As part of a larger bid to curb waste and promote a more circular economy, Ikea's new London outpost in the borough of Greenwich offers a first-of-its-kind "Learning Lab" where customers can get pointers on how to prolong the life spans of their purchases through repair, reuse and imaginative upcycling.
It's unclear if these waste-eschewing creative workshops have caught on like mad with everyday customers in the few short weeks since the Greenwich store — touted as the most environmentally sustainable Ikea yet — first opened to the public. It may take time. But as a new campaign proudly shows, a handful of London-based artists and designers have already had some fun breathing new life into bits and pieces of old Ikea furniture.
Dubbed Wildhomes for Wildlife, the campaign — conceived by never-dull London-based advertising agency Mother — has yielded a slew of highly distinctive habitats for urban critters that, for the most part, you'd never recognize as part of a floor lamp or a flat-pack table. These professionally crafted creations are next level, not the average birdhouses or bat boxes you'd spend a Sunday afternoon piecing together in your garage with scrap wood, craft glue and a vague idea of what you're doing. But the message — yes, even that busted-up Billy bookcase you were planning to drag to the curb can be somehow reused — comes across loud and clearish.
Per South East London newspaper the News Shopper, Ikea has donated the so-called "animal apartments" to nearby Sutcliffe Park, where local fauna — namely bees, birds, bats and assorted bugs — can move in at their leisure. (A hotspot for wildlife, a portion of the park was deemed a local nature reserve in 2006.) Members from the Greenwich store will continue to look after the deluxe new wildlife digs after they're installed. Ikea has even published a trail map marking each of the fanciful new additions to the park.
"By offering a community experience centered on reuse and recycling and supporting local conservation, we want to demonstrate that we're committed to being a good neighbor for all walks of life in Greenwich and the surrounding area, creepy crawlies included," says Ikea Greenwich manager Helen Aylett.
Let's take a look (and there's more where these came from) ...
This is sweet: "Honey, I'm Home" is a busy and bright little "Brazilian-style bee village" created by the wildly talented East London set-maker and paper-crafter extraordinaire Hattie Newman using a Burvik end table.
When life gives you a bunch of old Stråla lamp stands, why not do like architecture and design firm Beep Studio and make eye-catching bird nesting pods?
Previously an old Industriell shelving unit, the "Pipi" bat house from graphic artist Rob Lowe (aka Supermundane) has serious Memphis Group vibes going on. Ikea explains: "It has roughened surfaces inside to help bats get a good grip and roost during the day. (Also from Supermundane is the similarly mega-colorful Industriell-sourced "Dom" birdhouse pictured at the top of the page.)
In a past life, "Hachi House" — a bona fide bee palace designed by architects Sash Scott and Tamsin Hanke — was a couple of functional benches from the Industriell and Verberod collections. (Corgi not included.)
"Bughattan," by lauded young artist and designer Adam Nathaniel Furman, is a towering condo complex for solitary bees and wasps crafted from reclaimed Ekbacken and Hammarp worktop surfaces. Watch your step around that one.
A green Ikea comes to Greenwich
Due to open April 15, Ikea's small-format Manhattan outpost — more an idea-stirring showroom than a traditional, meatball-slinging retail store — is dominating the Ikea news cycle on this side of the pond. But in the U.K., the Greenwich store is getting a significant amount of buzz.
Encouraging shoppers to arrive by walking or cycling "to improve your physical and mental health," Ikea's first new full-fledged London store in 14 years offers a markedly planet-friendly shopping experience (as far as big box retailers go). Among other things, the store sports a rooftop solar array, rainwater recycling, 100 percent LED lighting, geothermal heating and a lovely landscaped meadow up on the roof. But what perhaps makes the store stand out most is its urbanness. Surrounded by a slew of local public transit options, and going out of its way to accommodate shoppers who don't drive, this isn't your typical, car-dependent Ikea on the far-flung fringes of town.
(As Tom Ravenscroft writes for Dezeen, Ikea Greenwich's deep-green cred becomes a little less impressive when you consider that a less than 20-year-old Sainsbury's supermarket, itself also considered a superiorly sustainable building when it first opened, was demolished to make way for the new store.)
While Wildhomes for Wildlife may ultimately be an artistically inclined marketing stunt — an area in which Ikea has long excelled — for the new store, the fact the Swedish retailer is providing homes for its plant-pollinating, seed-dispersing, mosquito-eating, biodiversity-boosting neighbors is certainly a lovely gesture.