Thursday, September 15, 2016

Review: Ikea MALM 2-Drawer Chest

Time to fix that big mistake I made years ago: buying a KULLEN 2-chest drawer instead of a MALM 2-chest drawer I actually wanted. That's what happens when you don't bother to remember the name of the product you're buying, the exact aisle and bin number in the warehouse, or the price of the item -- I was wondering why it was so cheap.
Ikea MALM 2-Drawer Chest: Just out of the box
Configuration
x1 - Ikea MALM 2-Drawer Chest: US$ 54.99 (CA$ 69.99)

Paid: ~CA$ 55 (sale)

Video
In 59s: Ikea MALM 2-Drawer Chest Assembled
Ikea 2-Drawer Chests: KULLEN vs MALM
Ikea TARVA Nightstand vs MALM 2-Drawer Chest

Assembly
I did look at the measurements for the MALM 2-drawer chest package before ordering it online, but the size of the box was still surprisingly small when it arrived. The weight, unfortunately, was not a surprise or pleasant -- this thing was heavy. You can check out the video above for how the entire process went. It was the standard opening of the cardboard box and following of the instructions.

Having put together a KULLEN 2-drawer chest a relatively short while back, this wasn't much different. I think I started with the side panels, connected the top and back panels, then did the drawers. The biggest surprise was having the rails already connected to the side panels right out of the box. It probably wouldn't have been that much trouble to do it myself considering that I had to do it for the corresponding rails on the drawers anyway. Not sure why they shipped it like that, oh well.

What gave me the most trouble was probably nailing in the over two dozen nails for the rear panel. I only hammered my fingers once lightly but the nails kept eating into the fingertips of my latex gloves. Other than that, cleaning the MALM and the mess at the end.

Assembly Time: About 2 hours
Ikea MALM 2-Drawer Chest beside an Ikea TARVA Nightstand
Design / Construction
Looking at the MALM product page on the Ikea Canada website, I noticed particleboard and fiberboard mentioned, among other things, under the "Product description." That wasn't a surprise. The unfinished edges were a giveaway. For the white stained oak version, the section also mentioned "oak veneer." I did notice the detailing on the finished exteriors of the MALM and I thought it looked pretty nice -- noticeably nicer than the cheaper KULLEN I picked up a while ago. The MALM I got also had drawer rails with wheels that made sliding the drawers in and out both quieter and smoother than the KULLEN -- this cheaper, smaller chest of mine didn't have wheels and used what looked like straight plastic rails.

How was it?
The MALM 2 drawer chest hadn't been in use for long when I wrote this review, but if it's anything like the KULLEN, I'll probably be satisfied. Put stuff on it, put stuff in it, pretty simple job, as long as it doesn't fall apart in an unreasonably small amount of time, all is good, right? Not quite, apparently.

My main complaint with the KULLEN was that it didn't have that much storage space in the drawers. There was obviously more storage space in the MALM and on the top surface because it was simply bigger. I ended up transferring the contents of my current KULLEN chest to the MALM and had room to spare. Another thing that bugged me with the KULLEN was the noise it made when sliding the drawers in and out -- I could feel and hear the friction. The wheeled drawer rails were exquisite on the MALM. Very smooth.
Ikea KULLEN 2-Drawer Chest beside an Ikea MALM 2-Drawer Chest
Overall, the MALM just looked nicer and more finished. I guess they were saving on materials because only half of my KULLEN had a rear backing panel while the MALM had a full rear panel. There was, what I thought to be, a nicer surface finish on the MALM, angled top edges on the two drawers, and again, rails with wheels. It all came together as a more finished package.

What I disliked most about the MALM chest was the weight. It was really heavy to move around. I missed being able to lift the 2-drawer KULLEN -- empty but with drawers still attached -- and move it between rooms with relative ease. Just moving the MALM to where I wanted it in the same room was a chore, and I wasn't really able to do it without removing the drawers first -- the rails with wheels worked against me while moving it. The larger size I wanted and the smooth sliding drawers appeared to have a cost. Speaking of cost: while I bought the MALM on sale for about CA$ 55, the regular price was CA$ 69.99 when I wrote this review. In comparison, the KULLEN was CA$ 39.99 at the same time. All the improvements over the KULLEN came at a fairly hefty price tag in relative terms. And to be honest, a part of me missed the "cute" and more compact KULLEN.

Conclusion
A couple year old mistake was finally rectified. I thought the MALM 2-drawer chest was a more finished, polished, and larger version of the KULLEN 2-drawer chest. The improvements came at a price though and not just in terms of money. Regardless, it worked and if the MALM lasts for at least a couple years, I'll be pretty content.

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