New Renton IKEA is bigger and better

Chefs at the IKEA cafeteria hold up Swedish meatballs.
Chefs at the IKEA cafeteria hold up Swedish meatballs. Isabella Paxton / The Watchdog

Driving down I-405 through Renton, a bright blue and yellow sign stands tall above the buildings. IKEA has always been a popular shopping location for just about every furniture item a person could ever need – and it is even listed as a tourist attraction on the side of the highway.

After years of construction, IKEA has opened a new, larger store right next to the old one. Its doors opened on Feb. 22, and have since been bustling with consumers looking for new furnishings, or even just for a fun adventure. The new building is topped with the largest area of solar panels in the state, powering the new-and-improved two-story building.

After hearing about how much fun it was to explore the new building, a friend and I decided to go see what all the fuss was about. I had been to the original IKEA in the past and remembered the experience to be enjoyable, but navigating the maze of pathways and decorated rooms caused quite a bit of stress. I went into the new Ikea expecting the layout to be improved, and I was not disappointed.

Upon entering the store, a friendly employee handed us a map labeling all the categories and sections of the store. We were greeted with a smile from the start, and stepped onto the escalator to the second floor with high expectations.

The new layout of IKEA was far easier to navigate. The pathway was linear and easy to follow, beginning with a large, open air cafeteria and looping back around to the same space. Although tasting Swedish meatballs for the first time was one of the experiences I was anticipating the most, we decided to traverse the maze before trying out the food.

Once inside the furniture labyrinth, it was hard to tell the difference between the new IKEA and the old. Exploring the decked out rooms was just as fun as it used to be, and the varied selections of mass-produced goods were abundant. The store was well organized by the categories of goods, opening up for the large selection of chairs and sofas and narrowing when the fully designed rooms were showcased. The whole layout was far more user-friendly in terms of aesthetics and organization.

Half an hour into the IKEA adventure it seemed as if we would never find our way out, but after some time following the illuminated arrows on the walkway we arrived at the cafeteria once again and it was time for me to try the hyped up Swedish meatballs. The IKEA food court was reminiscent of a high school cafeteria, yet far cleaner and more refined.

The display of the desserts seemed surprisingly similar to the display of the merchandise – identical copies stacked up in a display case one after another.

The servers in the cafeteria were an absolute delight. I never thought I would meet people who were so happy to be serving up Swedish meatballs, but talking and laughing with them was the highlight of my day and made the meatballs taste that much better.

Spending a few hours in the new IKEA was tons of fun. Although I walked out with $50 less in my bank account that I didn’t plan on spending, I have no regrets. I would recommend taking the time to explore the new building on a rainy day – granted the shopper has either immovable willpower or some cash to spare.