Skandi style rules
WHEN a decor revolution arrived in Britain in the autumn of 1987, it didn't exactly hog the headlines.
Shortly after Ikea opened its first yellow-and-blue furniture store in the UK – in Warrington, Cheshire – we were buffeted by both the Black Monday stock market crash and the Great Storm, in which 18 people died and 15m trees were uprooted.
Not an auspicious time, perhaps, to introduce us to a new Swedish way of furnishing our homes with weirdly-named products as well as flatpacks and instructions seemingly designed to test tempers and relationships.
But somehow, after 25 years and 17 further store openings, we've learned to love Ikea for its incredibly cheap but chic furniture and accessories, which have stood the test of time.
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There are, of course, the iconic pieces including the best-selling (41m worldwide) Billy bookcase, which starts at £27; the solid, simple Lack table, from just £8, and the Klippan sofa, £150.
The sofa was originally designed by an Ikea product developer who wanted seating with a durable frame and washable covers so it could stand up to punishment from his boisterous children.
Beyond those practical, sturdy best-sellers, which are never allowed to rest on their laurels and are refreshed over the years (the Klippan has got noticeably slimmer and sleeker), Ikea has also given us a vision of how we can live.
As we take the meandering and – to children and impatient partners – infuriatingly long route around a cavernous store, there's ample time to view simple room sets featuring a pared-back, affordable Skandi aesthetic for living spaces.
That maze-style layout is apparently deliberately designed to encourage shoppers to pick up extra impulse buys – and of course it shows off more of Ikea's range.
There's no shortage of pieces – only Ikea geeks will know the total number of products is 9,500 – to dress contemporary, streamlined spaces, whether they're student bedsits or style-conscious family homes.
Even Prime Minister David Cameron went on a shopping spree in Ikea last year to brighten up Downing Street.
And to further confirm its popularity with everyone from world leaders to uber-smart professionals, housewives, students and newlyweds setting up a first home, a survey this year named it as the nation's favourite shop, beating John Lewis, the previous winner.
Ikea has never been afraid to urge us to reform our decor ways. In 1996 the store's advertising campaign demanded "Chuck out your chintz", and in 2000 Ikea cheekily urged Brits to "Stop being so English" and adopt a more laid-back, Swedish approach to life and living spaces.
And it seems that we're listening, because clean-lined Skandi-style, not just Ikea's interpretation of it, has never been more popular.
In these tough economic times, when we are renting and saving up for a mortgage, or we want to improve our homes rather than move, bargains such as those offered by its stores have rarely been more desirable.
To celebrate Ikea's anniversary, 25 days of in-store activities are currently taking place across the UK until November 4. Visit www.ikea.co.uk for more details.