Design Preben Fabricius
The MOA coffee table in solid teak first appeared in the IKEA catalogue in 1960. With a handy, fold-up leaf with support beam, it offered excellent function and quality at a low price. It was one of the largest coffee tables in the IKEA range. With the leaf up, the table top measured a full 170×60 cm.
MOA was made by Ny-Ka Möbler in Tibro, and was designed by Danish architect Preben Fabricius. IKEA had been working successfully with Danish furniture factories in the 1950s, and in late 1958 the company advertised for architects in Danish newspapers. One of the seven architects IKEA started a collaboration with was Preben Fabricius.
He wrote about his models in a reply to the IKEA ad: “They all suit a modern, simple, rational design and construction. My only demand is that the quality has to be the very best.” These ideas about design and quality were made visible in the MOA coffee table.
Design Jørgen Maahr/Otto Nielsen
“Light, handy units for the age of mobile TV furniture.” This is how the 1960 IKEA catalogue described the table series PETITA, which included a coffee table, side table and hall table. There was also a PETITA sewing table with a hand-woven pull-out basket, a drawer unit and a magazine shelf.
Danish architects Jørgen Maahr and Otto Nielsen paid particular attention to function when they designed the PETITA series. The low tables worked just as well in front of the sofa or beside the armchair as against the wall. The most versatile one of all was the little side table PETITA I which could also be used as a TV stand, bedside table or telephone table. PETITA was made of sturdy teak table tops and solid oak frames, by Möbelfabriken Rex of Vaggeryd.
Design Gillis Lundgren
The TORE drawer unit was inspired by the kitchen cabinets IKEA started selling in 1955 under the name PAX. Designer Gillis Lundgren visited one of the factories that made the kitchen cabinets and drawer units out of fibreboard on a solid pine frame – a manufacturing method known as board-on-frame. This made them both light and stable. Gillis was particularly interested in a drawer unit that went by the name 8b. He realised that its size made it practical also outside of the kitchen. But then it would have to be sold also in lacquered form, ideally in many different colours. The PAX kitchen series was never lacquered at the factories. That was done by builders when they installed the cabinets and drawer units in people’s homes.
Gillis Lundgren immediately set about refining the 8b unit at the Ni-Jo Snickerier joinery factory in Älmhult, which could lacquer furniture. The result was the TORE drawer unit which was launched in the 1960 IKEA catalogue. TORE, often praised as ‘the universal drawer unit’, was one of the biggest successes to date at IKEA. It gradually came out in more and more colours, and was in the range up until 1977.
Nowadays, TORE is regarded as a piece of furniture history, and can be found in the permanent collections at IKEA Museum and at Sweden’s Nationalmuseum in Stockholm.
Design IKEA of Sweden
The iconic café chair ÖGLA has been sold at IKEA for 50 years. Key to its success were the ongoing, sometimes minor – yet vital – improvements IKEA made to the design and raw materials, based on technical progress, hard work, and a genuine love of the chair itself. This is also why IKEA has always been able to sell it at a low price.
Ingvar Kamprad found the original model for ÖGLA during a trip to Poland in January 1961. He was there with his father Feodor Kamprad, designer Bengt Ruda and head of purchasing Ragnar Sterte. The aim of the trip was to buy furniture for IKEA. But the four ran into problems from the start as they were not allowed to visit the factories they were interested in. Not until civil servant, engineer and designer Marian Grabinski came along to sort things out and arrange visas could they really get started.
Ingvar Kamprad has said: “Early the next morning we took the train to Radomsko, and I’ll never forget creeping around in a dark attic holding candles, looking for tools to make bentwood chairs. We eventually found the chair that would later become ÖGLA. It has been faithful to us for many years.” The model Ingvar found was inspired by the typical café chair designed by Thonet in Vienna, Austria, around the turn of the century. These were often brown, had holes in the seat and were very durable.
IKEA ordered 500 chairs immediately. But when they arrived the engineers discovered that the chair was slightly unstable. A slight adjustment to the leg structure made it far more sturdy and long-lasting. It was made of bent, clear-lacquered beech, and was described in the 1962 catalogue as a “cheerful” and “robust relaxing chair”. A few years later, in September 1964, Swedish interior design magazine Allt i Hemmet ran a well-known test: ÖGLA and four similar, far more expensive, competing chairs were tested. ÖGLA came out on top and became a true best seller.
In the subsequent years, ÖGLA was sold in a wide range of variations. The black-lacquered one was particularly popular. But Ingvar Kamprad was annoyed that the chair wouldn’t go into a flat pack. It was discontinued in about 1978, but after a while Ingvar wanted to give it another chance. He missed ÖGLA and asked designer Gillis Lundgren to try to make ÖGLA in a new way, now in plastic. Gillis turned to countless professors and engineers for technical assistance, but no one could find a material or production technique that worked. Eventually however Rune Ask, a friend of Ingvar Kamprad and an expert in chemistry and industrial engineering, managed to identify the components that would be needed. There was no factory that considered itself capable of making the material, so Gillis and Rune Ask carried on trying until they had made a chair that was plastic and would go into a flat pack. It took four years from prototype to catalogue launch, in 1984, and ÖGLA was once again a big sales success – especially as the updated version could also be used outdoors.
Several times over the years, ÖGLA has been improved in various ways to make production more environmentally sustainable, and to bring the price down. Product developers, purchasers and engineers have worked hard to take advantage of new technology and innovative ideas that make ÖGLA even better. Sometimes the chair has been taken out of the range for a while, as work has gone on behind the scenes. During one such break, in 2018 when IKEA was 75 years old, a slightly updated version of the ÖGLA chair came out, called BJURÅN. In 2021 both that one made of beech and beech veneer, and ÖGLA made of propylene plastic, can be bought at IKEA.
Design Marian Grabinski
MTP – which as the 1963 IKEA catalogue explained stood for Måttriktig, Trivsam, Prisbillig (Well-dimensioned, Pleasant, Well-priced) – was a complete shelving system in light natural oak that could be combined freely. It included a bookcase, cabinet, drawer unit, TV bench and more.
From the start, MTP was actually a wedding gift to Ingvar Kamprad and Margareta Stennert. In January 1961, Ingvar went to Poland to look for new suppliers. There he met civil servant, engineer and designer Marian Grabinski. He was very accommodating and arranged factory visits for Ingvar, which led to a large order. Marian and Ingvar became good friends, and some time later they met again in Milan. When Ingvar said he was soon to marry his fiancée Margareta, Marian wanted to give them a surprise. On the plane on the way back to Warsaw he designed the MTP bookcase, and the Polish factory Jarocin quickly made a sample in light, Polish oak.
The gift was presented to Ingvar at the international Polish furniture fair in Poznań, and he was delighted. So delighted in fact that he also wanted to see it on sale in the IKEA store. The shelving system was sold under the name MTP and was a big seller at IKEA for more than a decade.
Design Tapio Wirkkala
The three elegant pendant lamps in coloured glass, with a specially designed light bulb and a neck in matt-black metal, were designed by the famous Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala. It was a brief collaboration, as the lamps turned out to be too costly for IKEA.
Tapio Wirkkala became famous after winning the Iittala glass design prize in 1946. Wirkkala was highly versatile, and these lamps are just a fraction of his contribution to Scandinavian design. IKEA bought the lamps from the Idman factory in Finland. Wirkkala had also designed the beautiful light bulbs, which were part of the overall design and were called Idman bulbs. Normal light bulbs did fit as well, but they didn’t look as impressive.
In late 1961, IKEA signed a contract to become the sole distributor for Idman in Sweden, even though IKEA product manager at the time, Ulla Karlsson, thought they cost too much. As soon as 1962, YKSI and KAKSI appeared in the catalogue. The following year Wirkkala lamps were given a whole page, which also introduced VIISI, KUUSI and NELJÄ. They were presented with the words: “Perhaps no name is as synonymous with modern lighting as Tapio Wirkkala, the famous Finnish designer who has won awards around the world in recent years.”
But for lovers of Wirkkala’s design, the joy was short-lived, and the lamps were never seen in an IKEA catalogue again. Product manager Ulla Karlsson was right – the lamps cost too much.
Design Otto Nielsen
Children’s furniture ANNA came as a set of two chairs and a table. The great thing about the chair was that it could grow with the child as it offered two sitting heights – higher or lower simply by flipping the chair over.
ANNA was designed by Danish architect Otto Nielsen. IKEA had been working successfully with Danish furniture makers already in the 1950s, and in 1958 the company advertised for architects in Danish newspapers. One of the seven designers IKEA started a collaboration with was Otto Nielsen.
ANNA was launched in the 1964 IKEA catalogue. This excellent Danish design was so popular that IKEA sold it for 25 years.
Design Erik Wørts
GRÅBO was a slimline sofa bed that was attractive and comfortable to sit on, and could be converted into an extra bed when required. This is how it was described in the 1964 catalogue: “… intended as an extra bed, so the special construction lets you simply release the entire seating unit. … When you want to use it as a bed, simply pull the seat forward and it will slide along the rails in the sides and the back rest will become horizontal with the seat. This makes the sleeping area 75 cm wide, giving you a great extra bed.”
GRÅBO was designed by architect Erik Wørts. There were plenty of sofa beds in the IKEA range at the time, but few were as elegant as GRÅBO.
Design Bitten Højmark
The OKTETT rya rug, designed by Danish textile designer Bitten Højmark, was part of a uniform textile series called Linje Harmoni or Harmony Line. It was developed by Bitten along with the first textile purchaser at IKEA, Börje Lång.
Bitten Højmark was employed to take the overall approach to home textiles that Ingvar Kamprad had neither the time nor the skills for. Linje Harmoni was one aspect of this process. The series was described like this in the 1965 IKEA catalogue:
“The aim of Linje Harmoni is clear – to help our customers with the often difficult matter of choosing a colour scheme for the home interior. We present in this series a virtually tailor-made furnishing programme, which focuses not only on design but equally on quality of materials and manufacturing. We had the series developed with well-known Swedish producers.”
The work Bitten and Börje did together became the foundation of the home textiles range that made IKEA a popular venue for textile products in the decades that followed.
Design IKEA of Sweden
The neat, round POLO armchair was discovered by Ingvar Kamprad at a furniture fair in the mid-1960s. It was made by M Wincrantz Möbelindustri AB in Skövde, and was soon added to the IKEA range under the name POLO.
The 1967 IKEA catalogue cover featured four POLO in different colours against a black background. The catalogue read: “The sensational armchair on the cover, POLO has an extraordinarily durable frame in fibreglass-reinforced plastic. Sensational quality for such a pleasantly low price. This ultra-strong frame gives POLO a simple, beautiful design, soft and rounded, and makes it easy to place anywhere. … The comfort of POLO is enhanced in that it can rotate on its chrome frame.”
POLO became a big seller, especially with orange fabric and black imitation leather. In 1968 it was given MYRTEN cretonne fabric, by designer Sven Fristedt. But by the 1970 catalogue, POLO had been discontinued. Maybe it was too costly? Was fibreglass plastic too hard to produce? The minutes of an IKEA meeting from May 1967 show that one co-worker was tasked to find out “if we can get POLO with fibreglass also moving forward”. But it never did happen, and POLO was discontinued.
POLO did, however, reappear twice in anniversary collections at IKEA. First in 1993 under the name ORSA, and most recently in 2003 under the name SKRUVSTA. And now it was not only rotatable, but also height adjustable.
Design Karin Mobring
KATINKA was a suite comprising a sofa and armchair, shown in the 1968 IKEA catalogue alongside the rotating coffee table KARUSELL – all designed by Karin Mobring. The sofa and armchair were made of bent, lacquered plywood with corduroy cushions. The KARUSELL coffee table was made of particleboard.
Already in the early 1960s, Ingvar Kamprad had started looking into particleboard as a good, well-priced raw material. He imagined that the material would work well in combination with the modern new furniture style he had seen at the Milan furniture fair in 1960 – a style that was clearly Scandinavian inspired.
The result was clear to see in the 1968 IKEA catalogue. It presented several new series, with a lot of space being devoted to Karin Mobring’s new plywood furniture. It was presented as “Fashionable furniture that’s also comfortable”. Both KATINKA and KARUSELL came in red, blue and white. The KATINKA suite was only in the IKEA catalogue for two years, but the KARUSELL rotating coffee table was a real success and was sold for ten years.
Design Christer Blomquist
The 1969 IKEA catalogue launched a new lounge chair, KRÖKEN, under the heading “Fashionable furniture that’s also comfortable”. KRÖKEN had an underframe in nickel-plated steel tubing, and was clad in a very strong fabric of linen quality called ‘firehose fabric’. On top of the fabric was a mattress-like cushion with soft fibre-fill filling.
Designer Christer Blomquist spent a lot of time on ergonomics when developing his new lounge chair. The catalogue is quite poetic in its description: “Don’t you just long to try it? A super-comfy chaise-longue that lets your whole body relax. Your feet come up to a comfortable height, and you sit (or should we say lie?) as comfortably as you could ever wish.” The next year’s catalogue, 1970, also added: “It’s hardly a surprise that KRÖKEN has garnered so much attention in both the Swedish and foreign press.”
But KRÖKEN was not easy to ship, so it left the range in December 1971. However, in March 1973 it came back in a flatter pack, now under the name KROKEN.
Table lamp/table lamp/floor lamp
ETTAN, JOKER and KANALJ were three models of lamp with one thing in common: they were not designed by IKEA, but were models acquired from Gnosjö Konstsmide in Småland.
JOKER was a table lamp with a cylindrical lacquered metal shade. At the top of the shade was a small metal ring that would make the lamp easy to move around. According to the 1969 IKEA catalogue, JOKER was a lamp with “a fun new shape for a young, unconventional setting”. This youthful lamp was sold in three colours: white, red and blue. JOKER also came as a floor lamp called KANALJ.
ETTAN too originated from Gnosjö Konstsmide. It was an adjustable desk lamp with a metal post and base. ETTAN also came in a floor lamp version, called TVÅAN. Both versions came lacquered in white or blue.
Design Erik Wørts
When it was launched in the 1969 IKEA catalogue, LENA was presented as “A smash hit!” It was designed by Danish architect Erik Wørts, who found the inspiration for the shape during a visit to the factory that had already been making the best selling ÖGLA chair for IKEA for seven years. There he saw how round beech rods were steamed in hot furnaces, and then bent by hand and assembled into chairs. Wørts’s own version was the LENA chair.
Erik Wørts was a major contributor to the success of the IKEA range. It was clear that Ingvar Kamprad admired him: “He is tremendously knowledgeable about furniture culture and tradition, and he has an ability to gently adapt these aspects to modern needs.”
The LENA chair was originally sold in white, dark blue and beech. The 1969 IKEA catalogue again: “Architect Erik Wørts has made a chair that’s both beautiful and comfortable. The broad back slats provide excellent support and comfortable rest. And LENA is a price sensation as well! Compare the comfort, design and quality with other chairs in this price range! LENA is in a class of its own, far above the average.”
Design Karin Mobring
The dark blue PAVO was launched in two versions: as a coffee table and a TV bench. When PAVO was presented in the 1969 IKEA catalogue, it was mentioned that the furniture had already received a lot of attention in the interior design press. PAVO was described as a “fully modern solution for new, young furnishing”. And it certainly stood out in a catalogue still largely dominated by period furniture and crystal chandeliers.
Architect Karin Mobring was the woman behind PAVO. She was one of the most productive and trend-setting designers at IKEA. In the 1969 catalogue alone, she had as many as 24 products in addition to PAVO. Karin Mobring trained at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm and had also been involved in the architecture firm of Carl Malmsten for a couple of years. At IKEA, she led a large part of the development work.
PAVO had a top of dark blue plastic lacquer, and an underframe in blue-lacquered steel tubing. For a very reasonable 11 kronor (EUR 1.1) extra, the TV bench could be fitted with castors.
Design Gillis Lundgren
TROFÉ was a series of soft armchairs in polyether, in cheerful bright colours like red, orange, yellow and blue. In the 1960s, various kinds of soft furniture began popping up on the market, like big sacks full of plastic beans, inflatable armchairs, and die-cast seating furniture made of polyurethane foam.
Designer Gillis Lundgren at IKEA could see the way the winds were blowing. But rather than using polyurethane foam, an eco-villain, he found a way of cutting out two pieces of polyether, gluing them together and covering them in fabric – one piece became the seat, and the other piece the backrest. Gillis and IKEA applied for a patent on the method. The 1969 IKEA catalogue presented the result, the TROFÉ armchair, as a great bargain “for anyone with a young mindset”, including the following description:
“No one would have believed that such fun, colourful, durable, comfortable, functional products could be made from polyether – until now. After years of practical use, advanced technical development and ever-increasing quality, polyether can now finally be made into cosy, unfragile furniture – fun to furnish with, nice to look at, and comfy to sit in. And reasonably priced too!”
TROFÉ was only in the IKEA catalogue for four years. It obviously couldn’t be delivered in a flat pack, and polyether was not cheap either. In the mid-1970s, efficient new ways of die-casting polyether came along, but by then TROFÉ had become furniture history.