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What is Flat Pack Furniture?

Mary McMahon
Updated: May 17, 2024

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.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon990569 — On Apr 28, 2015

How can anybody hate IKEA flat pack furniture? Not only do they offer some of the cheapest and functional ready-to-assemble units, but building and montage have so many ideas and improvisations to offer!

By anon976204 — On Oct 31, 2014

I hate flat pack furniture. It took me four hours to put a desk together once and in 12 years I have never bought another piece. Now I look for items online that have already been built.

By anon949652 — On May 06, 2014

What is so special and popular about IKEA's flat pack furniture?

By anon325177 — On Mar 14, 2013

Why is flat pack bad?

By anon200512 — On Jul 27, 2011

I recently transferred to the south France and had a terrible experience trying to get my "Flat Pack" furniture delivered and then all the instructions were in French. What a nightmare! With my limited knowledge of French I did a Google search using the keywords "Montage des Meubles" and voila -- my prayers were answered. There he was "MrBrico".

I called the cell number and to my surprise he spoke perfect English. Johnny Brico arrived the next afternoon and by late that night I had my bedroon suite, dining room and a good start on the kitchen ready to go. The next morning Johnny Brico arrived "real early" and finished the kitchen. This experience competely restored my faith in buying "Flat Pack" furniture and no doubt I will be calling Mrbrico to do all my "montage des meubles." Thanks Mrbrico

By submariner — On Sep 28, 2010

While Ikea flatpack furniture may be of good quality, not all flatpack furniture is created equally. I bought some flatpack furniture from one of those big box discount retailers and the furniture was broken within a few weeks. I bought a flat pack bookshelf and coffee table made of particleboard.

The shelf studs in the bookshelf ripped through the particleboard in a matter of weeks from the weight of the books. It's not like the shelf was loaded with textbooks, but there were some hardcovers and a few bigger books on the shelf.

My coffee table isn't even six months old, and it has bubbled rings where condensation from drinking glasses caused the laminate to separate. The corner also snagged on a pair of my pants, ripping the flimsy siding off and leaving exposed particleboard. I guess you get what you pay for.

By GlassAxe — On Sep 28, 2010

I honestly love Ikea flat pack furniture. I never buy their cheapest design though. I live in Phoenix so I am lucky enough to have an Ikea store nearby. I also appreciate the fact that they incorporate sustainable design into their products, and have shown that sustainable design can indeed be affordable.

I currently have a platform bed, coffee table, entertainment stand, desk, and television wall mount from Ikea. The furniture has lasted for years, and I bought everything for much less than I would have paid at Wal-mart or some other discount retailer. I also love the fact that most everything can be broken down and put back together with basic tools. If you lose the directions, you can even download them free from their website. I also like the fact that most of the fasteners can be found at your local hardware store. His is very convenient since it is easy to lose a bag of screws in a move.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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