Monday, 18 January 2016

Am I about to change my mind about Ikea?

Whenever I walk into an Ikea store I am on the verge of suffocation. Lots of people. Lots of stuff. Lots of people piling lots of stuff onto trolleys. Some useful stuff like bedding. Some less obviously useful items (weird looking soft toys, scented candles etc.). 

Now, before someone accuses me of being an hypocrite or a snob, I have to come clean and disclose the fact that I have shopped in Ikea in the past. I am also certain that I will buy more items from the Swedish brand in the coming months. 

Ikea, my organic coffee supplier
For one thing, I buy organic coffee from Ikea. At £1.90 a packet, it's the cheapest organic coffee I have ever found in the UK. And because I live 15 minutes away by foot from Ikea Wembley I can go there with the sole purpose of buying organic coffee from Ikea. Living so close from the North Circular Road does come with some tangible upsides. (Don't be jealous.)

A minimalist nightmare
So what's my problem with Ikea? When you are trying to reduce the amount of objects in your life, walking into Ikea is a profoundly sadomasochist act. Every opportunity is good to try to sell you some kind of storage, for example. If you want to recycle your waste, apparently, you need a countless number of shiny plastic boxes. Also, most of the things are so cheap that you don't think long and hard about your purchases. 

"Peak stuff"
The good news is that in the near future I may be able to walk into an Ikea store with a smile upon my face. Steve Howard, Ikea's head of sustainability, thinks that we may have reached "peak stuff". "We will be increasingly building a circular Ikea where you can repair and recycle products", he said during a debate organised by the Guardian Sustainable Business

Business sense 
The Guardian thinks that Howard made a big mistake by being so honest and saying something contrary to Ikea's interests. I know that, being a bit obsessed with recycling and the circular economy, I am inevitably biased. However, I don't think that Steve Howard had a oops moment at all during this debate. This message is consistent with last Christmas' IKEA advert released in Spain (click here). Also, the blog IKEAHackers was created in 2006 and has encountered a huge success (click here for the story behind it). So maybe it's time for IKEA to catch-up with the upcycling and DIY trends. 

The surge of upcycling & DIY spaces 
Across the Channel, in France there are more and more spaces offering people the opportunity to create their own furniture. DIY stores Leroy Merlin has opened a TechShop in the outskirts of Paris last November. It's a 2000 square meter space where you can go and use all sorts of equipment under the supervision of a team of specialist makers. And it's not just a French phenomenon. Type "upcycling" on Twitter and Instagram to get an idea about how popular this trend is becoming. In London 5 community reuse spaces have been recently created in order to reduce fly-tipping.

In short, I think it would just make business sense for Ikea to follow suit. Can I suggest to use Ikea Wembley to give the upcycling space a trial? I promise to be there on the first day of opening. The book shelves that I have had for the last ten years could do with a spot of upcycling, even though I got them for free when I was a student in Lille...

Have you ever "hacked" some IKEA furniture? Do you think it's a good idea for furniture shops to create upcycling and DIY spaces? Let me know your thoughts.