We Went to the Nation's Biggest IKEA; Here's What We Saw and Learned

We Went to the Nation's Biggest IKEA; Here's What We Saw and Learned

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Maria Speidel
Feb 4, 2017
(Image credit: Maria Speidel)

If you thought IKEA couldn't get any better, you thought wrong. On February 8, the biggest IKEA in North America will open in Burbank, California. The biggest, we say!

At 456,000 square feet, the new IKEA Burbank edges out the 450,000-square-foot store in Schaumberg, Illinois, as North America's largest, but falls short of the world's largest, in Seoul, South Korea, where shoppers can traipse through a 625,000-square-foot store. (Most branches in the U.S. are under 400,000 square feet.)

Looming like a colossal yellow and blue Lego toy between Interstate 5 and the Verdugo Hills, this ginormous outpost of the Swedish retailer promises to stock the chain's complete inventory. Everything. Smaller stores have to edit, apparently.

(If you're wondering what will happen to the other store down the street, an unaffiliated company is looking to turn it into an apartment-retail hybrid space.)

We strapped on some comfy walking shoes and did a walkthrough earlier this week while the paint was still drying inside. Here's what we saw and learned on our hike.

(Image credit: Maria Speidel)

1. There's a giant clog.

Per usual, this IKEA has a Småland, where parents can leave kids — between 36" and 54" — while they shop. While this crazy giant (climbable!) clog will certainly appeal to children with a thing for footwear, for everyone else there is a TV screen for kids' programming and the classic ball pit. Additional play stations for kids are set up at key areas throughout the store where adults traditionally freak out (ahem, the kitchen-planning section).

(Image credit: Maria Speidel)

2. There's an extra-cozy restaurant.

The restaurant seats an astounding 600 people in front of huge windows offering an interesting view of the freeway, making it a delightful destination for car- and truck-obsessed toddlers. The dining area is decorated with fanciful wooden tree sculptures and light fixtures with drum shades that showcase various IKEA fabric prints — available downstairs by the yard. Diners will be able to choose from traditional tables, high stools pulled up to counters, and a few chill-out areas with leather chairs and couches.

(Image credit: Maria Speidel)

3. It has a charming neighborhood-like feel.

All IKEAs typically have 40 to 50 display rooms and three of what they call "model homes," which are fully realized living spaces like Burbank's 376-square-foot micro apartment (above), with kitchen and bath. However, Burbank is the first store to group some of its 50 display rooms together in what the company is calling "neighborhoods," walled-off room settings designed "to look more like homes," according to Joseph Roth, IKEA's U.S. public affairs manager. The extra space also allows Burbank to have bigger displays.

(Image credit: Maria Speidel)

4. It's a haven for kitchen design.

This location stocks every cabinet and hardware option offered by IKEA, which smaller stores can't always do. Here there are 13 model kitchens showcasing styles from bare-bones budget to cozy country cottage to modern luxe loft. Rows of computers are ready to plot out designs, and a full display of IKEA's extensive range of cabinet fronts and hardware are set up so shoppers can easily hold the various styles of hardware up to different cabinet fronts. Scattered throughout the store are 10 additional model kitchens.

(Image credit: Maria Speidel)

5. The employees don't know how to pronounce the product names either.

Let's admit it — nobody outside Sweden knows how to properly pronounce these product names. "Sometimes I just make it up," one employee admitted.

(Image credit: Maria Speidel)

6. There are giveaways!

On opening day there will be doorbuster prizes. The first 26 people in line get a $799 black leather LANDSKRONA sofa (above), celebrating the company's 26 years in Burbank. The next 100 will receive one of the company's signature bent beechwood POÄNG chairs ($109,) and the first 100 kids get a heart-shaped soft toy called a Kamratlig. Why aren't you in line yet?

(Image credit: Maria Speidel)

7. It's pretty green.

The company's green initiatives include solar panels on the roof, which provide anywhere from 20 to 60 percent of the store's electrical power; selling energy-efficient light bulbs; and this new, fun-looking ride, which is discounted (by $100!) to people who join the free IKEA Family plan.

Buy: SLADDA, $399 for IKEA Family members

8. It has potential to be a pleasant experience.

When you drive down IKEA Way and into the parking lot, 1,700 parking places await, some above and others below ground. At the end of your shopping odyssey, there are 30 checkout stands. According to Brandon Adams, head of operations, even with with 242,000 square feet, the old Burbank store felt cramped on weekends. "Everything should be easier here," he says. Ideally this means no minutes wasted circling the parking lot looking for a spot, and faster checkout times. This way, you have more time to spend reading those wacky assembly directions.

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