Flat pack furniture is furniture that is fabricated in flat parts and designed to be quickly and easily assembled. It is also sometimes called ready-to-assemble furniture or knock-down furniture. The primary advantage to this is that, because it is packed flat, it is extremely space efficient, saving significant amounts of money for the manufacturer by reducing shipping and storage costs. Consumers in turn benefit from this because the company can pass the savings down with less expensive prices.
A Swedish furniture designer named Gillis Lundgren is credited with the invention of flat pack furniture. According to his employer, Swedish furniture giant IKEA, Lundgren was bringing home a table one day and he took the legs off so that it would fit in his car, reattaching them at home. He realized that it could potentially be convenient to sell furniture in a flat packed form, and he brought the idea to his employers, who ran with it, producing the earliest flat packed furniture in the 1950s. Once IKEA set the bar, other furniture companies followed suit, making it a ubiquitous offering on the market.
Designers of flat pack furniture typically create furnishings that are very easy to mass produce. Most companies also pre-drill holes and do other preparation work so that consumers can fit the pieces of the furniture together with minimal work. The furniture is packaged with all of the hardware and tools necessary to assemble it, along with assembly directions. These directions are rather notorious in some circles, as they typically include vague illustrations and poorly worded sentences, forcing consumers to puzzle out the assembly of the furniture on their own.
The quality of flat pack furniture can vary widely. Some companies use high quality materials, creating furniture which is meant to last and be attractive. Others use cheaper materials, catering to a demand for low-cost furnishings which may be serviceable without looking nice. The use of veneers, particleboard, and plastic fittings is common in cheaper furniture, while more high end furniture uses higher quality woods and may even be designed to be environmentally friendly.
Depending on the construction techniques used, flat pack furniture may or may not break back down easily once it has been assembled. In some cases, the furniture is designed to be taken apart again in the event of a move, while in others, more solid connections are used to ensure that the furniture does not break, and these connections make it impossible to take the furniture apart again. When purchasing flat pack furniture, you may want to consider this, especially if you are a frequent mover.