Tuesday, January 15, 2002

HOW DID JACQUELINE AND I spend the weekend? Well, we fell into a short-lived love affair with a stove.

Saturday morning came without a hint of a plan in sight, and when the telemarketer awakened us for good at 9-something we decided in unison: "The new Ikea!" The huge Swedish furniture store's huge location in the huge Potomac Mills outlet mall 40 minutes or so south of Washington apparently wasn't huge enough, so the Swedes have built a bigger one in the mall's parking lot.

We hadn't seen the new store yet, and so we drove down. For once it wasn't raining (usually a trip to Potomac Mills coincides with a cloudburst). It's huge, all right. The one item that bought our eye, as the Monty Python sketch goes, was a white Frigidaire stove that struck us as irresistibly retro. It was a gas stove, naturally, so there were the nice metal burner grate/pot rests rather than the sleek but too modern flat burners of the expensive electric ranges or the retro-in-a-bad-way coils of the cheap ones. The knobs were pleasantly clunky, fitting nicely with the (retro, but quite possibly unintentionally so) clunky chrome pulls of the accompanying cabinets. The stove was $999, a number that we filed away as a little surprising -- but what did we know? We'd never shopped for stoves before.

But, in fact, we sort of need a stove. It's not a huge hardship to use the little butane barbecue torch to light the front burners that the Sears Home Central bastards had apparently fixed for a more-than-apparent 300 bucks (but which gave out, sporadically and so gradually that there was never an obvious time to call and complain). The stove has some burn marks, though (you'd think they'd be fireproof), and that cool new late-'50s-automobile logo would look much better than our stupid little Magic Chef insignia.

And so we hadn't even made it home before we realized we might be wanting that $999 stove real soon. We had just seen a "Designers' Challenge" episode in which an antique stove (picked from a store full of 'em!) figured prominently, which did nothing to dull our acquisitiveness. But that Frigidaire Web site didn't appear to have that Ikea stove. Suddenly we didn't remember what exactly was so appealing about the stove, aside from that nameplate. So on Sunday we started driving around again. At Lowe's we saw a nice-enough stove with that Frigidaire logo, for about $600. We would have to go back to Ikea to see just what was so special about this $999 stove.

The answer: just the typeface on that Frigidaire logo. The $999 Ikea stove was the $600 Lowe's stove with some complementary cabinetry. We still might want that Frigidaire model, but, oddly enough, the huge price cut has made it less of a must.

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