Lonely Planet Writer

Swedish meatballs and Billy bookcases: IKEA set to open a museum in Sweden

If flat-pack furniture and meatballs fried in butter is your thing – Sweden’s newest cultural attraction is going to be a must-see on your next trip to Scandinavia.

Official IKEA museum opening in Sweden.
Official IKEA museum opening in Sweden. Image by © Inter IKEA Systems B.V. 2016.

IKEA, the iconic furniture and home accessories brand, opens it official museum on 30 June. And it is housed inside the first ever IKEA store, at Älmhult in southern Sweden.

Fans of BILLY bookcases and KLIPPAN sofas now have the chance to see where it all began, where enterprising teenager Ingvar Kamprad first conceived the home-furnishing philosophy that would spread around the world, during the dark days of World War II.

Kamprad started designing his furniture in 1943. But he didn’t actually sell his first piece until 1948 and the first store opened, in Älmhult, in 1953.

Ikea museum to open in Sweden.
IKEA museum to open in Sweden. Image by © Inter IKEA Systems B.V. 2016.

The IKEA founder is now 90 years of age and a multi-billionaire. And one of the most personal exhibits at the new museum is the original cigar-box where Ingvar kept the cash he received for selling his first few pieces of furniture.

Kamprad has always been known for being careful with his money, or as the IKEA founder said himself on his 80th birthday; “I’m stingy and I’m proud of the reputation”.

The founding father’s philosophy of letting nothing go to waste is reflected in the choice for the home of his company’s museum. The original store closed in 2012 when IKEA opened a new branch in Älmhult. But the building has now been painstakingly restored to its original condition, using the blueprints drawn up by the Swedish modernist architect Claes Knutson.

IKEA museum opening soon in Sweden
IKEA museum opening soon in Sweden Image by © Inter IKEA Systems B.V. 2016.

The museum is spread over a large warehouse space and features main exhibitions covering the history of the company and its products. It also includes (of course) a restaurant serving IKEA’s signature meatballs.

Museum director Carina Kloek-Malmsten says IKEA feels the moment is right; “After more than seven decades, there are of course plenty of stories, and we think it’s time for us to share them to the public”.

And while the exhibits range from the largest bookcases and sofas to the smallest kitchen utensils, pride of place goes to one tiny tool which will be familiar to anybody who has ever struggled to assemble flat-pack furniture – the original IKEA Allen-key from 1958.