I have a complicated relationship with Ikea.
On one hand some of their pieces have become absolute design classics and their interior styling is amazing (I wish I could live in an Ikea showroom) but on the other hand I’ve always thought of it as a homeware version of fast fashion - throwaway stuff for your house that doesn’t usually last more than one season.
Which is exactly why I’m so excited about the new Ikea store in Greenwich that opened last month and why I braved the Sunday crowds to go and see it for myself a couple of weeks ago.
This is the company’s most sustainable store yet and incorporates a number of green technologies like rainwater harvesting, a wildlife roof garden and 12,000 square metres of solar panels. It also has only a limited number of parking spaces available instead encouraging customers to take public transport (apparently all employees commute by public transport too, I wonder what they think about it). To solve the issue of getting the stuff you bought to your house (I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s ever traveled with their flat packed wardrobe on the bus) they offer minicab, electric vans and courier bicycles as delivery options.
But as cool as the design features are, I’m most excited about what’s inside.
There are plenty of the usual picture perfect room sets but now we also have some stunning retail sets: a bakery, a barber shop and a florist amongst others. They’re meant to convince us that Ikea furniture is not just for our homes but it could work for our businesses too.
Many of the room sets are filled to the brim with plants as customers are being encouraged to bring nature into their homes. My favourite is the jungle / library room that had me calling my mum to ask how many plants in a room is too many (just so you know, there is no such thing as too many plants really ;) ).
You’ll also notice that many of the room settings are rather compact reflecting the reality of living in London (England has on average the smallest homes in all of Europe).
At every turn, we’re being educated and inspired to live more sustainably without compromising on style. We can see what exactly goes inside the products we buy through informative displays, how switching to LED bulbs and smart lighting technologies (Ikea lighting is compatible with Amazon Alexa!) can help us save energy and how we can upcycle and repurpose items we got bored with.
There is a Learning Lab, where experts are on hand to teach customers all about upcycling, repair and prolonging the life or products. They also offer advice on how to reduce waste and grow your own food. There are regular workshops taking place in store including organising and decluttering your home, up cycling textiles with macrame or furniture assembly and disassembly tips. You can see a full list and book your spot here.
There are also two restaurant areas and a cafe in store for all your hot dog and Swedish meatball needs. Oh and a roof garden with pretty amazing views of the city!
I really love that Ikea is actively helping people to move away from viewing its furniture as a cheap and cheerful option which can be just left behind or thrown away every time you move house. It also uses more natural and sustainably sourced materials to make products such as MICKE furniture series that has frames filled with recycled paper.
Sure they probably don’t get involved in all of this sustainability thing entirely out of the goodness of their heart (although I hope they do a little bit) but also in response to changing customer behaviour. As shoppers, we have become more environmentally and ethically aware and we just won’t buy from brands that don’t care about the environment anymore.
Are you a fan of Ikea? What’s your favourite Ikea item you own?