By Lauren Phillips
April 11, 2019
ikea.com

The first IKEA Planning Studio in New York City opens soon, and it’s introducing a whole new way to shop.

IKEA stores are known for being gargantuan—showing off all the gorgeous looks that appear in the annual IKEA catalog does take a lot of space, after all. Any IKEA-lover in the U.S. will imagine an IKEA store as a large warehouse spread across several acres, with a showroom, a place to pick up furniture, a cafeteria, and more, but IKEA is changing that with the opening of the first IKEA Planning Studio in the U.S.

The IKEA Planning Studio is located in New York City, on the Upper East Side, and opens April 15. IKEA does have a conventional store in New York City (in Brooklyn), but the Planning Studio is pint-sized in comparison—and it’s much more accessible to New Yorkers, especially any living in Manhattan.

The New York Planning Studio is only the first step in IKEA’s plan to bring stores into the heart of cities, rather than the outskirts. IKEA plans to establish 30 locations in city centers across the globe over the next three years, even while it continues to open traditional stores. The smaller IKEA stores are more like showrooms, and they offer a very different shopping experience than the standard stores people know and love, but that can admittedly be a little overwhelming.

Elisha Holmes for IKEA U.S.

The biggest difference between the Planning Studios and standard IKEA stores will be the size. The first Planning Studio is 17,350 feet, while a typical IKEA store is around 350,000 square feet. This puts the Planning Studio at about one-twentieth the size of a standard store.

The next change is one many people might not love: You can’t buy anything at the IKEA Planning Studios. There are wares on display, but shoppers won’t be able to leave the store with an IKEA rolling cart or a TEKLA dish towel in tow. Instead, they’ll have to order everything online, which they can do in-store on their phones or at home, and have it delivered. (IKEA does offer next-day delivery at its standard delivery rate.) Shoppers will be able to see a curated selection of IKEA products, though, so they can make sure they know what they’re getting before ordering. In that sense, the Planning Studio is definitely more of a showroom than a store.

Another major difference is that the Planning Studio offers one-on-one planning sessions. Appointments for these sessions with trained IKEA design experts are recommended but not required. They last one hour for standard rooms and two hours for kitchen projects, and in that time, shoppers can talk through organizing strategies, furniture placement, and more. The design experts can explain custom storage and kitchen solutions and address other design dilemmas to help people make the most of their homes, which speaks to the primary goal of the Studios: to help city-dwellers maximize their (often small) spaces.

The Planning Studio has been optimized and curated to address the challenges of living in small spaces. The showroom is filled with IKEA’s famous small-space layouts, plus inspiration that applies almost exclusively to the unique requirements of living in a city. Even the delivery system is city-specific: Many city residents don’t have cars for getting their purchases home, and no BILLY bookcase is fitting on the subway without some major elbow grease.

While IKEA's Upper East Side Planning Studio is geared toward New Yorkers and their notoriously small apartments, the Studio also offers an accessible showroom for non-residents or tourists to get a taste of IKEA during their New York visit. Future Studios in other cities will be curated to suit the particular challenges of their locations.

Essentially, IKEA’s new Planning Studios are stepping-off points for people looking to revamp their homes. Anyone ordering a new sofa can go ahead and order it online, but anyone redoing an entire room can make an appointment for a planning sessions to create the room (or entire home) of their dreams in a quiet, chaos-free space. Getting some in-person help at a standard IKEA store can be challenging, but at the Planning Studio, it’s the main purpose.

People with a passion for IKEA hacks can still hack away; Swedish meatball aficionados can still order their favorite snacks online. But anyone looking for a little extra help planning their IKEA-optimized city home can get it at the IKEA Planning Studio. As IKEA looks into adding features like furniture rental and encourages frequent shoppers to pick up an IKEA credit card, the Planning Studio is another attempt to plan for the future of furniture shopping, and people—especially city-dwellers—may be surprised by how much they like it.

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