The most unusual Ikea in the world
Is it a store? a showroom? A café? In Taipei, you can find this mini Ikea that’s unlike anywhere else.
This is Ikea House in Taipei. It is actually a complete old house, renovated and remade from top to bottom, and turned into a mini-Ikea of sorts.
Before I take you inside, let’s take a step back for another look at the facade.
Location, location: Ikea House and Huashan
Ikea House is located right next to Huashan 1914 Creative Park in Taipei, a former factory transformed into a hipster’s wonderland with cute cafés, design shops, exhibition and performance spaces (and an arthouse cinema). The place has been drawing crowds since its opening a few years ago, so Ikea picked this spot for a good reason.
You can see that Ikea House Taipei stretches over all four floors of the building.
This is what it looked like before Ikea rented and reinvented the place:
And before that, it used to be a store for watches:
(Google Streetview is an awesome time machine, isn’t it?)
Ikea House was opened on December 16, 2015. It combines the well-known concepts of Ikea store, showroom and restaurant in an innovative way.
How does it do that?
Let’s go inside.
1st Floor: The Bar
Hej! At first glance, it looks like just another of those well-designed coffee shops that have sprung up almost everywhere in Taipei.
But this is not just some themed café, this is an actual Ikea operation.
Let’s see how that shows.
The food they are offering here looks oddly familiar.
Köttbullar and cinnamon rolls! And also that Swedish almond cake.
Here is the complete menu. There are no hot dogs or gravad lax (salmon), but you can get coffee… or lingonberry juice.
While waiting for your order, you will notice that other Ikea stuff is also on sale here.
Things like mugs, jars, plush toys, even the famous blue Ikea bags. (I love them! Just moved house, couldn’t have done it without them.)
And the Ikea food stuff you usually get at the shop behind the cashier zone: Potato chips, Daim, Salzstangen, cookies…
So now that you have a tray with your order, where do you go?
There are some seats on the first floor, but you will want to check out what’s upstairs!
2nd Floor: The Restaurant
The second floor is where you’ll find a lot of tables and seats. Notice, though, that everything has been furnished and decorated with things you can actually buy at Ikea.
It’s about the inspiration experience
Everything at Ikea House, of course, is meant to make you feel inspired about how you might decorate your own home – and then go to an actual Ikea store, buy furniture and stuff.
Like an Ikea showroom at the store, but here you can actually sit down for a drink and a chat.
(People use Ikea stores for all kind of private activities as well, but that’s still a bit awkward, isn’t it? Well, maybe not in China.)
3rd Floor: The apartment
Wait a minute, you stepped into someone’s sleeping room.
Or a really nice AirBNB?
The third floor of Ikea House Taipei is all made up to look like someone’s apartment.
It feels different from the store showrooms, though. There are no price tags, and the natural light flooding in through the nice big windows makes a huge difference.
And you are free to bring your tray up here and have your meal on the sofa, or wherever you want.
(Maybe not on the bed.)
4th Floor: The Kitchen
This is the most spectacular space in Taipei’s Ikea House. The fourth floor really shows the potential of these old Taiwanese inner-city buildings.
They basically ripped out everything, right to the roof construction.
This also means a lot of space to install Ikea shelves… but how would you reach for the stuff up there?
Nice kitchens always look impressive, right? There’s a reason the kitchen section is the first in Ikea’s current catalogue.
The kitchen at Ikea House is fully functional, and they plan to hold activities here.
Maybe cooking classes for singles, or for families?
Whatever you cook here (or take up from the first floor), you can eat it at the long communal dining table.
When I came back for a second visit and felt the need to sample some Köttbullar, the fourth floor was almost empty, and I had the whole table for myself.
So here you have it – Ikea House, a mini Ikea store/café with a view.
Some background on Ikea House
After visiting Ikea House Taipei, I became curious, so I called Nancy Wu. She is the External Communications Manager for Ikea Taiwan.
Nancy told me that Ikea House Taipei is not only actually run by Ikea Taiwan, it is also quite unique with its concept.
The idea is to combine the inspiration experience of Ikea showrooms with actual sales. While there have been temporary showrooms set up outside of the actual Ikea stores before in many places, they have not been actual shops/cafés.
So the Taipei Ikea House is the first of its kind to combine marketing and commercial purposes.
„Lots of people come by here every day“ because of the Huashan Creative Park, Nancy said. Many of them are not regular visitors of Ikea stores. (Although Ikea has an inner-city Taipei branch at Dunhua/Nanjing Rd., not too far away.) Ikea House is supposed to give them a different kind of experience, compared to the Ikea stores.
„Taiwanese like food, and they like to eat out“, Nancy said. Taipei Ikea House is supposed to attract people’s attention with the food, then let them know what kind of products Ikea offers, and inspire them to change their own home furnishing.
(Inspiration for the use of your old kitchen whisks?)
The total floor space of Ikea House Taipei is about 100 ping, which translates to 80 square metres per floor (about the size of a roomy two-bedroom apartment).
Ikea Taiwan came up with the concept by themselves and were able to realize it without the need for any special approval by Ikea corporate HQ, Nancy told me.
They rented the building, initially for two years, and paid for the renovation out of their own pocket. They plan to make it a long-term operation.
My thoughts on Ikea and Ikea House Taipei
Like many Germans my age, I grew up with Ikea. Not so much during my childhood and teens, because our family home was filled with vintage furniture, and the nearest Ikea stores in Hamburg were almost two hours drive away. (An Ikea in Bremerhaven, much closer to home, only opened in 2015.)
But as soon as I left home, went to university and started living in WGs (shared flats), visits to Ikea quickly became a staple of my life.
And today, as I am writing this blog post in Taipei, I am sitting on a Pöang rocking chair that looks just like this one.
I am aware of some controversies surrounding Ikea, for example their EU tax avoidance strategies. As a multinational corporation embodying globalization, they are no welfare organization and I am sure there is a lot to criticize.
But I am also ready to admit that they got to where they are because they made a lot of right decisions, and it’s hard to imagine a world without any Ikea in it.
Because Ikea has become so omnipresent, at least in Europe, I was curious as soon as I arrived in Taiwan. One of my very first posts on this blog, back in 2008, was about my visit to Ikea.
Read now: Besuch bei Ikea in Taipeh (German)
I was surprised back then that there were so few differences, and most products were identical.
(You need to look closer, only then will you realize that standard Ikea beds in Taiwan are only 190 cm long, not 200. Or that the sample apartments in the showrooms have the typical Taiwanese narrow balconies with washing machine and wastebin, but without chairs to sit outside.)
Taipei was faster than Hamburg
In 2014, Hamburg-Altona got an Ikea City store, and the news headlines heralded it as the first of its kind: Smaller, more central. Of course, this was nonsense, since at least Taipei (and, it turned out, other cities as well) already had similar stores.
My blog entry about that was reshared by the popular Bildblog media watchblog and got a lot of views and comments.
Read now: Ikea Taipeh vs. Altona (German)
(I was not paid for it, just like I did not receive anything for writing this blog post.)
The appeal of Ikea in Taiwan
It looks like Ikea has established itself pretty well in Taiwan by now. They are currently operating five stores in the country. And the establishment of Ikea House shows that they feel confident enough to try out something new.
I think there are several reasons why Taiwanese would feel attracted to Ikea.
For one, it is a Western/European/Foreign company, and that still means that it will be perceived as more „high class“, „elegant“, „stylish“ by many. Unlike in Europe, where most people also associate Ikea with „inexpensive“.
If Taiwanese are looking for inexpensive furniture, they will probably look elsewhere. Have a look at the photos of many older furnished apartments on 591.com.tw, and you will get an idea.
Ikea products are, for the most part, sleekly designed, fit together well, and can bring some color to otherwise drab surroundings. I think there is a real need for more aesthetic home decoration in many, many Taiwanese apartments. The following list represents some all too common features:
- tiles on the floor
- white walls without paintings, posters etc.
- neon lights, no indirect light
- huge dark wood chairs, black faux leather sofas, flimsy shelves made of chipwood
- blocked-up windows
Of course everybody is free to live in whatever place he likes, but I seriously doubt that many people, especially the younger, would choose this kind of home when presented with realistic, affordable alternatives.
If places like Ikea House Taipei can inspire people to upgrade their living environment, I am all for it. Just like Taiwanese cities, personal spaces are probably just beginning to undergo a transformation. But it will take time.
Ikea House in 3D
Isn’t technology amazing? Even if you cannot make it to Taipei to check out Ikea House, you can explore it, from bottom, to top, through their Facebook page.
There you will find this very neat 360-degree-walkthrough:
Address of Ikea House Taipei
Ikea House Taipei is located at No. 37, Sec. 2, Zhongxiao East Rd. in Taipei City.
Opening hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
It is close to MRT Zhongxiao Xinsheng. Exit the MRT station in the direction of Huashan 1914 Creative Park, walk right past it, and you’re there.
Ikea cafés and restaurants – do you think this concept could work in other cities as well? How would you improve on it?
I am a German reporter living and working in Taiwan. Read more English posts on this otherwise mostly German blog. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Google Plus — and on Snapchat (taiwanreporter).
English posts you might want to have a look at:
- Watch a Taiwanese girl talk about being over 30 and unmarried
- Taiwanese girls dating Western foreigners: What is a Xicanmei?
- If you don’t plan to see Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above, here’s why you should
- Who is behind the „foreigners talk about Taiwan“ videos?