Hundreds of miles from home in the middle of snow-covered rural Sweden, the last thing I expected to feel was at home.
However, standing in the reception of Ikea Hotell, a chic-but-functional hotel run by flat-pack furniture giants Ikea, the surroundings felt strangely familiar.
It dawned on me that a large chunk of my own furniture comes from the flat-pack furniture giant – and because I built it, I like it more than many other pieces I own. I associate it with a strange sense of achievement.
The hotel was exactly how you might imagine – cosy nooks and crannies, with much the same Scandinavian furniture we have in our own homes.
I was given rare behind-the-scenes access to the furniture giant which saw me travel to Älmhult, Småland, where the first store opened in 1958.
Founder’s footsteps: The Ikea Museum is a treasure trove of design and innovation – here I am behind an original desk of the founder
It truly is Ikea town – alongside the hotel is two Ikea restaurants, design studio, test lab, museum and of course, a store.
Set in woodlands an hour and a half from Malmö, it has a population under 10,000 and wonderful Nordic charm.
Here I discovered Ikea’s rigorous testing processes involving robotic wooden buttocks, how its comes up with those furniture names – and why we may no longer need to build its furniture with fiddly screws.
I’d argue that building a tricky wardrobe or coffee table is a good workout, physically and mentally, a sort of Ikea yoga – this innovation may make that redundant.
I also found out that you can have an Ikea themed holiday – ideal for those who really are fans of the global juggernaut which has 410 stores, including 20 in Britain. It recently celebrated 30 years of being on these shores.
Here are 22 secrets and titbits of information I found out on my fascinating trip to Scandinavia…
DIFFERENT GOODS NAMED AFTER CERTAIN THINGS
The names given to products have different themes.
For example, flooring has Danish names, apparently so Swedes can walk on them, or so the museum tour guide joked.
Other examples, shelves are boys names (such as Billy bookcase), Sofas and armchairs are Swedish districts and towns while chairs are Norwegian flowers.
COUNTRIES HAVE DIFFERENT COVERS
The photograph below may look like dozens of the same catalogue, but in fact, there are little tweaks depending on the market.
For example, in Asian countries, the sofa is a two-seater rather than a three-seater, as that is the norm there, while someone points out that the 2011 cover in Asia also had a toy stuffed rabbit as it was the symbol for year of the zodiac.
Meanwhile, inside the catalogue, the kitchen pictures for example show much bigger ones in North America as they tend to have roomier kitchen areas than elsewhere on the planet.
Different markets: All of these catalogue covers for different countries may look the same, but there are slight differences to each
SCREWS COULD BECOME THING OF THE PAST
Ikea is working on a plan to phase out the need for fiddly allen keys, bolts and screws when assembling its furniture, I discovered while being shown around the design studio.
Dotted around were many examples of furniture designs being tested with a ‘wedge dowel’ system which does away with the need for them.
This system – which is small ribbed lumps that can be easily slotted into pre-drilled holes – will cut down the time needed to make wooden furniture without the loss of ‘structural integrity.’
You can see how it works below.
It is looking at ways to adapt its furniture to use it more – currently it is only used in the Regissor and Lisabo ranges.