News

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

Charles Nevin: Don't worry... thank God it's Monday

If you ask me... tinsel is back as, mindful of the recession, we turn away from expensive tack to cheap tack

It's Only A Movie: Reel Life Adventures of a Film Obsessive, By Mark Kermode

The film critic Mark Kermode announces from the off that this memoir will be "self-serving, hagiographic and deeply narcissistic". In fact, he is endearingly geeky (singing the praises of the neglected B-movie Piranha Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death) and entertainingly catty (Keira Knightley's "teaky" performance in Pirates of the Caribbean earns her the moniker "Ikea Knightley"), but self-deprecating throughout.

Consuming Issues: Antiques are now a cheaper, greener option

Much as I like Ikea, I find it a pain to shop there: driving for an hour, wandering round a halogen-lit warehouse, queuing at the till, lugging a big cardboard box into the boot, driving home – only to realise you haven't bought any furniture at all, but a series of pre-cut boards, panels and screws that has the potential to be furniture ... if you have a work ethic and an Allen key. Happily, there is an alternative.

Just My Type, By Simon Garfield

A fun romp through the world of type design, from serifs lost in the Thames to Obama's Gotham mien

Katy Guest: All hail Ikea, god of storage and sideplates

Our writer joins the faithful in search of lighting solutions

The flat-pack giant's secrets unpicked

Ikea reveals details of its profits for the first time, writes James Thompson

Ikea: Home is where the art is

Five Swedish artists have produced original prints for Ikea – and the results are just like the store's furniture, says Hannah Duguid: stylish and affordable

Leaders of the flatpack: Self-assembly furniture is reinventing itself as clever, sustainable and stylish

If ever a type of furniture was in need of a brand makeover, it must surely be flatpack. It's loathed, the stuff of clichés – impossible instructions. No screws, just Allen keys. Most people will have a piece of furniture they've built, or attempted to cobble together at least, somewhere in their house, but most people will also have a horror story to accompany it.

Kate Simon: Kiss me quick...I feel like a traditional break

I'll be sitting in a tipi as you read this column over your Sunday breakfast.

Home Swede home: A new 'village' on the 2012 Olympics site is to be designed by Ikea

Brand overload, asks Oliver Bennett, or a brilliant place to live?

Tips and deals of the week: 18/07/2010

Get 20 per cent off hostels

HostelBookers is cutting 20 per cent off normal rates at 28 selected hostels across the world. Book by 31 July for travel by 30 September.

Go to hostelbookers.com

Deborah Ross: 'Some days I wake up laughing at men, go to bed laughing at men, and as for the hours in between...'

If you ask me, the announcement from BBC Radio that it plans to launch a Man's Hour as a counter-point to Woman's Hour is excellent news, as why shouldn't men have their own forum to discuss their thoughts, feelings and the bathroom cabinet from Ikea they assembled upside down and which, all these years later, will still only open from the top? It's not as if they can discuss such important issues with their womenfolk in a supportive atmosphere at home because, in my experience, women just fall about laughing, in the most unsupportive manner, and will then say to each other: "If you don't believe me, go up into the bathroom and try opening the cabinet from the bottom. I know! How dumb do you have to be? Amazing!"

Luisa Miller, Buxton Opera House

Launching a series of eight operas, Buxton Festival, now in its 32nd year, is surely the most ambitious opera festival in the UK. The first of the rarely performed works in which it specialises, one of two productions created for the delightful little Derbyshire theatre, is Verdi's Luisa Miller. It's a rum plot, loosely based on a watered-down version of a Schiller play, sung here in Italian with small surtitles. The love between Luisa, daughter of the army veteran Miller, and Rodolfo – the Count's son in disguise – is frustrated by a dastardly conspiracy. The Count and his steward, a nasty piece of work called Wurm, threaten Luisa, on her father's life, to renounce Rodolfo.

Mary Stuart, Grand Theatre, Leeds

There's much that is puzzling in Opera North's production of Donizetti's Maria Stuarda. Why call it Mary Stuart when it's sung in the original Italian? With two such regal singers in the soprano Antonia Cifrone and the mezzo Sarah Connolly as Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, respectively, why doesn't their music dazzle more? And how could the company have cast, in Frederic Bourreau's Talbot, a stolid singer with such wooden gestures?

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