NICE — You can spot an IKEA store from a mile away: The classic blue-and-yellow box design of every outlet of the Swedish home goods giant is as much a part of its identity as the quirky names of its chairs and the meatballs at the snack bar. Get ready, though, because IKEA's look is about to change in a major way.

In an effort to appeal to a new generation of customers — and to be more environmentally friendly — the company will start building a series of so-called Sustainable Stores. And the first thing to go is the blue metal box style.

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Wilmotte's Ikea project — Photo: Wilmotte & associés / IKEA France

Across Europe, IKEA is hiring top architects to design modern, eco-friendly stores as part of its new branding and sustainability efforts. The first of these stores will be in Kaarst, Germany and is slated to open in October. Designed by Henning Larsen Architects, one of the biggest changes will be the incorporation of natural light.

One result of making a storefront entirely out of metal sheeting is that the interior gets little to no sunlight, and must be lit with fluorescent, factory-style lighting. But the store in Kaarst will have a glass storefront, allowing daylight into the store. The building will also have energy efficient technology and outdoor spaces such as terraces and a rooftop deck for customers.

The classic IKEA store look — Photo: William Murphy

Other coming stores with the new look include Greenwich, England, and Nice, France. French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, whose recent projects include renovating the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris in 2016, has designed the glass-paneled storefront in Nice.

The design choice is a typical decision for Wilmotte but, again, a brand new one for IKEA. The store will also be part of the Saint Isidore eco-village, built in partnership between IKEA and French mobile communications company Bouygues Telecom.

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The future Ikea store in Nice — Photo: Wilmotte & associés / IKEA France

The daily Nice-Matin reports that in addition to the IKEA outlet, the eco-district will include a housing complex and office buildings, as well as the Allianz Riviera athletic stadium, a previous Wilmotte project. The buildings will run on environmentally friendly energy, and there will be public green spaces incorporated throughout the village. By integrating the storefront into the general neighborhood, instead of making the store a standalone structure, IKEA will fully incorporate itself into the lifestyles of its customers.

Getting rid of its recognizable architecture is something of a small revolution for IKEA, and may make it harder to spot the stores from the highway. You may have to follow your nose to the meatballs.


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