The Story of IKEA

Main exhibition

A black and white photo of Ingvar Kamprad at his desk, taking notes while talking on the phone.
A black and white photo of Ingvar Kamprad at his desk, taking notes while talking on the phone.

Our main exhibition The Story of IKEA takes you from the very beginning at Ingvar Kamprad’s childhood farm home in Agunnaryd, to the first IKEA store in Älmhult and out into the world. The exhibition is divided into three sections: Our Roots, IKEA Through the Ages and The Many Sides of Ingvar Kamprad.

A black and white photo showing the façade of the very first IKEA store in Älmhult, cars and visitors.
A podium with a beige POÄNG chair, a red IKEA PS 2002 watering can, and a black and yellow IKEA logo from the past.

Our roots

Step right into Småland and the inventiveness of the poor farming community. You’ll meet diligence and ingenuity, and see some of the beginnings of modern Sweden. Add together the industrious Småland creativity with the ideas of Swedish modernism and Ingvar Kamprad’s entrepreneurial spirit – and you have the embryo for IKEA.

A house-like blue shape with wooden furniture from the era in which IKEA was founded, and “Our Roots” written on a wall.
So where does our tradition of thrift come from? From the meagre, stony soil of Småland.

Smålanders have a reputation for being very careful with money. Perhaps that’s why they coped so well when times were hard. If you don’t have much, you have to economise with what you do have. Småland craftiness became a kind of functional creativity, and stubbornness was crucial if you wanted to earn a livelihood.

A house-like grey shape with a photo of a woman milking a cow, shoes and wooden tools for cooking and churning butter.
Our thriftiness comes from a tradition of having to be inventive. Use everything, waste nothing!

Modern Sweden began to take shape in the early 20th century. All Swedes should now have the same rights to education, health care and jobs. A clean, well-planned, modern home was regarded as a democratic right. Everyone should have a good home!
As prosperity increased, so too did the need for practical modern furniture. For Ingvar Kamprad and IKEA, the timing couldn’t have been better.

A classic, Swedish Fifties kitchen with wooden doors and drawers in mint green and a worktop in stainless steel.
Everything was new and modern. Even the method for making classic meatballs was modernised in the 1950s.

IKEA Through the Ages

How do you create a better everyday life for the many people? By daring to think differently! Behind the IKEA you see today, there is an exciting and sometimes rebellious story of great determination, Småland stubbornness and a great affection for all those striving to improve their day-to-day lives. The IKEA Through the Ages section gives you a chance to get to know us. You will see the home changing over the decades in rooms that were typical of their time, and you will also find out what has shaped IKEA.

IKEA Museum visitors taking photos of an upside-down Seventies room with yellow, blue and brown furniture attached to the ceiling.
Explore and discover ten interiors showing how life at home has changed between the 1960s and 2010s.

One of Ingvar Kamprad’s most important principles was to make good design accessible to the many people. And for IKEA, accessibility comes from low prices. Flat packs, smart distribution, large volumes, innovative production solutions and Småland thrift helped these low prices to become a reality. Today, we have a name for good design, functionality, quality and sustainability and low price – we call it Democratic Design. But the idea of democratising the furniture industry by charging low prices has been in our DNA from the very start.

A black and white photo from 1965 with Ingvar Kamprad holding an ÖGLA chair, three more chairs and a drawer unit.
Ingvar Kamprad with the ÖGLA chair, 1965.

When the very first IKEA catalogue was issued, no-one could have had any idea that our catalogues would become one of the most widely distributed publications in the world. Ever since the 1950s, it has been our most important way of reaching people around the globe. These days, billions of people access inspiring room settings and facts about our furniture on our website and via our apps.

The 1956 IKEA catalogue with an illustrated motif in black, orange and offwhite depicting an armchair and the IKEA logo.
The 1956 IKEA catalogue, motif by Gillis Lundgren. Gillis was employed to work on the catalogue, but then became a designer and the first product development manager at IKEA.
A modern-style IKEA catalogue cover with an IKEA Museum visitor lying in a bed made with a white quilt cover and cushions.
The exhibition includes a photo studio featuring the set of our latest catalogue cover. Seize the opportunity to have a photo taken of yourself on the cover of the IKEA catalogue when you come here!

The Many Sides of Ingvar Kamprad

Are you curious about Ingvar Kamprad and would like to know more about him? Here you can discover him from many different perspectives. You’ll meet him and his family, have a peek into his office and find out how he came to be an entrepreneur. You’ll also find out more about his charitable work, and see how he planned for IKEA and its survival into the future.

Ingvar Kamprad smiles in front of the Älmhult store in 1983, with several blue and white IKEA flags in the background.
Ingvar Kamprad in front of the Älmhult store, 1983.
Ingvar Kamprad talking to a group of IKEA store co-workers in different yellow and blue shirts.
Ingvar Kamprad loved to work ‘on the floor’. Shown here with a co-worker during a 2007 visit to the store in Delft, The Netherlands.
A large wooden dining table desk, an office chair, an oriental carpet, an office chair and two chairs, and a bookshelf.
Ingvar Kamprad’s home office in Switzerland, recreated in the exhibition.

In the films shown in the exhibition, Ingvar Kamprad talks about his family, early business activities, failures, struggles and opportunities. Ingvar was a natural entrepreneur who valued honesty and simplicity. He had a good head for business and was good at bringing his employees on board. He wasn’t afraid of making mistakes and encouraged his employees to take risks.