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 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,

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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No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

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Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor