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Retailers enjoyed a "spectacular" Christmas, official data showed, with total sales growing at their fastest rate in years.

Not too shabby: Because the distressed look needn't mean worse for wear

1. Loose fit urban sofa cover

Ship building: Titanic Belfast approaching completion

Titanic endeavour: Simon Calder previews Belfast’s newest attraction

A century after Titanic set sail from Belfast prior to her tragic maiden journey, a £97m tribute to the ship and her makers is almost ready.

Martin Creed's Sketch show is a feast for the eyes

Can a fork be a work of art? Well, yes. Especially if it happens to be on one of the tables at Sketch. The Turner Prize winner Martin Creed has taken over a room at the London restaurant and has transformed it into a work of art. Or rather, into several works of art.

Album: First Aid Kit, The Lion's Roar (Wichita)

First Aid Kit are Johanna and Klara Soderberg who, in 2008, while still in their teens, posted a video on YouTube of them singing a Fleet Foxes song in the woods near their Stockholm home. Next thing you know they were sharing a stage with the band they'd covered, getting a single produced by Jack White and winning fans from Patti Smith to Conor Oberst.

Out cold: The King’s Trail crosses some spectacular and savage terrain

Sweden: Go wild in winter

An extraordinary trek on cross-country skis across the Swedish tundra leaves Simon Birch dazzled by the Arctic landscape

Ikea finds gloomy Britain is a drag as its global profits rocket

Ikea, the flat-pack furniture giant, has posted a leap in global profits and sales, driven by market share gains in most of the countries in which it operates.

Ikea

Ikea profits up 10%

Ikea's flat-pack furniture empire found a growing number of fans in emerging markets last year, helping to boost profits by 10% and offsetting tougher conditions in the UK.

Penguin Books-themed sheet, £1.75, nottheusual.co.uk

The Insider: How to make your own art

I never again want to spend my entire Christmas break redecorating. Especially as an easier way to update a space is with some new artwork. But if your January budget doesn't stretch to that...

John Walsh: Like the music they played, life after radio for the ex-DJs is a tale of hits and misses...

It's no joke being a Radio 1 DJ. After storming the airwaves in your 20s as a silver-tongued cavalier, astounding the kids with your edgy repartee, thrilling the laydeez with your saucy banter, making a fortune talking motor-mouth piffle for three hours a day and hosting "roadshows" for listless radio fans in muddy Berkshire fields on Saturday afternoons, the only way is down.

Ikea alert over faulty high chairs

Parents who bought a certain batch of high chairs from Ikea are being urged to get in touch after several children were injured due to a faulty belt.

Ikea reports UK sales drop

The Swedish furniture giant Ikea has became the latest retailer to feel the pinch as low consumer confidence and a poor housing market hit sales.

Lisa Markwell: Satisfied with life? When a Christmas tree costs £50!

So, we are imbued with "Blitz spirit".

 

Flatpack city: Ikea to assemble an entire London district

One can only hope that nobody loses the instructions.

IKEA founder had Nazi Youth ties for years, author claims

A new book has claimed that the founder of the IKEA chain, Ingvar Kamprad, had youth ties with Nazi groups for longer than he admitted, saying Sweden's intelligence agency even set up a special file on him.

What Works, By Hamish McRae

This cheering and readable book by The Independent's economic commentator deftly analyses the reasons for the success of 20 phenomena from the City of London to mobile telephony, Harvard to Ikea. It deserves a readership far beyond the ranks of suits.

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there