Ikea’s founder died this week, leaving behind a legacy for good, affordable home design. But Ikea has become synonymous with much more than flat-pack furniture. So what do you most associate with the brand and are you a fan, asks our guest, Hannah Jolliffe.
Ingvar Kamprad founded Ikea in the 1940s, but it wasn’t until the early 1950s that he had his lightbulb moment. One of his employees famously failed to wedge a new table into the back of his car, sparking the idea for flat-pack furniture.
With 412 stores in 49 countries and counting, the rest, as they say, is history.
My relationship with Ikea
I think it’s fair to assume that most of us have had the ‘Ikea experience’.
Being the world’s largest furniture retailer, it’s a brand that lurks in the corners of most of our homes. If we haven’t assembled a Billy bookcase or some Malm drawers, then we most certainly have some of its tealights or picture frames kicking about.
My own relationship with Ikea started when I moved out of home. As a student on a budget, the easy-to-assemble and reasonable prices made it the go-to brand.
And, when I was homemaking in my first ‘proper’ pad, Ikea served me well again. New bedding? Tick. Kitchen essentials? Tick. It even came to the rescue when my first baby was born and I needed a cot and soft furnishings.
Love it or hate it?
But it hasn’t all been plain sailing. While my partner and I both enjoy a sneaky veggie hot dog on the way out of the store, it usually acts as a bit of a reward for getting around it without strangling one another.
There’s something about Ikea that brings out the worst in couples. I’ve had my fair share of disagreements in store – and I’ve witnessed a few strangers doing the same.
And then there’s the guilt factor. Do I really NEED all this stuff?
Ikea is the master of store layout – first you have to walk around the beautifully styled mock-ups of rooms. Then you’re funnelled through to the ‘Marketplace’, where items are so cheap that you have to buy at least three of everything. The result? You almost never leave without spending less than £100.
None of this sits well with my ‘don’t buy new unless you have to’ philosophy. But when the design is so on-trend and the prices so affordable, why wouldn’t you ditch old for new?
A company with a conscience
After many years of struggle I think I have found an inner peace with Ikea, though. We live just a five-minute drive from a large store, so I now resist the temptation to ‘pop down’ and only go when absolutely necessary.
On the plus side, it is a company with a conscience. The products are well designed to reduce waste and energy during transportation, while interiors guru, Jeff Banks says that the designs make good use of recyclable products.
The company has also been a leader when it comes to sustainable production, from switching its entire lighting range to energy-efficient LEDs to sourcing all the cotton in its products from more sustainable sources and working towards 100% renewable energy.
This is a guest contribution by Hannah Jolliffe. All views expressed here are Hannah’s own and not necessarily those also shared by Which?.
How do you feel about Ikea and how many products do you have in your home? Has it helped you furnish on a budget or do you avoid it all costs? What are those small, cheap products that you can’t get around the store without picking up?