A letter to Ikea

Portland Oregon Ikea

Dear Ikea,

Many years ago, in 2001, I purchased two beech-colored items of furniture. The items, a bookcase and a CD tower, were bathed in a lovely golden brown veneer. Recently, Wendy and I decided to embark on a trip to the new Ikea in Portland, Oregon. We decided that we would like to procure another beech CD tower. Upon our arrival at the Portland store, we grabbed a golf pencil and used a gps to locate the CD tower on the demo floor. I was gleeful when I discovered a fleet of benno CD towers in all sorts of different colors. I wrote down the stock number and we proceeded downstairs to the loading area. The box containing a beech benno was loaded onto the neatest handtruck ever and we rolled to the checkout counter.

Three days passed before I decided to build the benno. I opened the packaging and that’s when I realized that something was wrong. The beech on the new benno was much lighter than my seven year old beech colored furniture! Gasp! I showed Wendy the color disparity and we knew that we did not have a match.

A return trip to Portland this weekend confirmed our worst fears. I took the benno, in a freshly taped box, to the customer service desk while Wendy parked the car. The clerk asked me why I was returning the beautiful benno. I informed him that this beech did not match my beech and that I hoped that perhaps I had selected an incorrect model. Wendy, being a genius and generally smarter than me, had brought one of the shelves from my old beech benno. We asked if they had the old color. At this point things were not looking good as the available colors — beech, birch, black-brown, black patterned, red, silver, white, and medium brown did not match our swatch/shelf. The clerk then went to find Julie. Julie apparently was an Ikea historian who informed us that our beech had been discontinued and that yes, the new beech was indeed a lighter shade of beech veneer.

Ikea, why did you not place signs informing your veteran customers that the beech was no longer the same beech? It would have kept us from having to make a return trip to you. I’m sure we are not the only people who have been duped by the beech.


ps: Thanks for the web traffic to my site. If you Google (or even MSN) “ikea portland oregon“, guess what happens?

28 thoughts on “A letter to Ikea”

  1. 7 years is a long time for most companies, and colors and products do generally change in that time frame. Sucks you couldn’t fine something to match. :(

    Perhaps it’s time to assess your bourgeois color-matching aesthetics? ;)

  2. I feel your pain. I have an entire kitchen in said “old Ikea beech” – bought from the Seattle store over 10 years ago. Two of the cabinet panels have been discolored due to water damage and I can’t replace them. Unfortunately, the panels are very visible (the sides of an island).

    Also – I do believe that beech may darken over time. It sure seems as these have gotten more “golden” over the years we’ve had them.

  3. Same thing happened to me today in England. Your letter is a welcome, although annoying, explanation. Thanks, Chris.

  4. It is a rather annoying, frustrating and even embarrassing situation. I wish Ikea would just change the names entirely rather than leaving the names the same while changing the colors…

  5. My husband and I just finished building two brand new bennos and one brand new billy bookshelf (all in beech veneer) – only to discover they do not match our existing beech colorerd furniture! ARRRGHH!

    Why on earth would IKEA change the darkness of the beech veneer? Could they at least have indicated the color change in their product catalog or somewhere in the store?

    We purchased a Komiker TV Unit and a Billy Bookshelf in October 2002 – both in the traditional beech veneer. One year later (in fall 2003), we purchased two Benno CD towers, also in the traditional beech veneer. Sometime between then and now, the color has obviously changed. What used to be a beautiful, reddish toned beech finish has now become a pale, sickly looking imitation of the former hue.

    IKEA – SHAME ON YOU! I’ve been a long-time customer and have come to expect more from your company. This is quite a disappointment and you’ve lost my business for good.

  6. Bah! We’ve just gone to buy a matching chest of drawers to go with my son’s 6 drawer “malm” only to find they don’t even call it “beech” now in the UK – it’s “birch” and very blonde compared to the golden beech. Means we’ve got to spend another £75 getting anothere 6 drawer so everything’s matching!! :-

  7. Well, they’ve solved the problem: “Beech” versions of Billy and several other items are now discontinued. No more color-matching problems if there’s no more beech.

    And yes, I have a library full of beech Billy bookcases.

  8. I feel your pain. I too have lots of older furniture from Ikea in beech veneer. Now it’s beech effect… The worse part of all of this is that I wanted a coffee table and they don’t even make the beech effect for that table anymore!!! So frustrating!!

  9. I have had an even worse experience due to the color discontinuation.

    I ordered 4 billy bookcases in medium brown, as well as height extensions and doors all on the same day. They sent me all the furniture in visibly different colors (new and discontinued) and it took me a month to get a refund. And even then they wouldnt even return the delivery fee i paid for it, when it was their fault that they messed up my orders.

    I am going to try not to deal with Ikea ever again. Ive been buying stuff there for some time now, and it tends to fall apart within 2 years.

  10. I have just returned for our bi-yearly commune to Ikea in Chicago IL. We too had purchased a nice entertainment center and 2 bookshelves with doors. They were the Billy style in the Beech veneer. We have recently outgrown the 2 bookshelves and had planned on buying another. As of 2-3 weeks ago, the Ikea website offered these items as I had looked into them. So we came to the store excited to try to pick up our new book shelf in the beautiful beech veneer only to find that Ikea disconitnued them and have no more. Further I have looked all over online to find no place offering any stateside. If anyone does find a source for these items, I am looking for the 79″ bookcase. Good luck and hopefully our pleas will be heard

  11. I feel everyone’s pain & frustration. My girlfriend recently moved in and obviously needs a place for her clothes. Foolishly, I said ” Lets just get another dresser!”, a BEECH Malm 6-drawer. She was thrilled & we planned to run to the local Ikea tonight (there’s 2 within an hour from me, (northern NJ)), bring it home, slap it together & be ready for the weekend with no wasted time & a tidy master bedroom.

    Well, I’ve scoured the internet this AM to no avail. The most, and most accurate information I found was here on this very page. The Ikea site itself is very deceptive as it shows several items in the search results page WITH the beech finish (mine is a very reddish brown), however when you click an item, it brings you to the medium brown version, which may or may not look very close, depending on the photo. When you search and do find beech in the text, it’s always as the actual material for the veneer, not the finish.

    I thought of buying a plain-finished (lightest) piece & trying to stain it myself, but with very limited time and dubious results, this could be a larger undertaking than it’s worth. Needless to say, I’ve also tried the local Craigslist, but had no luck finding the exact piece, Taking a cue from Wendy, we might remove one drawer face & bring it with us to a local Ikea, just to satisfy my obsessive curiosity and be sure no current finishes do indeed match.

    Having exhausted my options, I think we’re picking up her old dresser tonight, to use temporarily, as no Ikea pieces are going to match anyhow, until we can find the piece on Craigslist or local want-ads or win a fortune, buy a big house, & redecorate.

  12. `Ahhh!!! I’ve had this same issue! We bought the Billy bookcases in Beech specifically for the lovely color and the fact that the Billy line touts that it can grow with your collection. A couple weeks ago we made the trip to the Sacramento Ikea to buy a couple more bookcases for my ever-growing book collection. We bought a color we thought was the same as what we had, got home, unpacked the box, only to discover that this new “beech” is several shades lighter than my current bookcases.

    In trying to exchange the bookcase we too discovered that they’ve discontinued the beech color. Now we are stuck with two options: buy an all new collection of bookcases in a different color… Or buy a Billy bookcase that doesn’t match the ones we currently have.

    We’re not happy about either option.
    What gives Ikea???

  13. We just had flood damage and lost 3 of 6 Billy beech bookcases. Now we are going to try to matchup with the Besta beech which seems to be the same color but shorter deeper and narrower. I would have figured beech would be the most popular one.

  14. We have 5 Billy beech bookcases, and about a year or so ago we bought another and discovered that it was the “wrong” (lighter shade) color, but we just figured that is what happens when you try to buy the same piece of furniture over the course of 10 years. Well, we went back to IKEA today to get another one, and it appears that they have completely discontinued the beech color for both the Benno tower and the Billy bookcase. This sucks. I thought I found some on eBay….only it was eBay Singapore. Anybody want to sell theirs?

  15. We have many IKEA beech items going back 20 years as well as new items. Beech wood ages and goes a deeper golden color as it matures–it all started lighter, wait a while and it evens out if it is real wood veneer. Have learned to love the variations that show it to be a natural material rather than the fake stuff. I guess beech must have either become expensive or is in short supply as many lines no longer come in a beech option.

    1.  you are so wrong. it will not go darker like a natural wood. it IS the fake stuff. Its not even a real veneer

  16. So glad I found this!  I just had the same thing happen but with the black-brown color w/ the Malm line. Bought a chest to go with my black-brown bedroom set and it’s way darker!  Not sure if I’m going to take it back or not but let’s say my Ikea purchases will be much more limited after this (especially because another thing I bought at the same time has a plastic piece that broke right out of the box – I think their quality is going down).

  17. same thing for me … 10 year old beech desk and bookcases. Does anyone think the medium brown matches close enough to the “old” beech?

    1. Beech/Black was the default colour scheme for Ikea in the 90s: Poang chairs, Niklas shelving, Akrobat cupboards, Jerker desks…

      Then in the 00s black was quickly dropped for grey, while beech was steadily phased out through the decade.

      I can only guess it’s production moving to the far east. Only solution is to keep hunting for used items.

  18. I agree bring back the original Beech veneer! I too have a bedroom set in this color and would like to purchase the 6 drawer dresser, however it is no longer available in this color. Very sad :(

  19. What happened is Ikea cut corners and stopped applying sealant to the beech veneer items. The old items are sealed with a polyurethane coating, which brought out the richness of the wood and tinted it. The new items are “dry” and uncoated. Just ran into this problem today. Fortunately I have the brushes and the coatings to rectify this problem myself.

    1. Fred – I hope you do a follow-up post and let us know if your experiment with polyurethane works to bring up a proper beech color. If it does, it would be great if you post the name/brand of finish. Thanks!

  20. Sounds like this problem is only getting worse. Ikea’s product lines are totally out of whack at the moment. On the one hand I understand Ikea needs to change over time and that means their stock color options will change as well. On the other, they are changing for the worse. I wanted to get the Micke office set in Black Brown (because for some reason Ikea has fazed out the Medium Brown finish from all office products, which was my favorite years ago and is now limited to the aging Billy line), and while this finish used to have a smooth coating and a distinct brown color with black streaking “grain”, it is now a chalky feeling black color with no brown to be found.

    I was pissed to find this out when I took home my Linnmon desk table in black-brown with my Alex drawer/cabinet sides in the same finish and learned they weren’t the same at all. The top was in the new finish and the drawers in the old, and the old looks and feels much better. Doesn’t match at all, despite the same labeling. So back to Micke, the pictures on the website show a similar, nice dark brown finish. I went to check it out in the store and it is the same black color as my Linnmon table top. It looks hideous in person and the website hasn’t even been updated, still showing the nice looking old finish.

    It’s a broader problem where I remember being able to walk into Ikea and pretty much everything came with the same finish options except for a few exceptional products. It made it easy to mix and match and pull a room together. Seems like it’s all over the place now and finishes within product lines and even whole categories are all different from the others. I like variety, but I miss some of those base finishes like Medium Brown, or your old Beech.

  21. IKEA discontinues furniture with no warning. They are rude & simply don’t care to warn their customers of known changes & dropped lines. Changes must be made, but tell your customers. This is good customer service, good business practice, & good moral behavior. It’s like IKEA is depressed & wants every customer to be unhappy with them. What is wrong with IKEA? They have all the mean spirited, depressed behavior of a Lutheran. I know what I’m talking about. Signed by Karen Sandström.

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