The Hidden IKEA: Things You Didn’t Know About Your Favorite Furniture Store

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It really was like a scene out of The Walking Dead.

This week I toured the aisles of the Atlantic Station IKEA when they were completely, utterly empty. No strollers to trip over, no roving packs of college kids with baskets full of cute storage boxes. Just silent, wide open aisles.

Thankfully, it wasn't a zombie plague that had cleared out the store. Just a friendly IKEA employee named Deidra Cunningham.

Deidra was giving me a personal tour, hours before the store was open to the public. Why? Because they recently revamped the "Marketplace" floor and wanted to show it off. The Marketplace is the area of IKEA that houses all the accessories and non-furniture goods. And the reason behind this revamp is simple: they don't want us to think of them as a warehouse full of cardboard boxes.

Deidra tells me that IKEA is reacting to the customer needs and updating the layout and 'feel' of the floor across the country. Seems all too often that customers are asking for help finding items that in fact, were right in front of them. They were just put up, boxed in. Hidden.

So IKEA has literally unpacked many more things and brought them into the light. They're putting a higher emphasis on display items. Take glass and dinnerware. Where before there were stacks of boxes with one representative set on a table, now there is a full wall display, showcasing their entire collection.

And rugs were a big concern for the Atlanta layout. Customers would have difficulty finding, say, a bath rug buried in a large generic "rug section." Now they are gathered by room, and by color.

And all of this is great. It's neat to know that your next IKEA trip might be a little more inspirational and perhaps even a little less frustating. But to me, that's not the real story here. The real story is all the things I never knew about IKEA and I learned while walking with my new friend Deidra.  For example…

  • IKEA sells fresh, real plants! I breezed past a gorgeous collection of orchids, bonzai and bamboo, assuming they were all artificial. Nope! These were the real deal. Turns out they have had affordable live plants for years.
  • By 2020, IKEA is endeavoring to produce as much energy as it consumes, in an attempt to zero out – or at least greatly reduce – the impact they have on the environment. They are building wind farms and installing solar panels in facilties across the country.
  • Finally – did you you know that IKEA isn't just a DIY kind of place? Sure, you probably knew that they offered services like delivery and cabinet installations. But did you know that they have a picking service, assembly service and even home furnishing advice. Ther home furnishing consultants will help advise customers on their refurnishing or decorating projects. (And it's free!)

Here are a few more fun photos from the "Walking Dead" set:

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