Turns Out Single People Can Build Furniture, But Here’s Why IKEA Recommends Against It

Turns Out Single People Can Build Furniture, But Here’s Why IKEA Recommends Against It
Why does IKEA hate single people? An investigation. (Image: IKEA / Lifehacker Australia)

When you open the IKEA assembly instructions and see that sad little single man, do you ever wonder who decides us solo builders are not capable of doing it on our own? Well, I’ve spent way too much time thinking about this, and when I was at the IKEA Museum in Sweden recently I asked the design team: why do you hate single people so much?

Firstly, I’ve got to point out that Aussie sarcasm doesn’t translate all that well. I needed some help explaining my investigation into who decides if an IKEA product is a two-man build or a single person can put it together themselves.

Johan Ejdemo humoured me, thankfully. He’s been working at IKEA for 23 years and is currently Design Manager. He pointed to the engineers in the product development team as ultimately the ones who determine if it’s a two-man job.

“Obviously we would like everything to be possible to be assembled by one person but sometimes the scale of the product is just such that it becomes too complicated, or the weight of the product, which we try to keep down because it also effects costs and logistics, but then sometimes you need to do more than one,” Ejdemo said.

“The actual assembly of it you can do yourself, it’s more the handling of the product. If you’re going to raise up that wardrobe then it’s good to have some helping hands.”

So ultimately it’s a safety issue. Fair. I fell like it’s less of a personal attack on my single status or building skills now.

Part of the design process for every IKEA product is testing out the instructions on newbies to make sure customers will actually be able to build it once they get it home.

“The most challenging part of that was finding people who have never assembled IKEA products,” Ejdemo said. “That really goes to understanding the assembly time. Because when we assemble it, we assemble quite a lot of products, we might be a little bit more, maybe not read with the assembly instructions so much.”

You’ll be pleased to know that even after 23 years’ experience with Allen keys, Ejdemo still makes mistakes while assembling IKEA products, just like us mere mortals.

“We do the same mistake everyone is doing: we put the assembly instructions aside and we do things in the wrong order and we have to take it apart again. So we do the normal human mistakes,” he confessed.

And even though Ejdemo says he doesn’t have a favourite child from all the products he’s worked on over the years, there is one that he does really enjoy assembling.

IKEA LISABO coffee table
The LISABO coffee table series. (Image: IKEA)

“It depends on your mood, yeah,” Ejdemo said. “I love to assemble that LISABO table because if you’re assembling a lot that one is a nice one because it goes so fast to do it. But then also some products you can enjoy seeing them growing, so it’s like dressing your Christmas tree kind of.”

For the record, I put up my own Christmas tree… but it’s less than a metre tall, so there’s that. I probably would need a hand if I had one the size of a wardrobe though.

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