First glimpse at rooms inspired by Sheffield people inside city's new Ikea

An Ikea 'co-worker' add the finishing touches to a room.
An Ikea 'co-worker' add the finishing touches to a room.
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Shoppers who visit Sheffield's new Ikea when it opens next week may well find rooms inspired by their own homes inside.

Staff, or 'co-workers' as they are known within the Swedish firm, have spent months speaking to Sheffield people and going into their homes to find out how they live.

A room set inspired by a young Sheffield family.

A room set inspired by a young Sheffield family.

They have spoken to young professionals living in the city centre, pensioners in Dore and families in Ecclesall Road to see what problems they face.

Video: Exclusive first look inside Sheffield's new Ikea
And the hope is that people will find the solutions among the various 'room sets' within the 35,000 sq m shop when it opens on Thursday.

"Before we thought about the inside of the building we did a lot of research around Sheffield and South Yorkshire," said Emma Brocklebank, the interior design manager.

"We did a 350 page document. In order to build room sets specifically we took key insights out of that document.

Communication and interior manager Kate Moore and interior design manager Emma Brocklebank.

Communication and interior manager Kate Moore and interior design manager Emma Brocklebank.

"Things like room sizes, living situations, architectural features, in order to design room sets around real people in Sheffield.

"We want to provide realistic, clever, affordable home furnishing solutions."

During an exclusive sneak peek this week, Emma showed examples of room sets that were inspired by what Ikea has learned from the people of Sheffield.

One living room, designed for a young family, gave storage solutions for the open staircase that features in many city houses.

A bungalow room with the smell of a log fire.

A bungalow room with the smell of a log fire.

Another was a small industrial-inspired apartment space, set up for a female tattoo artist in her early 20s.

And at the other end of the age range was a bungalow with dark wood furniture, cheese and wine on the dining table and even the smell of a log fire.

Emma said each room is designed to reflect a 'moment in time' - in this case ready to welcome friends round.

"It's to give an emotional experience and feel of the person that lives there," she said.

A cafe designed to inspire entrepreneurs.

A cafe designed to inspire entrepreneurs.

Other touches include a working kitchen with natural light, where herbs will be grown and staff can give cooking demonstrations, and even a cafe set up to show entrepreneurs how Ikea can help them.

Emma, who was born in Crystal Peaks and attended Westfield School and Sheffield College, is now in her dream job. She remembers the inspiration that she took from her first visit to the Nottingham Ikea, which eventually led her through a degree at Sheffield Hallam University to a job at the Leeds shop, and then back to Sheffield.

For her the move was an easy choice - "I've got a team of four local staff and we are planning rooms for Sheffield people, which is what I have always wanted to do," she said - but Ikea has also recruited hundreds of staff from Sheffield who have not always been furniture devotees.

Interest was huge, with 4,000 people applying for an initial 380 jobs. Ikea has since managed to increase the number of contracts to 427, all paying a living wage - even to 16 and 17-year-olds.

The firm made a commitment to recruit predominantly from Darnall and Tinsley, and worked hard to find candidates.

This included an open day only for S9 residents. And Ikea worked with the Source Academy at Meadowhall to offer training courses.

An apartment set up to suit a young tattoo artist.

An apartment set up to suit a young tattoo artist.

"We said if you stay for the six weeks we will guarantee an interview," said store manager Garry Deakin.

"We also worked with them to do some mock interviews. We sent out managers. We got them to practice questions, because we wanted them to do well at interview.

"At the end of the six weeks we went and did a one-hour presentation no why you might want to work for Ikea. People were amazed to be so close to the brand.

"It was things like Ikea paying for putting you through a forklift licence test. They really felt like we were trying to engage with local people."

All the staff have now been recruited and trained, and all met for the first time for a group photo and meal in the new restaurant this week.

Ahead of the opening they have the chance to invite up to five family and friends to the shop for a special preview.

"It's not really about selling, it's about saying come and have a look," said Garry. "I built this room, I painted that wall.

"We have got this sense of togetherness and ownership which is very much in line with Ikea's values."

The firm has spent plenty marketing the new shop, from decorating trams to turning a dingy underpass into an art gallery.

There are still concerns about traffic and air quality around the shop, despite the pledge to spend millions on the highway network and a push for people to use public transport and home delivery.

But it's safe to bet there will be a big queue outside Ikea when it opens at 10am on Thursday.

"It will blow your mind, some of the home furnishing solutions that we have been put in," said Garry.

"I think it's the highest level of home furnishing competence I have seen. And that's what we came here to do."

Kate and Emma discuss their designs.

Kate and Emma discuss their designs.

Store manager Garry Deakin.

Store manager Garry Deakin.

The Ikea restaurant.

The Ikea restaurant.

Workers discuss final adjustments.

Workers discuss final adjustments.