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IKEA Centennial: Fear and loathing and meatballs at the megastore's press preview

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Unless you've been living under a poorly-designed rock for months, you know that IKEA Centennial opens on July 27, at which point everyone within a four-state area will charge through its doors, frothing at the mouth for low-priced, assembly-required home décor. For those who can't wait, here's the takeaway from IKEA's press preview yesterday, an event as outsized as the megastore: IKEA Centennial is bigger, grander, stranger and, yes, more Swedish than you can possibly imagine.

A sizable contingent of Westword staffers, plus a few hangers-on, trekked down to Centennial for the preview, way more Westword coverage than the "news event" surely deserved (especially since there was nary a medical marijuana tie-in to be found). Still, we weren't disappointed. Just driving there is epic, since the monolithic blue-and-yellow edifice, stretching across 13.5 acres, looms over all of south Denver. It's big enough to have its own weather patterns, big enough to consume the entirety of Edgewater, big enough to exert minor gravitational pull on the cars cruising by on I-25.

Unfortunately, that gravitational pull doesn't obscure the fact that unless you're willing to jump a few road barriers Dukes of Hazard-style, it's downright confounding trying to navigate from the highway to the grand IKEA entrance. Would-be shoppers need to weave through a variety of intersections and strip malls to get there. Maybe that's the point, since a bunch of satellite businesses have sprung up in the area in hopes of getting a part of any regional shopping frenzy. As my Westword partner in crime, Jef Otte, put it, "It's like an IKE-cosystem."

Finally we made it to IKEA, where a shameless bounty awaited us: A grand buffet-style Swedish smorgasbord, complete with spreads of herring, platters of smoked salmon, unending supplies of Swedish meatballs and bowl after bowl overflowing with chilled crawfish. We were so busy eating like kings -- Swedish kings! -- on all seven kinds of herring, that we neglected to ask some of the probing questions we'd come with, including this: "And where, exactly, in Switzerland is Sweden?"

After the feast, it was time for the official tour, for which journalists were divided into small groups named after different IKEA products. We in the Westword crew, meatball bits in our hair and lingenberry jam staining our fingers, were nudged into the "GLIMMA Tealights" (fun fact: that's also the high school football team in west Texas), along with three respectable-looking ladies from Colorado Parent magazine. It was sort of like the table in the far corner of a wedding reception where the great-uncles and church ladies have to sit side-by-side with the assholes you used to get drunk with at college.

And as the token assholes, we did not disappoint.

The problems began at Småland, IKEA's inside play area. Cafe Society scribe Jenn Wohletz, someone who's never encountered an example of home décor she can't turn into a dick joke, took one look at the brand-new ball pit and announced, "I love the idea of playing with all those balls before they've been adulterated by little kids!" In the awkward silence that followed, a couple of us impulsively pulled open a small cabinet on the wall that was clearly off limits and inside discovered a suspicious stash of rope. While our tour guide explained it was to help guide kids out of the store in case of an emergency, that didn't stop us from taking an inane photo of it for our IKEA slideshow and cracking some wholly inappropriate hanging jokes. For some reason, our Colorado Parent colleagues were not amused. Our behavior went downhill from there. Among our transgressions:

  • After a booster announced "IKEA is there for every stage of your lives," we scribbled down on our handy in-store shopping list, "IKEA deathbed." We never did find the item number for it.
  • When, in the media furniture section, our tour guide said, "Americans, as we know, like their TVs,' we whispered to each other, "They've got us figured out!" and quietly began to plan our escape routes.
  • We began noticing a strange trend: Along with a plethora of work-desk options, IKEA also offers long, wheeled desks so you can work in bed, mini desks for when you sit on the couch, even bathroom furniture that seem to be desks for when you're taking a bath. What, exactly, is IKEA trying to say? That we should spend every waking moment behind a desk? That doesn't sound like fun at all. Especially since now, thanks to IKEA, we can fit a family of six into a 300-foot living space and pay for it all with a bit of pocket change and a wooden nickel. Why should we bother slaving for big paychecks at all?
  • This led to another troubling realization. Everything in IKEA is so darn cheap that no one around here is going to shop anywhere else ever again. Furniture stores will be shuttered by the dozen. Area malls will turn into ghost towns. In other words, it's going to be an IKEApocalypse.
  • We also found this device, which was so surreal all we could do was make a video of it and add in some sound effects:
  • IKEA device from Village Voice Media on Vimeo.

  • Here's one other odd discovery: All of the closets in IKEA's model bedrooms seemed to be stocked with identical white dress shirts and pressed khaki pants. Holy American Psycho! Thankfully, none of us were attacked by a naked Christian Bale wielding a chainsaw.
  • And yes, we did go around talking like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets. Did you really need to ask?

Our IKEA odyssey stretched on, past model living rooms and forests of stainless-steel faucets and wide swaths of natural-wood bed frames and crates of 99-cent toilet brushes. After several hours of meandering, our meatball-fueled euphoria was wearing thin. That was when our guide cheerily announced, "You still have half of the store to go through!" She wasn't kidding.

We broke the news to our guide: "We have to go. There's a breaking story at Pottery Barn."

MORE IKEA: - IKEA grand opening assembly instructions by Kenny Be. - Hipsters, rejoice! IKEA moves its Denver opening date up to July 27 - IKEA will put a 550-seat restaurant in Centennial -- but Casa Bonita is bigger! - IKEA in Colorado just a year away -- and fans couldn't be happier

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