Dream Ikea kitchen renos turn into yearlong nightmare for Gander family

Tony and Ann Marie Norman sit in their kitchen, where new glossy white cabinets should be. They ordered new cabinets from Ikea in February 2022 but still don't have all the items they need — and the company no longer ships large orders to Newfoundland and Labrador. (Heather Gillis/CBC - image credit)
Tony and Ann Marie Norman sit in their kitchen, where new glossy white cabinets should be. They ordered new cabinets from Ikea in February 2022 but still don't have all the items they need — and the company no longer ships large orders to Newfoundland and Labrador. (Heather Gillis/CBC - image credit)
Heather Gillis/CBC
Heather Gillis/CBC

Dreams of a new kitchen have turned into a nightmare for a Gander, N.L., family after Swedish furniture giant Ikea stopped shipping larger orders to the province, halting Tony and Ann Marie Normans' major home renovation.

In February and March of last year, the Normans ordered materials for two kitchens from the company — one for the main floor and a second one for a living space downstairs for their son — as they embarked on upgrades to the bungalow they've lived in for about 30 years.

"It was going to be my dream kitchen," said Ann, sitting at a table where a new island should be, with glossy white cabinetry, a gas range, in-wall oven planned for the rest of the room.

Instead, almost a year after making their first order, boxes from Ikea are strewn throughout the otherwise tidy home, and the Normans say their lives have been upended.

Submitted by Tony Norman
Submitted by Tony Norman

"We're living in turmoil. It's like a warehouse, it's like I moved into a warehouse," Ann said.

"At our dining room table, there's boxes that we face as we're eating. If I sit on the love seat, I look over and in this corner … boxes," she said.

Tony has taken on much of the renovation work himself.

"You look at the kitchen and what Ann's dream was for her kitchen and I can't fulfil it. I promised her," said Tony.

In the basement, where their son should be living, are more signs of stalled progress. Lumber, flooring and lighting materials are piling up because there's nowhere else to put it, making it difficult to move around.

There's also a gaping hole in the drywall where the new plumbing will feed into the sink.

Heather Gillis/CBC
Heather Gillis/CBC

New appliances the couple bought months earlier are still being stored at the furniture store's warehouse, and their side-by-side recreational vehicle is in a friend's garage, to make room for the boxes in the garage.

Despite all the boxes, the Normans say they only have three-quarters of the supplies from Ikea to install their kitchen cabinets. They're missing critical pieces, like cabinets, needed to move forward.

"We got 26 items from the kitchen downstairs that need to be sent to us. We got 22 items from this kitchen," Tony said pointing to the cupboards behind him.

"I'm good to go been good to go I've just waiting on Ikea," he said.

He says Ikea told them not to unbox anything until all the products arrive, but almost a year later, there's no firm date on when that will be.

Stalled progress

The Normans wanted to renovate their kitchen for years but put it aside until their children finished university.

"They're all successful now. And it's our time," said Ann, 57, who is getting closer to retirement, while Tony, 61, has already retired from work as a school principal.

The couple visited the Ikea store in Halifax while on a vacation in 2018 and met with a planner who helped them draw up their kitchen design.

The Normans say they finally ordered the supplies for the kitchen on the main floor in February 2022.

Heather Gillis/CBC
Heather Gillis/CBC

Tony had started remodelling the main floor a few months earlier, in November 2021, removing a stucco ceiling, painting and moving a window to make room for the kitchen's new design.

He got as far as he could, he said, leaving the old cupboards and counter in place until the new ones arrived.

The Normans say when they ordered the materials for the main floor last February, most of the items needed for the cupboards were in stock and the company told them the rest would be restocked soon. So they ordered what they could, and in March they were told more of what they needed was available, so they ordered that too, said Ann.

They also decided to order materials for a second kitchen to create a living space for their son downstairs, and bundled it with the restocked items from the first kitchen, which all arrived without issue.

After the kitchen orders were placed, and while waiting for the remaining cupboards to be restocked, Tony started renovating downstairs, hiring tradespeople to make sure electrical outlets and plumbing were in the right place.

Submitted by Tony Norman
Submitted by Tony Norman

Then progress stopped, because the Normans had only about 75 per cent of the items needed to finish the two kitchens.

Tony first blamed delays on pandemic supply chain shortages and the war in Ukraine.

He said Ikea told them there was a team monitoring stock levels that would notify them when there'd be enough to order and send the next shipment.

"We were advised not to really be having stuff shipped down until we got to a certain percentage in the stock," Tony said because they would have to pay $199 for shipping each time.

By October, he said, they were growing worried. Then they got a call from Ikea that Norman was expecting to be a status update on the rest of the order.

"The voice paused and came back and said, 'That's not why I'm calling you. I'm calling you to tell you that we no longer ship to Newfoundland,'" said Tony.

Emotionally draining, stressful situation

The Normans say the company suggested they go to Halifax to pick up the remaining cupboards, something the couple say isn't feasible.

"We're in Gander so we got six hours to the ferry and overnight crossing expense, expense expense. I don't have a truck," Tony said.

But there's also a principle involved.

"We shouldn't have to do it. That wasn't what we agreed to when we started this process," he said, adding even if they drove to Halifax, there's no guarantee what they need will be in stock.

To make matters worse, Tony said he has 10 boxes of damaged product that need to be exchanged.

Heather Gillis/CBC
Heather Gillis/CBC

Tony said he checked with the local shipping company that had delivered their orders and discovered Ikea stopped shipping to the province in the spring, shortly after his first two shipments arrived.

By Christmas, and with no resolution in sight, Tony and his son lugged the boxes, piled four feet high, from the living room into the garage to make room for a Christmas tree.

But Ann says they didn't bother cooking dinner for the holidays.

"I tried to make the best of Christmas in the turmoil," she said.

On New Year's Eve, Ann said, they got a call from Ikea reminding them they could pick up the remainder of their items in Halifax.

"I was really upset and Tony said, 'You guys have already ruined my wife's Christmas. Are you working on ruining her New Year's as well?'" said Ann.

Tony said he's been pleading for help from Ikea employees on the phone over the past year and finally got a call from a manager with the company's resolution centre in mid-January.

Heather Gillis/CBC
Heather Gillis/CBC

He says the company offered to reserve the remaining items that are in stock but told the Normans they'd have to find a company to ship the $3,000 worth of remaining items themselves.

He said Purolator will ship the rest of the things he needs from Ikea, and the company has offered to reimburse them for the $700 bill.

But only 80 per cent of the items they need still are in stock, he said, and they're reluctant to deal with the hassle of repeatedly ordering, paying and being reimbursed for items as they become available.

"It's totally unacceptable. We haven't been treated fairly by Ikea," Tony said.

In a statement to CBC News, Ikea Canada said it is "experiencing challenges" with its kitchen supply.

The company says it hasn't been able to ship orders to Atlantic Canada collection points since May 14 because of a "local provider exiting the market."

"To date, we've advised Tony and Ann Marie that we will support special transport in order to deliver the remainder of their order once in stock. We continue to collaborate with our service teams on securing the remaining items and hope to meet resolution soon," reads a statement from Ikea's public relations leader Lisa Huie, who said delivery is limited to small FedEx parcels.

But the Normans say that's not good enough.

Submitted by Tony Norman
Submitted by Tony Norman

"I can't sit here and fathom how anybody could think that that was a good decision to leave these outstanding orders and just walk away and say we're not shipping to you anymore," Tony said.

"They could have at least held their obligation and said listen we'll get the remaining of your cupboards to you," Ann said.

The Normans are still in limbo, not knowing when they will be able to get everything they need for their kitchens.

"It's been emotionally draining and stressful for both of us really. I mean to be honest about it. And I'm baffled why Ikea would allow this to occur," Tony said.

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