“IKEA at its worst is like a sect,” Goran Carstedt, a former head of IKEA North America, once said. According to Stenebo, employees parse Kamprad’s frequent handwritten faxes as if they were pages from the Talmud: “If he starts with ‘Dear,’ it is neutral. If he starts with only your first name it is a sharp request. If the fax starts with ‘Dearest’ you are in his good books.” The atmosphere at IKEA reminded me of that of a political campaign, with true believers, whispering skeptics, inside jokes, and deflection of even the most innocuous questions. A former senior executive told me that, although he still admired the company, he had found it suffocating. He said, “For me, it was like North Korea.”
When I was at the IKEA hotel, the sun stayed up until midnight. In Tillsamans, I wandered into a sort of rec room (it is used for conferences), which was equipped with a karaoke machine. On the wall, someone had painted the lyrics to an IKEA version of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”: “As long as there’s human life on earth / A strong IKEA has its worth / We satisfy the many needs / A strong IKEA that succeeds / Our culture leads us on our way / That’s the IKEA way!” Eventually, I went to my room. It was furnished with a pair of spartan single beds. Two books sat on top of a pine desk: the IKEA catalogue and the New Testament.
Come to this article for the inside look at your favorite maddening furniture company; stay for the brief look into the founder's (and no, I'm not joking) potential Nazi connection.