Items Professional Interior Designers Actually Buy At IKEA

Swedish superstore IKEA is known for its inexpensive, no-nonsense approach to home design. Shoppers can treat roaming its expertly-staged showroom as a glimpse into what their home could look like if they went all out on their shopping trip. Yet worries about durability and style can come alongside the low prices the store offers. There might be many things you don't know about IKEA, but is it an okay place to shop if you want a chic home that will last? The answer is a resounding yes, you just need to know what to buy and how to style it. Even professional interior designers shop at IKEA for their own homes, and pick up things for their client projects, too. While not everything is a perfect fit, in this House Digest Exclusive, we explore what is.

Which items does a professional interior designer actually buy at IKEA? Are IKEA products multipurpose, or are there creative ways to include these pieces in your home? Are there unique storage and design solutions that even the IKEA marketing team doesn't know about, but designers have been using for years? During an exclusive interview, we spoke with Laura Koshel, interior designer and owner of LK Design, and Whitney Vredenburgh, owner of Nested Spaces, to get the lowdown on how to shop like a design pro at IKEA. 

The GRANHULT bracket makes installation easy

If you are an aspiring DIYer, finding the right tools to make your projects possible can be difficult. Although there are plenty of things you should never buy at IKEA, the rest of the store is a treasure trove of relatively inexpensive DIY staples to make your projects easier. A favorite of our professional interior designers is the GRANHULT bracket. While meant to hold shelving together, you can really get creative with how you utilize the item. "This bracket can be used in many applications. You can make a floating shelf or a floating nightstand with it," Laura Koshel told House Digest during an exclusive interview. You would do this by installing two of the brackets directly into the wall, and sliding a board between them before installing the second bracket. Be sure to install the brackets into the studs in the wall for more strength, as you don't want what you store on them to come crashing down because you relied on the sheetrock alone.

"Another very creative way would be to mount it on the ceiling and thread a board through it, and then hang oversized rod pocket curtains on the board," said Koshel. "Unique hardware and a unique look!" The brackets only come in a brushed nickel finish, but it is easy enough to spray paint the metal so it matches the color of your décor. They are sold in sets of two.

The BILLY bookcase is so popular it's become an economic benchmark

The BILLY bookcase is beloved around the world by people needing a sensible, stylish storage solution. It's so popular, in fact, that the economic news outlet Bloomberg keeps a list of just how much the shelf costs in different countries. The Billy Bookcase Index exists so readers understand the buying power of different currencies. Luckily, no matter what country you buy it in, the BILLY is a budget-friendly item, which is why our designers recommend it. "The BILLY is a timeless and durable bookshelf with clean lines and it comes in two color options. It is not too heavy visually and still stores plenty of books and décor. I love the storage you can get for books — don't forget to style!" said Whitney Vredenburg in an exclusive chat with House Digest.

It works well in many different areas of the home, so the styling opportunities are endless. "This will fit an office space, study, or family room," Vredenburgh continued. "For an office, I'd flank two on each side of a large piece of art. For a family room, I'd stack three in a row." Finally, the BILLY is a great purchase no matter the size of your home, as Vredenburgh said, its "dimensions are perfect for storage and looks." It's proportional and compact in the ways that matter. Thanks to its popularity, brilliant BILLY bookcase hacks abound. For instance, you can turn an IKEA BILLY bookcase into a display cabinet or elevate the look of floor-to-ceiling BILLY bookcases with a TikTok IKEA hack.

The TROTTEN cabinet is perfect for storage

Good storage, especially in small spaces, can be hard to come by these days. If your home has a few awkward spaces to fill, like an enclave behind the door or an opening under the stairs, you can make the most of it with a solution from IKEA. The TROTTEN cabinet is great for placing in these spaces instead of leaving them barren, but it also works well as an office shelf or even in the living room for family photos, candles, and books. "We've used this storage and display unit in a commercial project. This product provides ample storage, looks very clean and modern," Laura Koshel said. It does this by combining open shelving for more decorative items, but has enclosed cabinets in the bottom for things you might want out of sight, like TV instructional manuals, pet toys, or even shoes if used in a bedroom.

It also comes in two color options, so you can get the best match for your space. "The white color gives you an airy feel, while the black option can look sexy if you jazz it up with some colorful items," Koshel continued. Because it is made of steel and epoxy, it might be difficult to change the color of the unit if you don't like black or white. Yet as Koshel mentioned, because it's not the most colorful of IKEA products, the neutral cabinet can easily be hyped up with bright accessories, or allowed to blend in with more neutral décor. 

The VIDJA floor lamp is simple and effective

Ambient lighting is a vital part of setting the right mood at home. Many would agree that turning on "the big light," or the light attached to the ceiling fan, is much too harsh for quieter moments of relaxation. Instead, lamps, candles, and sunlight are combined for a softer form of illumination. You don't need to spend top dollar on lamps to accomplish this, just check out the designer-favorite VIDJA floor lamp from IKEA. "I used to have this lamp in my home, and I loved it! Its design is simple, and it doesn't overpower other elements in the space, for example, two of those lamps can flank a TV on top of a media console," Laura Koshel said.

What sets the VIDJA apart is that it isn't a traditional lamp stand and shade. Instead, it's a glowing tower meant to evenly cast light across the room. The thickness of the outside means it illuminates perfectly, but isn't harsh to look at directly. "This lamp gives an even glow in the evening and plenty of it," Koshel continued. Just remember that for this product, the lightbulbs are sold separately. The best pairing for the lamp is E12 LED bulbs, which are a bit smaller. You will need six of them for the lamp to be fully lit.

The FRIHETEN sleeper is perfect for short stays

If you want a guest bed, but don't have the space in your house to always have one out, the FRIHETEN sleeper is a happy medium between a guest room and making your visitors use an air mattress in the lounge. It's also a piece you'll probably get more overall use out. Even the best air mattresses usually aren't comfy enough to double as a sofa. The couch is an L-shaped lounge with a trundle that pulls out to form a queen-sized bed. The top of the couch is also gas-lifted to provide storage for extra linens. "A friend of mine has two of these sleeper sectionals at her beach house," Laura Koshel shared. "The textile on this sectional wears great — we have been visiting my friend for almost 10 years, and the sectional still looks great! It is comfortable for both lounging and sleeping." 

As a personal note from the House Digest team, we recommend sleeping on the side of the sofa that is always exposed, instead of the portion that pulls out, if you prefer a softer mattress. If you like things firmer, the extended portion will best suit your needs, as it is significantly more rigid. If you prefer the entire bed to be the same sturdiness, you can add the TUSSÖY mattress topper to relieve pressure on your back. The sleeper comes in multiple colors, including gray, black, blue, or tan so you can select a neutral shade best suited to your existing décor.

The HOVET mirror is the ideal size for most spaces

Floor-length mirrors aren't a luxury item, yet buying them from retailers like Anthropologie can set you back by more than $1,500! Luckily, you don't have to shop from designer brands to get the look you want, as IKEA has dupes that are just as great. Our designers suggest the HOVET mirror for a less expensive, still fabulous, look. "Need to add something, anything to a corner of a home or need a wardrobe mirror?" asked Whitney Vredenburgh. "This one is priced well and is perfect for a corner of a living room (add a tree in front), or on an empty wall in a bedroom."

If you feel like a space is blank, a mirror can fill the area perfectly. There are a few different styling options. First, the HOVET mirror comes with either black or aluminum framing, so you can choose the finish that best suits your home. Next, you can simply prop the mirror against the wall for a modern look, or secure it to the wall if you are afraid it might get knocked over. If you want to place it higher up the wall, it also works well when secured horizontally instead of vertically. And for those after a more opulent, ornate aesthetic, you can also upgrade this basic IKEA mirror to look romantically vintage with some simple supplies like gold spray paint and wood appliqués (which you can find on Amazon for under $10).

IKEA frames can make a great gallery wall

A gallery wall can make an impactful design statement, but the last time you looked up how much it costs to professionally frame art or photos, your eyes likely bugged out of your head. It can be a lot! However, when shopping at IKEA, you can have as many additions to your gallery as you want without breaking the bank. "Looking to create a gallery wall or want a few frames of your family? IKEA has frames priced very, very well that look similar to Pottery Barn and West Elm frames that are four times the cost," Whitney Vredenburgh spilled to House Digest. However, before you start loading up your cart, Vredenburgh has a few suggestions that will give your gallery wall that designer touch. 

"When looking for a frame, be sure to select something with a white mat which gives a more elevated look," she said. "Purchase size should be at minimum an 8 by 10." This way, the contents of the frame can be seen from across the room and won't disappear at a few paces. Vredenburgh named the RÖDALM photo frame as one of her personal favorites. If you purchase multiples, they should be hung evenly, such as a row of three, or two rows of four stacked right on top of each other. If you purchase different sizes, that's when you can begin staggering the frames for a more eclectic gallery look.

IKEA work desks are built to last

If you are worried about furniture from IKEA not standing the test of time, you shouldn't be. Under normal use, most options from the Swedish superstore can last a decade, even longer. They are not just transitional items you might buy for your college dorm or baby's nursery. Instead, they are long-lasting pieces that can come with you from life stage to life stage. "The last piece I would mention is my very first work desk. When I opened my business back in 2006, I bought an IKEA desk that is now, unfortunately, discontinued," Laura Koshel told us. "The desk is still in great shape, and it survived three moves! We treat our furniture with care, but I think this desk was well-made to start with."

One of the IKEA desks that is popular now is the MICKE desk system. It comes in different lengths and can include a place for a computer tower or not. You can get it in white, or a black/brown combination, and it even includes a compartment for hiding computer cables. While the MICKE has drawers, it doesn't have many. So if you prefer more storage at your desk, a great option is the LAGKAPTEN / ALEX desk system, which has lots of drawers to store everything an organized home office needs. It also comes in seven different color combinations, so it's easier to match to your style.

The EKET shelves are kind of awesome for kids' spaces

Keeping your kids' rooms clean is almost certainly an uphill battle. Yet something that can make it a little bit easier is having a solid storage solution ready to go. Our experts recommend the EKET shelves for their flexibility and ease of use. "Need help storing kids' toys? [These shelves] are a perfect addition to a play area, you can stack 2-3 together on a wall to create a storage system for toys, books, and crafts," said Whitney Vredenburgh. They come in two color options, dark gray and white, but the feet of both are light wood. However, while you can paint the feet to match, installing them at all is optional. The shelves also work well resting directly on the ground.

You can set items directly into the storage cubbies if using the unit in an adult bedroom or living space. However, to keep things easier for kids, Vredenburgh also recommends adding some DRÖNA storage boxes to the mix. The boxes fit perfectly into each cube and can keep toys and other messes out of sight. The box system also makes it easier for little hands to help clean up, as they can just drop things inside.