Trip update Part 1: Museums and meatballs

It’s been more than 3 weeks since my trip to Sweden and the Netherlands and I finally found time to gather my thoughts and write about my meeting with IKEA. I know some of you have been anxious to know the outcome and my apologies for not posting earlier. It wasn’t because I couldn’t talk about it. I have so much to say and found it hard to trim it down to a manageable blog post. Hence the trilogy.

For those who just want the scoop (and not my rambles), here is it.
I did not meet a single person in IKEA of Sweden or Delft who wanted to shut down IKEAhackers. Seriously, none. In fact, they were very supportive. Even the designers whose furniture we hacked, sawed, repainted, reshaped into things unrecognisable like what we do on IKEAhackers and are pretty tickled to see their designs turned into frankenthings.

The meeting with Torbjörn Lööf, the CEO of Inter IKEA Systems B.V. together with Anders, Henrik and Lena, was open, warm and honest. They recognised the contributions of IKEAHackers and admitted that they “did not handle this (the trademark issue with IH) very well”. What impressed me most was their willingness to admit their mistake, make a u-turn and find a solution that was good for both parties. Various suggestions were thrown back and forth and we came to the agreement that IKEA will continue to let me use its trademark on my domain,, as long as my site does not bring harm or damage to the IKEA brand. (eg. porn, nudity, drugs – that kind of stuff which won’t appear anyways.) As of today, I have yet to receive a draft of the agreement. But for now, in all likelihood … stays. 

Yay! Pop the lingonberry juice!

I want to thank you for your support in this crazy situation. Without your very vocal support, I doubt I could have made this behemoth corporation change its mind. By now, you must tire of hearing me say this, but I will say it again from the bottom of my heart – THANK YOU! I am beyond happy. So let’s raise our saws and continue hacking!

Now for the blow-by-blow story which means you can stop here if that’s not your thing… 

It all started in March 2014 when I received a Cease & Desist letter from IKEA. I was told that I had infringed upon their trademark and if I did not voluntarily transfer the domain name to them, they reserved the right to take any legal action it deemed necessary against me. When I went public with that information and the possibility of my site having to move to a new domain, there was a huge outpouring of support from the public. Which lead to IKEA rethinking their move and subsequent invitation to meet me in person and talk about this issue.

I jumped on the plane and headed to Sweden and the Netherlands.

I arrived in Copenhagen airport on a blustery morning. It was sunny yet cold. But I was greeted warmly by Lena from IKEA of Sweden, my host for the next 2 days. She was waiting for me (and my two teammates) with an IKEA catalogue, hot off the press.

We got into her car and she showed us this. Our itinerary of the next 2 days. Handwritten. Nice!

First stop was IKEA Malmö, about half hour from the Copenhagen airport. This was where the IKEA museum team was meeting with the museum consultants.

In case you missed the news, IKEA is planning to build an IKEA museum in Älmhult, on the site of the first IKEA store by Ingvar Kamprad in 1958. I gate crashed their meeting and listened in on their plans for the building and exhibits. Of particular interest is the possibility of an IKEA hacking section in the museum. Woo! I like that. To me that means IKEA is beginning to see hacking as part of its brand’s evolution.

We had some “fika” (Swedish for coffee break) which I would come to realise in the next 2 days is very much part of the IKEA culture. There is always reason to stop, drink coffee and nibble cinnamon buns. I love fika!

Happy together! The museum team. Me, second row, first from right. Lena, next to me.

One of the reasons for the visit to the Malmö store, besides meeting the museum team, was to view the MANGSIDIG range. Not many IKEA stores carry this special range and I was privileged to see them. The MANGSIDIG range is a community project to help women in underdeveloped areas sell their wares and build a business. To encourage social entrepreneurship.

Taking a closer look at one of the pillows from the MANGSIDIG range

After touring the store, we had lunch. Oh. My. Meatballs! Confession, I have only eaten IKEA meatballs from Malaysia and seriously, never understood the fuss. If given a choice, I rather not eat at the IKEA Malaysia cafe. But here in Malmö (I would realise later, not just in Malmö) everything in the cafe tastes and looks way more appetising than those in IKEA Malaysia. No wilting salads and Gravad Lax that has seen too many days in the freezer. (Sorry, IKEA Malaysia. But tastebuds don’t lie.)

Enroute to Älmhult we made a quick stop at Lena’s home. We ooh and aahed at the IKEA furniture she collected over the years and then she showed us the piece in pride of place – the stool that Ingvar purportedly designed. The only, it seems. Sadly, not for IKEA and of course, no longer in production. It was inspired by cows. More precisely, the stool for milking a cow. Here it is. So cute.

Ingvar’s milking stool. And Memphis the dog.

Älmhult is everything they say it is. A little town that appears out of nowhere. Everywhere that’s anywhere in the town is walkable. I am not sure they even have a cinema. But hair salons, aplenty! Before I could contemplate a blow-dry, we checked in to the IKEA Hotel. It’s the catalogue in 3D. The rooms are modest. Nothing fancy or lavish. Cosy and strangely familiar, almost like bunking in at the home of a friend. And oh, all the rooms are decorated uniquely.

IKEA Hotel lobby
IKEA Hotel cafe
Where I spent the night
Another room. This one’s more cheery

Before dinner, we took a stroll through the IKEA “Through the Ages” exhibit, which is housed at basement of the hotel. This exhibit will form part of the museum when it opens in 2015. Ingvar started his empire selling matches and seeds and kept his stock in a tiny shed. It was only much later did he start selling furniture. He didn’t design or make them but he sure knew how to sell them.

Entrance to the exhibit
How the IKEA logo has changed over the years
Ingvar’s merchandise … he didn’t start out selling furniture
An old IKEA set sold to Britta and Nisse Westholm. Read their story below. 

Dinner was a 10 mins walk to a charming French restaurant, Brasserie Goaroije. Marcus Engman, the design director from IKEA of Sweden joined us too. I had the salmon which was lovely but the mussels took the cake.

Mussels to die for

With a full and warm tummy, I snuggled under the sheets and slept like a baby. After all, it felt like home.

Continue to Part 2.

Photos: Katherine Law

Similar Posts


  1. Hooray!!! I'm so happy IKEA changed their mind about your website! Love both you and IKEA and both have inspired me for many years! Congratulations, Jules!

  2. As an IKEA co-worker for 16 years I'm so happy to see my company took care of you and supported as they should have. This is very interesting! I have the same rug that Lena has in Ingvar's red stool shot 🙂

  3. How absolutely refreshing to a see a company that is willing to meet in person and behave in a way that is reasonable! I'm so glad for you!

  4. So very happy that things turned out great! I'm a huge fan of IKEAhackers and have adopted some of the hacks as well. Thanks for all the collected inspirations. Keep up the great job!

  5. Great to read this! As a new intern here in Älmhult I can relate to your take on fika, älmhult and the hairdressers. Tell me did you end up going to one, and if so were you satisfied? (also please tell me which one ;)) I am very glad to hear that they let you continue your website. I think it is inspiring and they/we can learn a lot from initiatives like yours 🙂 Keep up the good work!

  6. Hi Ina, no I didn't have time to visit a hair salon. But I am sure your IKEA co-workers would have their recommendations. I am sure you will enjoy your time there as an intern. I wish I can be one! I have very fond memories of Älmhult and IOS.

  7. So thrilled to hear the good news and to know that IKEA is a good company after all and has not sold it soul… Many thanks for all the hard work you do on behalf of the site and for us all!!

  8. What a terrific story- congrats to you and especially to IKEA for living up to the 'promise' of their brand and its positioning. I wonder how the person(s) responsible for the original letter was "coached" by their IKEA management…that would be even more interesting…

  9. GO IKEA! Very pleased to hear they were not only civil, but nice to you. As an ex-pat Swede of many years now I've still been very proud of the ginormous brand that Ikea is, but the initial response from them to left me feeling embarrassed of my heritage and how I've spoken of Ikea (with love) my whole life. I feel so much better about Ikea now, maybe even better than before, due to them acknowledging that they could've handled this better from start. Shows a very human (non-corporate) side to take responsibility for their mistake. I think they've redeemed themselves. Hope the stress is removed from your life now Jules and keep up the good work. /Anna

  10. I'm so glad a compromise was achieved! An Ikea hotel…who knew!?
    I must say I find it amusing that they initially took the stance they did since any given day in any given country you can buy bits and pieces of Ikea products in "As Is"…a department tailored made for hacks!

  11. You say "eg. porn, nudity, drugs – that kind of stuff which won't not appear anyways" Double negative alert! When can we "look forward" to these new, very progressive and liberal, features.

    Kind (genuinely) regards.

  12. You're most welcome.

    I have been following your story with great fascination. I think it is a great example of how it is not always necessary to fight a geat battle with large corporations if the error of their ways can be pointed out to them, clearly and simply, and by people who are the customers that they rely on for their very existence.

    In awe of your calm tenacity

    J C (UK)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *