More than Swedish pancakes, ABBA or those giant fair isle ski sweaters, Sweden has given us one glorious gift: Ikea. I discovered this furniture fantasy at the beginning of junior year, the first time I had a single room. The sheer size of this mecca of mass production struck me speechless. Arranged in a way to seduce the customer most efficiently, Ikea boasts displays on the top floor with fully furnished, well-decorated bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms. Everything is for sale and each room display inspires a different atmosphere. You pick up your chosen items downstairs, which also boasts simple, modern home furnishings, everything from curtains to kitchen supplies to lighting (floor lamps for $7!). Ikea also offers cheap, delicious food including Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce. The best thing about Ikea is the number of items to choose from and the numbers on the price tags. Everything is scarily cheap because you have to assemble it yourself. A gorgeous wood-and-striped cloth shelf came home with me in the form of a few wooden sticks and a bag of nails. Perfect for handy students on a tight budget.
There is no pottery, and there is no barn. Luckily for us, Pottery Barn has transcended its name to become the ultimate furniture fantasy. Even the word "furniture" does not give glory due to what Pottery Barn is; nay, Pottery Barn is mecca and everything a heart could ever desire. That is, if all your heart desires is a tastefully decorated living space. This shopaholic's dream is comprised of the original Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Teen and Pottery Barn Kids. With stores all over the country, a glossy catalog that seduces seasonally and a website conducive to late night spending, this concept known as Pottery Barn has the potential to fulfill every furnishing wish: cherry wood armoires, mirrors hung on luscious ribbons, dreamy duvets, even holiday wreaths and garlands. Furniture is no longer merely furniture with names like "Chesapeake Nesting Tables" in shades of cream and wood. Buyer beware, however; high-end decorating denotes high-end prices. Pottery Barn, perhaps more suited for real jobs, might remain a fantasy until graduation.