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15 Fun Things You Might Not Know About IKEA13

By Jason L. Cooper

15 Fun Things You Might Not Know About IKEA

Välkomna. Easy to Assemble, the hit web comedy series about celebrities working at a neighborhood IKEA store, is really just like any product you would find at IKEA: a seamless blend of function and design.

Here’s the set-up: actress Illeana Douglas, seeking a break from the grind of Hollywood – or just looking for a paying job, is hired by IKEA to be a store greeter. The plan is that her famous face will bring in customers, and all she will have to do is stand there and look pretty. Illeana soon learns, however, that the job is not going to be as easy as she thinks. She’s actually going to have to interact with customers and put furniture together. Illeana settles in to her new gig and really starts to like it. Soon, a slew of her celebrity friends, led by Justine Bateman, begin to descend on IKEA and try to lure Douglas back out into the acting fray. The famous friends soon realize, as Illeana did, that IKEA is actually a pretty fun place to work. In fact, Justine starts hosting her own talk show right from one of the model living rooms. [Insert wacky hi-jinks here!]

What we the viewers get (and here’s where the seamless blend of function and design comes in) is not only a quirky, colorful commercial for IKEA and its dizzying array of homestuffs, but also an excellent venue to showcase the comedic talents and moxie of the charming Ms. Douglas, the dastardly Ms. Bateman, and fun cameos by the likes of Jane Lynch, Kevin Pollack, Tim Meadows and countless others.

Who knew IKEA was this hip and savvy? I sure didn’t. That said, here’s a list of 15 other things you might not have known about IKEA.

Easy to Assemble, Episode 1: Training Day

1. Why it’s called IKEA.

I always thought that the name was just a cute little collection of letters that sounded like something, but really meant nothing. Like ‘kumquat.’ I was wrong—very wrong! IKEA is actually an acronym for Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd. The acronym is comprised of the founder’s initials (I. K., for Ingvar Kamprad), the name of the farm where he grew up (Elmtaryd), and the location of the farm in Smaland, South Sweden (in the parish of Agunnaryd). IKEA.

2. IKEA has been around a while.

Most people consider the company a bit of a hipster upstart. Or that maybe, given the bright color scheme, that IKEA was founded sometime in the 1980’s – perhaps inspired by the color palette used by the fine people at Hot Dog on a Stick? But no; the company was founded in 1943 and the first retail store opened in 1958. (Some stores do sell corn dogs and lemonade though.)

3. What’s with the Hot Dog on a Stick color scheme?

Yellow and Blue? The colors not only combine to make green, they are also the national colors of Sweden. Perhaps not the most flattering of national colors, but they do grab you’re your attention. The national food of Sweden, by the way, is a bag of frozen meatballs for $4.99.

4. Why YOU have to put the furniture together yourself.

The folks at IKEA (Ikeans, as they are referred to in the wild) say this is for a couple of reasons. The first is that the practice is designed to help keep their prices low. It saves on labor and also shipping because they don’t have to use as much packing material and safety-plastic–bubble-popper-stuff as they would if your computer desk was already put together. The second reason is really to make things easier for their European customers. Many people across the pond take trains and other forms of public transportation, so a flat-pack system is really the only way they’d be able to get IKEAs products home. Here’s hoping Euro-IKEA also provides some burly guys to help carry customer boxes not just to the bus stop, but upstairs to their flats.

5. IKEA makes more than furniture and lingonberry jam.

They also make houses. The flat-pack house, called “BoKlok,” was launched in Europe in 1996 to help first-time home buyers acquire a home at a much lower cost than a traditional place would run them. The Alan wrench is included, if you want to build it yourself, but it takes 28.7 years to put them together.

6. Not everything is designed and built in Sweden.

All products are designed in Sweden, but they are mostly manufactured in developing countries – yet another cost-cutting measure. That 99 cent frozen yogurt cone? El Salvador, baby…

7. The product names are actual words.

Well, Swedish words anyway. Though they may sound a little funny to some ears (or to anyone with ears) the product names usually refer to places in Sweden or The Netherlands, real women and men’s names, or are terms used in music or mathematics. The founder, Ingvar Kamprad, thought that giving the products proper names would make them easier to remember. There have been a few snicker-worthy items, however, that made sense in Swedish, but caused a bit of a ruckus to native English speakers. For example the “FUKTA” plant spray and the “FARTFULL” workbench. Seriously.

8. Ingvar was some sort of super genius.

At least he probably was. He was a dyslexic farm kid from rural Sweden who laid the groundwork for a furniture and home furnishings revolution when he was just 17 years old. When I was 17, I was just trying to get Debbie Davis to go out on a date with me. (Which, by the way, proved as difficult as putting together an IVAR shelving unit.)

9. They got a lot of stuff and it’s all theirs.

IKEA may not meet all your shopping needs, but if you’re looking for house wares, it might just be worth a visit. Online you can check out over 14,000 products. 14,000! That is impressive for a couple of reasons – first, that’s more than the population of my home town and second because all of those products are exclusive to IKEA. Unless you’re at the sleekest and hippest yard sale in the world, at a store or online is the only place you’ll find genuine IKEA merch with funny names.

10. IKEA is not a Swedish Company.

Though it is the most popular thing to come out of Sweden since Roxette and The Muppets’ Swedish Chef, IKEA is not a Swedish company – at least not anymore. Technically, it is Dutch. A complicated array of for-profit and non-profit companies in the Netherlands now owns the majority of IKEA.

11. IKEA is environmentally conscious.

As early as 1990, they adopted more environmentally-friendly manufacturing practices, a few years before it became fashionable to do so. More recently they did away with all plastic bags for customers, opting for reusable bags – which customers have to buy, of course. Stores also have recycle bins for CFL lights and batteries. And, in 2008, the company announced the creation of IKEA Green Tech, a capital fund they’ll use to invest in new companies that focus on making things like solar panels, water purification systems, etc. – all in the hopes to commercialize green technologies so that they can be sold in their stores. Green for green, if you will.

12. Not every town is crazy about IKEA.

Not Las Vegas, anyway. The local government refused to allow the super-store to build within the city limits because they felt that the giant corporation would push out the smaller, mom-and pop type stores struggling in the area. No word as to how the neon-clad Walgreens and Outback Steak House made it to the strip.

13. They’re big in Germany.

Much like ‘The Hoff’ and ‘Octoberfest’ (which are often seen together, btw), IKEA is hugely popular in Germany. In fact, with over 40 stores, Germany has more IKEAs than any other country in the world. That’s a lotta white fish and side tables. The good ol’ USA comes in a distant second with just over 30 stores.

14. IKEA is a progressive company.

Though it aired only once in 1994, IKEA ran what is widely considered to be the first commercial featuring a homosexual couple.

15. In a word, IKEA means big.

In two words: The Biggest. IKEA is now officially the world’s largest furniture retailer. As of May, 2010, the chain had opened 313 stores in 37 countries, with another 15 scheduled to open by the end of the year. Think what you will of this company with its humble beginnings and its less-than shaker-quality furniture, but they seem to be doing a few things right – even if there is some assembly required.

Easy to Assemble, Episode 2: Actors Anonymous

Easy to Assemble, Episode 3: Gotcha!

Watch More Episodes of Easy To Assemble

Jason L. Cooper is a screenwriter, poet, wine-drinker, cheese-eater and aspiring chef. He has worked on several web series including penning the pilot episode of Creepshow: Raw, “Insomnia,” that released in October 2009. He published a book of poems titled “Losing the Perfect Battle” with Publish America, and his writing has been featured in several motion pictures. Most recently, he worked with Polymorphic Pictures on “Cats and Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” due in theaters summer 2010. He is currently developing a feature for Warner Bros. Pictures and can be found trolling the dollar bins at Target.

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Must Reads 7/30/2014