Artists Transform Old Ikea Furniture Into 'Wildhomes' for Urban Wildlife

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'Dom,' a hard-to-miss bird abode designed by Supermundane. Located in Sutcliffe Park, Greenwich, London, it's one of several animal-sheltering pieces of art created with upcycled Ikea furniture for the Wildhomes for Wildlife campaign. (Photo: Ikea/Mother)

As part of a larger bid to curb waste and promote a more circular economy, Ikea's new London outpost in the borough of Greenwich offers a first-of-its-kind "Learning Lab" where customers can get pointers on how to prolong the life spans of their purchases through repair, reuse and imaginative upcycling.

It's unclear if these waste-eschewing creative workshops have caught on like mad with everyday customers in the few short weeks since the Greenwich store — touted as the most environmentally sustainable Ikea yet — first opened to the public. It may take time. But as a new campaign proudly shows, a handful of London-based artists and designers have already had some fun breathing new life into bits and pieces of old Ikea furniture.

Dubbed Wildhomes for Wildlife, the campaign — conceived by never-dull London-based advertising agency Mother — has yielded a slew of highly distinctive habitats for urban critters that, for the most part, you'd never recognize as part of a floor lamp or a flat-pack table. These professionally crafted creations are next level, not the average birdhouses or bat boxes you'd spend a Sunday afternoon piecing together in your garage with scrap wood, craft glue and a vague idea of what you're doing. But the message — yes, even that busted-up Billy bookcase you were planning to drag to the curb can be somehow reused — comes across loud and clearish.

Per South East London newspaper the News Shopper, Ikea has donated the so-called "animal apartments" to nearby Sutcliffe Park, where local fauna — namely bees, birds, bats and assorted bugs — can move in at their leisure. (A hotspot for wildlife, a portion of the park was deemed a local nature reserve in 2006.) Members from the Greenwich store will continue to look after the deluxe new wildlife digs after they're installed. Ikea has even published a trail map marking each of the fanciful new additions to the park.

"By offering a community experience centered on reuse and recycling and supporting local conservation, we want to demonstrate that we're committed to being a good neighbor for all walks of life in Greenwich and the surrounding area, creepy crawlies included," says Ikea Greenwich manager Helen Aylett.

Let's take a look (and there's more where these came from) ...

'Honey, I'm Home' by Hattie Newman for Wildhomes for Wildlife
'Honey, I'm Home' by Hattie Newman for Wildhomes for Wildlife. (Photo: Ikea/Mother)

This is sweet: "Honey, I'm Home" is a busy and bright little "Brazilian-style bee village" created by the wildly talented East London set-maker and paper-crafter extraordinaire Hattie Newman using a Burvik end table.

Månstråle House by Beep Studio for Wildhomes for Wildlife
'Månstråle' House by Beep Studio for Wildhomes for Wildlife. (Photo: Ikea/Mother)

When life gives you a bunch of old Stråla lamp stands, why not do like architecture and design firm Beep Studio and make eye-catching bird nesting pods?

'Pippi' bat house by Supermundane for Wildhomes for Wildlife
'Pippi' bat house by Supermundane for Wildhomes for Wildlife. (Photo: Ikea/Mother)

Previously an old Industriell shelving unit, the "Pipi" bat house from graphic artist Rob Lowe (aka Supermundane) has serious Memphis Group vibes going on. Ikea explains: "It has roughened surfaces inside to help bats get a good grip and roost during the day. (Also from Supermundane is the similarly mega-colorful Industriell-sourced "Dom" birdhouse pictured at the top of the page.)

Bughattan by Adam Nathaniel Furman for Wildhomes for Wildlife
'Hachi House' by Sash Scott and Tamsin Hanke for Wildhomes for Wildlife. (Photo: Ikea/Mother)

In a past life, "Hachi House" — a bona fide bee palace designed by architects Sash Scott and Tamsin Hanke — was a couple of functional benches from the Industriell and Verberod collections. (Corgi not included.)

Bughattan' by Adam Nathaniel Furman for Wildhomes for Wildlife
'Bughattan' by Adam Nathaniel Furman for Wildhomes for Wildlife. (Photo: Ikea/Mother)

"Bughattan," by lauded young artist and designer Adam Nathaniel Furman, is a towering condo complex for solitary bees and wasps crafted from reclaimed Ekbacken and Hammarp worktop surfaces. Watch your step around that one.

A green Ikea comes to Greenwich

Due to open April 15, Ikea's small-format Manhattan outpost — more an idea-stirring showroom than a traditional, meatball-slinging retail store — is dominating the Ikea news cycle on this side of the pond. But in the U.K., the Greenwich store is getting a significant amount of buzz.

Encouraging shoppers to arrive by walking or cycling "to improve your physical and mental health," Ikea's first new full-fledged London store in 14 years offers a markedly planet-friendly shopping experience (as far as big box retailers go). Among other things, the store sports a rooftop solar array, rainwater recycling, 100 percent LED lighting, geothermal heating and a lovely landscaped meadow up on the roof. But what perhaps makes the store stand out most is its urbanness. Surrounded by a slew of local public transit options, and going out of its way to accommodate shoppers who don't drive, this isn't your typical, car-dependent Ikea on the far-flung fringes of town.

(As Tom Ravenscroft writes for Dezeen, Ikea Greenwich's deep-green cred becomes a little less impressive when you consider that a less than 20-year-old Sainsbury's supermarket, itself also considered a superiorly sustainable building when it first opened, was demolished to make way for the new store.)

While Wildhomes for Wildlife may ultimately be an artistically inclined marketing stunt — an area in which Ikea has long excelled — for the new store, the fact the Swedish retailer is providing homes for its plant-pollinating, seed-dispersing, mosquito-eating, biodiversity-boosting neighbors is certainly a lovely gesture.