because it could fold to be as small as 10 inches wide or extend to about 60 inches. This table was perfect for my small apartment with four roommates, since we could fold it up to do yoga in our shared space or extend it to host dinner parties or assemble jigsaw puzzles. Folding or extending this table is simple, and there’s a little notch to lock it into place when extended. Assembly was also pretty easy, and I did it by myself in an hour or two. Plus, the Norden has six drawers for extra storage!

—Nikki Duong, video producer

Markus office chair ($230 at the time of publication)

I bought the IKEA Markus on Wirecutter’s recommendation because it used to be our budget office chair pick. For the price, the Markus has proved remarkably comfortable, somewhat customizable (you can adjust its height and tilt its back), and very sturdy. Plus, it has a 10-year limited warranty. In Wirecutter’s most recent office-chair testing, our short and tall testers didn’t find the Markus comfortable. But if you’re of average height, on a budget, and want an office chair that stands out more than our current budget pick (the HON Exposure), get the Markus.

—Justin Krajeski, staff writer

Puderviva duvet cover ($90 for a queen cover with pillowcases at the time of publication)

While testing for our guides to linen sheets and duvet covers, I’ve tried some very nice—and expensive—linen bedding. So I was surprised by how much I liked IKEA’s relatively inexpensive Puderviva duvet cover. It isn’t as soft as our favorite linen from Cultiver and Rough Linen, but it’s also a fraction of the price. I like the Puderviva’s slight prickliness, and the dark gray version (which I’d call midnight blue) looks more chic than I would’ve guessed from IKEA’s pictures. It’s also available in white and beige. I often reach for the Puderviva over the pricier linen cover I have because I’m less concerned about my kids and cats ruining the fabric.

—Christine Cyr Clisset, deputy editor

Uppland sofa ($450 at the time of publication)

The Uppland couches (formerly Ektorp, with slightly different dimensions) are perfect for people who want something with excellent durability and good, clean design. The full-size couch fits two adults, two kids, and a pushy dog, and the loveseat fits two adults. I own four of them—seriously. I bought two of them new, and they came together so easily—I didn’t have to cry while holding an Allen wrench. The other two I bought used. I just washed the slipcovers (don’t buy the dry-clean-only versions!) and aired out the pillows, and they look as good as new.

—Annemarie Conte, deputy editor

Lill lace curtains ($5 per pair at the time of publication)

For four years we lived without window treatments in our living room because it all seemed overwhelming and hard—until I just went to IKEA and bought a bunch of these $5-per-pair Lill sheers, along with Racka curtain rods. These curtains were easy to install, and they can be cut to length without hemming (which I didn’t even bother to do yet they look fine, but our windows are high). The Lill curtains do seem a little cheap (because they are), and I suspect cat owners would have a claw-ripping problem because these are just that tempting. But they immediately soften the light coming into the room, and they’re a good placeholder until we can get our act together to buy more-expensive curtains. I’m telling you, the world just seems a little better through a Lill filter.

—Annemarie Conte, deputy editor

Stockholm rug ($230 at the time of publication)

When I was looking at rugs for my apartment, the mostly wool Stockholm rug stood out for its good quality and size. It’s big enough to fit halfway under my bed, with plenty of rug left over to mosh on while listening to Ariana Grande. We also recommend the Stockholm in our area-rug guide because it’s softer than other budget wool rugs. The Stockholm comes in 10 different color patterns, but the black-and-white-striped one appears to be the most popular. In short, I will not be saying “thank u, next” to this rug.

—Justin Krajeski, staff writer

Storstomma bag ($1 at the time of publication)

Two people have stopped me on the street in New York City to ask me when and where I nabbed one of these rainbow Storstomma bags. No disrespect to the classic Frakta, but the small Storstomma bag is the best bag IKEA sells. It has a smoother texture and is less obviously branded than its blue cousin, yet it’s just as sturdy (and it has the short-handle carrying option, too). Compared with straps on other reusable shopping bags, the ones on this bag are actually long enough to be worn over a shoulder. And they’re wide enough so that even when the bag is filled with goodies, it’s comfortable to carry on a 30-minute commute.

Though the bag appears small, it can fit a lot. For me, it’s the perfect size to carry half the items from a weeknight grocery run. If you’re lucky enough to score two of these bags before they’re sold out (IKEA says they’re selling only limited quantities), the set will transport your Trader Joe’s haul conveniently and in style.

—Jessie Mohkami, editorial assistant

Rajtan spice jar ($3 for a 4-pack at the time of publication)

Because we’re big home cooks who live in a small space, our spices used to be relegated to a scary clutter corner in our pantry, often forgotten and collecting dust. No more! In our old apartment, where we didn’t have cabinet space, these spice jars fit conveniently in IKEA Bekväm spice racks. And now our spices live neatly tucked away in a drawer, where we can see all the dry-erase labels on top. We can wash these jars (the glass parts) in the dishwasher when we run out or want to swap out spices.

PS: We were so happy with the coordinated IKEA spice storage that we upgraded to these Korken jars for storing our flour, sugar, rice, beans, and other dry goods.

—Raquel Hamias, user research lead

Daim Mini milk chocolate with caramel ($9 for a 1-pound bag at the time of publication)

This is a delicious treat my family looks forward to every time we visit IKEA—and, yes, we have visited just to enjoy the Daim! These bite-size treats are super-chocolatey, with a little snap of brittle in the middle. They’re sort of like a Heath bar, but with better chocolate. And my family is not above devouring half a bag before we pull out of the IKEA parking lot.

—Rachel Cericola, senior staff writer

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Skubb box ($5 for a set of six at the time of publication)Pax wardrobe system (price varies)Elvarli storage system (pricing varies)Pudda basket ($10 at the time of publication)Råskog cart ($30 at the time of publication)Kallax shelf unit ($80 at the time of publication)Ivar storage shelving (pricing varies)Eket cabinet with four compartments ($55 at the time of publication)Billy bookcase ($50 at the time of publication)Norden gateleg table ($200 at the time of publication)Markus office chair ($230 at the time of publication)Puderviva duvet cover ($90 for a queen cover with pillowcases at the time of publication)Uppland sofa ($450 at the time of publication)Lill lace curtains ($5 per pair at the time of publication)Stockholm rug ($230 at the time of publication)Storstomma bag ($1 at the time of publication)Rajtan spice jar ($3 for a 4-pack at the time of publication)Daim Mini milk chocolate with caramel ($9 for a 1-pound bag at the time of publication)