Ikea converts showroom in Norway store into replica of Syrian home to raise funds for refugees

A Syrian home is shown as part of an exhibition at an Ikea store in Slependen, Norway.
A Syrian home is shown as part of an exhibition at an Ikea store in Slependen, Norway.PHOTO: REUTERS/NTB SCANPIX

The mock-ups in furniture stores are typically picture-perfect, every model room decluttered and Instagram-ready.

But Ikea shoppers in Norway took in a very different sight when they visited the Swedish furniture giant's flagship store in Oslo in October.

Partnering with the Norwegian Red Cross and marketing firm Pol, Ikea transformed one of its showrooms into a replica of the cramped 25 sq m apartment in which a Syrian mother of four hopes to survive her country's devastating civil war.

The display in Ikea Slependen, west of Oslo, faithfully recreated former teacher Rana's unfinished Damascus apartment, complete with bare concrete walls.

The tags attached to the everyday household items in the display do not list prices or product dimensions - they tell stories about the living conditions of desperate civilians in the war-torn country, and offer shoppers the option to donate via text message.

Working to alleviate the humanitarian crises faced by refugees is familiar ground for Ikea.

In 2014, the retailer launched its annual "Better Lives for Refugees" campaign. Part of the proceeds from the sales of light bulbs in its stores was channelled into helping the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) bring solar lights and cooking stoves to refugee camps in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

And in 2015, Ikea collaborated with the UNHCR to design and distribute "Better Shelter" flat-pack kits that can be assembled within hours into weather-resistant huts that can accommodate up to five people. The shelters have been sent to places such as Iraq, Ethiopia, Nepal and Greece, which is a landing site for many refugees and migrants from the Middle East and North Africa.

The "25 square metres of Syria" exhibit stayed up from Oct 17 to 31. Pol executive Maja Folgero, who helped design the campaign, told CNN that the model home drew 40,000 weekly visitors and raised 22 million euros (S$33.4 million) for the Red Cross' Syrian relief efforts.