How to Build Ikea Furniture Using Rage, Tears and Beer

Read Joe Donatelli’s humor column about building Ikea furniture — poorly.


You know how you do something stupid, tell yourself you’ll never to do it again, let a lot of time lapse and then do that stupid thing again? That’s me and Ikea.

I needed a dresser and it had been about a decade since I’d stepped foot inside an Ikea. I had completely forgotten (blocked from memory?) what an awful experience it is, from having to park miles from the store’s entrance, to having to lug giant boxes to the checkout aisle on your own to the inscrutable assembly instructions and fourth-rate parts.

Ikea is the crazy girl you hooked up with freshman year, forgot about, and then hooked up with again as a senior. I guess what I’m saying is Ikea WILL CALL YOU CRYING EVERY NIGHT AND TRY TO FACEBOOK FRIEND YOUR MOTHER.


Does this look like a $200 dresser to you? Me neither. This looks like a $35 dresser. So let’s get this out of the way up front. I’m an idiot. I should have known better. I didn’t think this purchase through. I got what was coming to me. I admit it.

The Ikea dresser I purchased was the MALM model. It is so named because MALM is the sound you make after you drop Box #2 (which weighs about 50 pounds) on your leg and sheer the skin off the front of your shin, which is exactly what I did moments after moving the two MALM boxes into my apartment.


It was at this point that I made a strategic decision.

champagne of beers

I was going to build this dresser Don Draper style, the same way he built Sally’s playhouse on Mad Men — while drinking beer, pausing only to look longingly into the distance, wondering how I had come to this point in my life, pondering if there was any way to turn back.

To build a MALM dresser you need a hammer, a flat screwdriver, a Phillips screwdriver and a Swiss Army knife. The hammer is for the plastic and metal nails that hold the dresser together. The screwdrivers are for the screws. The Swiss Army Knife is in case you want to kill yourself. I didn’t use it, but it was liberating knowing that I had the option.


The build went horribly. Ikea doesn’t use screws. It uses things that look like screws, which are held in place with little round-y things. I would tell you the name of them, but Ikea does not label any of its parts with words. So you just say to yourself, “I need four more of these round-y screw fasteners so I can put them in the round thing-a-dos that hold the thingers.”

Because I forgot to tighten one of the round-y screw fasteners—there are only 800 of them—the entire structure collapsed at one point, breaking one of the boards. The boards, as best I can reckon, are made from the same substance used to make fortune cookies, only less sturdy.

fixes anything

Yes, I realize that with the addition of duct tape my Ikea MALM dresser is no longer in mint condition, but now it has character. And knuckle marks from where I punched it. And it smells like spilled beer and shouting.

After salvaging the structure, I got to work on the tedious business of assembling the top, nailing the back to the frame and building the drawers. About three hours into the build I finished the first drawer, sliding it triumphantly into place. Then I slid it back and it would not open.

I tried to open it about 75 times. Each time I thought, “Now will be the time it opens.” But it would not open. Then I was like, “It will surely open this time.” But, no dice. So I would try again, thinking: “This time, I bet it will open.” But it did not. I felt like Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer dealing with modern technology. I just wanted to run into the hills or something.

Turns out one of the screws was not tightened all the way and was not allowing the drawer to slide back. I completely disassembled the drawer, tightened the screw and made another important strategic decision.


I moved onto whiskey.

At no point did I set fire to the dresser. This particular tool did its job.

Throughout the ordeal, my dog watched in fear as I yelled and cursed intermittently. Because my dog thinks it’s all about her, she thought I was alternately yelling at her and ignoring her for hours. From her point of view, ours had become an abusive relationship.

best dog ever

Feeling guilty now, I went into Draper overdrive. A montage: Me boozing heavily, swinging the hammer wildly, bouts of regret amplified by panic, light crying, me trying to remember what I was like as a person before I went to Ikea, my humanity depleted.

Well, I finally finished the damn thing at high cost to my treasure and sanity, not to mention the damage it did between me and the dog. Only hours later did she come near me again.

It really looks like a MALM. Say it, M-ah-lm. At least, I think that’s how you say it. They don’t put words in the instructions. I went online to find out and discovered that the MALM shares the same name as a city in Norway, which is one of those boring countries where everyone looks like a LEGO and the prime minister is also a shipping clerk.


When my children ask me for advice someday, it will be this: buy assembled furniture and have it delivered. You’ll pay more, but it will be worth it. I will have other advice for my children, but none of it will be as important.

Joe Donatelli publishes The Humor Columnist. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.


Author: Joe Donatelli

Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles. He publishes The Humor Columnist.

  • R Moorhouse

    Love it. I have some advice you might want to add – NEVER EVER take anything from Ikea APART ever. It doesn’t matter if you collect all the screws lovingly in a taped-shut tupperware because that thing is never going back together. Adding insult to injury (literally) if you lose any, they are forged on mount doom by enslaved unicorns so you cannot buy any more EVER. I’m thinking of sleeping on the floor instead of assembling the bed frame as I do not have enough beer and duct tape!

  • Tallulah Alice Mae

    I just irredeemably fucked up an assembly and the ikea girl on the phone was like you will have to repurchase. This just cheered me up greatly.

  • Ha. Sorry. Just seeing this comment now. The Malm is still used as a cautionary tale in our house.

  • Only with a hatchet. Or fire.