Ikea, mon amour

“Long ago in days of yore, it all began with a god named Thor. There were Vikings and boats and some plans for a furniture store…”

So sings Jonathan Coulton the Great, and right he is, as always. However, here in Dublin, the plans for a furniture store have been so long in coming to fruition that there is even a successful comedy called Waiting for Ikea that has been running in local theatres for a good few years now. But that play is about to be outdated at last.

Today is the Big Day, Ikea is finally launching its very first shop in the Republic of Ireland. And I was honestly that close to taking a day off work just to be there. I wouldn’t have been the only one.

The saga surrounding the installation of Ikea on Irish soil has been nothing short of epic, in pure Scandinavian style. Seriously, the Vikings had much less problems settling here back in the day than Ikea have had getting planning permission alone. Maybe if they had stuck to the old traditions and burned down An Bord Pleanala… But let’s not get bogged down in that, it is not for me to tell that tale, for it is boring and would take me ages to type out on my iPhone keyboard.

Today, as I was saying, is a Big Day for the Irish people, for it means independence at last, no more 2 hour trips up all the way up to Belfast, where the money looks strange and the people talk funny! As for me, well, I can finally get back to my old habits: buying tons of stuff I don’t need but really really want, and stocking up on frozen meatballs and lingonberry sauce.

When I was about 7-ish, I fell in love. With a chair. I don’t know if it was an Ikea chair, but it was a Swedish chair, and it was unlike any other chair I had ever seen (very similar to the iconic Ikea Poäng chairs). I thought it was the coolest thing ever. It had a matching footstool. And it belonged to a Swedish family who had lots of cool Swedish stuff. They were friends of my parents, had children the same age as my sister and me, so we spent loads of time at their house. I guess that’s when it all started, although back then, and in fact, until I was about 18, I had no idea Ikea even existed. But scandinavianness had me hooked. And so did design.

Ever since Ikea opened a store in Toulouse, minutes away from where I lived, my friends have jokingly said that I live in Ikea. Not only because of the amount of time I spent in the store, browsing the aisles and consuming ridiculous amounts of meatballs, but because most of my furniture and decorations consequentially come from there too. My living room was a copy of page 36 of the 2003 catalogue. Except for that lamp over there, that was on page 84.  Aside from the furniture itself, and the meatballs, and those sinfully lovely biscuits, what I love so much about Ikea is the way they just bloody well get it right. Right for their customers. Every time.

I would love to get a peek of Ikea’s marketing team and how they work, because honestly, some of the little details, the little things they come up with to just make your time in their store easier and more pleasant, and even to make you smile while you’re at it, they’re just plain genius! The well known ones are the tape measures and pencils they always have handy, but there are so many more, like adding a touch of colour and humour to the kids’ toilets by decorating them with Ikea stuff, hell, even just having a toilet especially for kids is a great thing, but making it more fun by adding you products to it and therefore making the kids want them, now that is marketing genius! I have heard the phrase “turning customers into fans” more often than I can count, but Ikea have certainly managed it, and I’m glad the people of Dublin are finally getting to experience that warm, fuzzy Swedish lurve.

Now, if you need me at any time during the next few months, you’ll find me sitting opposite the Manger headboard, crying quietly into my meatballs.

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