The gargantuan IKEA store in East Palo Alto should be a go-to place for anyone seeking inexpensive stylish furniture for their home or rental. Even if you're just after a replacement sofa or a new bedside table, Ikea's got a huge selection, and the prices are low enough to make it worth the hassle of dealing with the store's admittedly stressful checkout experience. The store is designed with shoppers in mind. There's a restaurant (open from 9:30-8PM) featuring Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce for five dollars (a must-have for any true IKEA adventure), pasta dishes, cinnamon buns, and 99 cent mix-and-match kids menu (organic applesauce and mac&cheese are among the offerings). In the mornings there's often a long line for the 99 cent breakfasts of eggs, Swedish potatoes, and bacon. IKEA gets another huge plus for kid friendliness--there's a colorful play area staffed with babysitters where the kids can hang out until you're done shopping. If anything goes wrong, the staff will page you, so you can go ahead and relax while browsing. The showrooms are a good jumping-off point for anyone starting from scratch. They are organized by room-purpose (living room, bedroom, dining room, etc.), and an endless variety of styles. Seeing the showrooms already put together can help you get a feel for what goes with what, and how certain pieces of furniture might look in your own space.
Some shoppers are put-off by IKEA's mass produced products, and it's true there's a certain automaton quality about the product room with of all its numbered boxes. But still, the prices are unbeatable, and most of the furniture is hardy and reliable. Supplementing heirlooms or antiques with IKEA furniture isn't a bad way to go, and even if your study looks like an IKEA showroom, little touches of personality are all it takes to make a space unique and personal. Temporary renters should especially consider a trip to IKEA--almost everything in the store is lightweight, easy to dismantle, and comes in do-it-yourself pieces that can fit through any door or tight hallway. If putting together a wall-sized bookshelf is too daunting for you, IKEA offers a builder service for a fee. In case you've missed it or you're new to the area, IKEA is located at 1700 E. Bayshore Road, directly across the freeway from the Four Seasons Hotel. It's open daily from 10AM-9PM, and the phone number is 650-323-4532. This handy little map shows where the store is located in relation to the surrounding area.