Mental Floss

5 Things You Don't Know About IKEA (But Should!)

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by Mac Carey

So, just how popular is IKEA? It's estimated that 10% of living Europeans were conceived on an IKEA-produced bed. It's time you learned a little more about the company, its reclusive owner Ingvar Kamprad (who may or may not be worth more than Bill Gates), and his continuing quest to install flat pack, streamlined fixtures across the seven continents.

1. It All Started With a Car

The inspiration for IKEA's design philosophy came when taking the legs off of a chair to fit it into a car. IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad was so irritated by the experience that he developed the concept of flat pack design. The novel packing method had a twofold appeal: it allowed easier shopping for urban Europeans who depended on public transportation, and it also lowered the company's shipping costs dramatically. But the store wasn't an immediate success. IKEA floundered in Sweden for thirty years (THIRTY YEARS!) before finding an international audience.

2. The Company Had Some Dark Secrets

IngvarKamprad.jpg
IngvarKamprad.jpg /

Of course, none of this stopped the information from being a point of controversy when the store first arrived in Israel, but the world seems to have forgiven him. Today IKEA is one of the only international companies to spread to both Israel and Arab countries. In fact, the store is so popular in the Middle East that three people were trampled to death at the store's 2004 grand opening in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

3. The Dining Tables Were Too Small for a Turkey

The beginnings of IKEA in America were inauspicious, with European compact efficiency conflicting with America's "bigger is better" creed. In the 1980s, for example, many customers bought vases, mistaking them for water glasses. They were also wary of a dining room table that couldn't hold the girth of a full size Thanksgiving turkey. IKEA's designers only changed their mindset in how they approached American design after the head of US operations made a stunt of it: He handed out t-shirts to Swedish designers that declared "size matters." They apparently got the message.

4. The IKEA Catalogue Is Bigger Than the Bible

IKEA
IKEA /

5. It's a Hipster Hangout

Despite early stumbles in America, twenty years later, the store has so ingrained itself into our society that a trend amongst urban hipsters is to host dinner parties at the stores. A meal of lingonberry jam and meatballs at the cafeteria for the host and guests, and the living room displays make perfect venues for a round of Taboo and Pictionary. A blog posting chronicling the first party in Sacramento led to a string of copycats across the country. So far, IKEA management doesn't seem to be complaining.

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