If You Love Ikea, You Should Visit This Town ASAP

Photo: Via @venuswongisun.
To anyone who's a fan of Ikea, visiting the town of Älmhult, Sweden is every bit as magical as a trip to Disneyland. The sleepy Scandinavian town is where founder Ingvar Kamprad opened the first Ikea store in 1958 at age 23. The rest, as they say, is flat-pack history.
Aside from serving as the home base for the company's design headquarters, Älmhult has also been developed into an "Ikea town", featuring a hotel and museum dedicated to the brand. A two-hour train ride from Copenhagen, it's a great stopover if you want to dive into the history of Ikea, pick up limited-edition furniture, and feast on locally-sourced Swedish meatballs.
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As card-carrying members of the Ikea fan club, we were thrilled when the team invited us for a stay in Älmhult, to celebrate the release of Life At Home — its annual consumer insights report — and get a behind-the-scenes look at how the furniture label comes up with new product design. We've put together the best bits of our eye-opening visit.
Editor's Note: Travel and accommodation to Älmhult, Sweden were provided by Ikea for the purpose of writing this story.
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Photographed by Venus Wong.
Lagom Vibes

The Ikea Hotell was first conceived as a way to accommodate customers who have traveled a long way to stock up at the Älmhult flagship location. Now, the hotel is the perfect overnight stop for Ikea devotees who turn up in the small town for their pilgrimage. The rooms are decorated in true Lagom style — the Swedish discipline of "not too little, not too much." Pine wood furniture and panels are heavily featured, which is no surprise: It's widely considered Ikea's signature material, after the brand formed a deal with timber suppliers to adapt the popular constructional material for low-cost furniture design.
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Photographed by Venus Wong.
Living Room Goals

Instead of having a traditional lobby, the hotel comes with a spacious "living room" on every floor, which is so beautifully styled it wouldn't look out of place in the brand's catalogue. Items from sought-after collections, such as the YPPLERLIG collaboration with HAY, The lounges are a popular place for guests to dine and hang out — but, in true DIY fashion, everyone is responsible for keeping the place tidy after use.
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Photographed by Venus Wong.
Billy Rules

Across the street from the hotel is the Ikea Museum, house in the very building that became the first-ever Ikea store. The exhibitions cover everything from the brand's frugal past to the history of its textile designs. The most iconic creations, such as the BILLY bookcase, are given their own wings in the museum.
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Photographed by Venus Wong.
Small-Space Recreations

Creative interior displays — a big part of Ikea's retail appeal — are also prominently featured in the museum. This monochrome space mimics a tiny studio, providing storage and decorating inspiration for people living with limited square footage.
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Photographed by Venus Wong.
Special Inventory

The museum's gift shop is a requisite stop for any visitors: Reissues of past designs and new products in special edition colors are sold at the ground-floor space.
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Photographed by Venus Wong.
Photobooth Fun

The most Insta-worthy part of the museum is probably the photo booth on the second floor. The living room featured on the cover of this year's catalogue is recreated in its entirety, so visitors will be able to picture themselves on the cover — literally.
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Photographed by Venus Wong.
Studio Life

The Ikea catalogue studio is the largest studio of its kind in Europe, and the setup of the interior displays takes four months to complete every year. This painted surface may not look like much at the moment, but according to an Ikea Communications staffer that took our group around, this home set up will be one of the first styled images you'll see in the 2019 catalogue.

Before the set is even built, the team has already designed imaginary living scenarios for the people swelling in the space: In this case, the set depicts a city apartment shared between mature women and a cat. As one of the roommates is a fashion designer and the other works in the creative industry, the home will be styled with lots of textiles and there will be abundant clothing storage in the hallway. The company has an uncanny ability to cater to different lifestyles — and recreate them down to a T.
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Photographed by Venus Wong.
Yes, The Meatballs Are Amazing

You can't leave Älmhult without try authentic Swedish meatballs at the museum café. For less than $5, you get a serving of locally-sourced meatballs, served with a secret gravy, pickles, peas, and lingonberry. Sadly, this will ruin the store-bought variety for you forever.
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