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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 – MS Swiss Corona from £949pp
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro from £799pp
Provence from £599pp
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These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
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How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
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Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

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England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

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Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

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