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The flatpack has become an intrinsic part of everyday life in the worlds of retailing and consumption. The term generally relates to items of furniture that have been specially designed to be taken away from stores, their component parts packed flat to minimize size, and assembled by consumers in their homes. This aspect of self‐assembly has been simplified as far as possible and requires only very basic tools such as a screwdriver and a minimal level of skill. Packed flat at the factory in which the parts are made, this enables quantities of furniture to be transported economically, leading to savings in distribution costs for the manufacturer, storage costs for the retailer, and thus for the consumer. Such ideas have a long history, going back to the middle of the 19th century and earlier. The manufacturer Thonet had used the technique for the distribution of its furniture, as with its famous No. 14 chair of 1858, which was composed of six basic component parts and assembled with minimal skill at the retail end of the business, selling several million units by the early 20th century. The concept became increasingly widespread in the decades following the end of the Second World War, popularized by companies such as IKEA in Scandinavia, which introduced its first self‐assembly flat‐pack range in 1956 and a self‐service open warehouse in Stockholm in 1965. With the rapid growth of car ownership, later considerably boosted by the notion of shopping‐as‐leisure and out‐of‐town retail outlets, the attraction of drive‐away flatpacks was considerable and exploited by a growing number of retailers, including Habitat in Britain.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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