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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Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee