Design Karin Mobring
The AMIRAL armchair was first launched in 1970, when it had a frame in fully welded, chrome-plated steel tubing. The seat, back and armrests were solid, high-end saddle leather from Johnssons Sadelmakeri in Killeberg. IKEA bought the parts from the saddlery and sent them to Mitab, an engineering company in Tranås, which made the frame and assembled the overall chair.
The chair quickly became popular. But it wasn’t easy to keep up with customer demand for AMIRAL. The saddlery had limited capacity and was unable to make the leather details quickly enough. Also, the armchair couldn’t be packed into a flat pack. AMIRAL took a lot of space during shipping and storage, which made it quite expensive. A new version that could be flat-packed and self-assembled was therefore presented in the 1973 IKEA catalogue. This one had a sand-coloured load-bearing fabric in the seat and back instead of leather, and a thin seating cushion in sand-coloured fabric. Only the armrests were leather, which brought the price down by 15%. Even so, AMIRAL designer Karin Mobring always preferred the original.
KLOT was a spherical lamp, and was available in a wide range of colours and variations for many years. The lamp’s round exterior was originally from an aluminium speaker made by a company in Töreboda.
KLOT was one of the first products lighting designer Lennart Centervall designed for IKEA. He was employed in 1969, after working as a salesman at Danish lighting company Louis Poulsen.
To begin with Lennart worked as a buyer in the lighting department at IKEA in Älmhult. It was his cooperation with suppliers that inspired him to design lamps himself. And KLOT was just the beginning.
Design Vico Magistretti
The TELEGONO lamp, launched in the 1970 IKEA catalogue, was designed by renowned Italian architect and industrial designer Vico Magistretti, for Italian lighting makers Artemide. Ingvar Kamprad and his co-workers had a great interest in plastic as a strong, functional material that was suitable for mass production. Also, up until the oil crisis of 1973 the low price of plastic materials was attractive. As early as spring 1960 Ingvar had visited the Milan Furniture Fair, showing an interest in lighting that he felt were part of a “Scandinavian line, possibly with certain Italian elements”. So it was not that strange that he fell for TELEGONO when it was presented in Milan.
The lamp’s design was based on the same rotatable shade solution as Vico Magistretti’s better-known table lamp, Eclisse from 1966. Since TELEGONO was made of plastic it was easy to direct, and the tilting inner shade made it possible to vary the light. It was sold by IKEA for a further year or so after its launch.
Design Hjördis Ohlsson-Une/Charlotte Rude
The DINO highchair was designed by Charlotte Rude and Hjördis Olsson-Une. It was one of their very first assignments for IKEA. Designing a high chair is not that easy, bearing in mind all the regulations and safety requirements related to children’s furniture. Thankfully, IKEA had just employed Bosse Wadling, a specialist from the Swedish Furniture Industry Association, who had recently written a standard for safe highchairs. Bosse knew most of what there was to know about laws and norms, technology and furniture testing, while Charlotte and Hjördis had a feeling for innovative, playful design. DINO was a successful collaboration between the three.
Bosse knew that many, or even most, highchairs on the market were pretty dangerous. But he also knew how to make a safe chair for little ones. His idea was that the base should be a ring, and the child should sit in a ‘bag’ that was fixed to the seating ring. And the tests at the Furniture Industry Association went very well.
Hjördis and Charlotte also created the famous ball room in the Kungens Kurva store in the early 1970s. Parents could leave their children there to play, while they looked at the home furnishings in peace and quiet.
The DINO highchair was launched in 1971 and remained in the catalogue for 12 years. Charlotte Rude and Hjördis Olsson-Une also stayed with IKEA for a long time, creating several popular products such as the ADAM bed and GOGO armchair.
Design Hjördis Ohlsson-Une/Charlotte Rude
The ADAM pine bed was aimed at a specific target group: bachelors. And there seemed to be a lot of them, as ADAM was certainly a big seller. This is how it was described in the catalogue: “The bachelor bed. This is what ADAM is all about. A large, green bed for conscious bachelors of both sexes, people with a feeling for and a demand on their living environment. A grand piece of furniture with thick, round corner posts. The word robust feels understated.”
The bed was designed by Charlotte Rude and Hjördis Olsson-Une, whose previous successes included the DINO highchair. Now they were targeting grown-up singles instead.
Some of the bachelors probably eventually ended up needing a double bed, and for them Hjördis and Charlotte designed EVA, which was launched as “A tempting, robust double bed” in the 1974 catalogue. ADAM and EVA both remained in the IKEA catalogue until the 1979 edition.
Design Karin Mobring
The square DIANA armchair is one of designer Karin Mobring’s most prominent classics. It is a safari chair – a ready-to-assemble, lightweight armchair that was originally used by the British Army in the field. The model was popularised in the 1930s by Danish designer Kaare Klint, who named it the “Safari Chair”.
IKEA released its first version, CIKADA by designer Bengt Ruda, in 1964. The 1967 catalogue presented the model as “The safari armchair – comfortable and practical”.
And 1972 saw the launch of Karin Mobring’s DIANA, with a pine frame. The seat was covered with a strong, sand-coloured load-bearing fabric, wound around the front edge and affixed using leather straps at the back of the seat. The back was fixed and covered with a sand-coloured load-bearing fabric. As a complement there was a polyether cushion for the seat, with a sand-coloured fabric cover.
DIANA was an incredible success, and over the years IKEA launched several safari models – including the best seller CIKADA. But DIANA lasted the longest with 11 years in the IKEA catalogue.
Design Gillis Lundgren
When the IMPALA seating furniture series was launched in the 1972 IKEA catalogue, it was presented as “a furniture event”. Reactions to the unusual shape were expected, and indeed welcomed, by IKEA. The catalogue text introducing IMPALA read: “It would be good to get your first impressions. Do you feel the attraction from the new, continental interior? Do you think of IMPALA as a luxurious, different, ‘difficult’, fashion-conscious or even just an ordinary piece of furniture? Exciting pieces like this are there to be talked about, discussed and enjoyed. At IKEA, we’re in love with this amazing piece with its soft, rounded, cosy lines. We’re excited by the wonderful comfort, the sofa’s bed function, and the individual usefulness of the easy chairs. And strangely enough, the price is very low – we feel we should also point that out.”
IMPALA was designed by Gillis Lundgren. No one is sure who named it IMPALA, but it is an unusual name that deviates from the usual naming system at IKEA. Since Gillis Lundgren was known to be interested in cars, it’s very possible that the name refers to the American Chevrolet Impala, which was popular in Sweden in the early 1970s. But with its elongated shape, it could also be a reference to the medium-sized impala antelope of Africa.
Ingvar Kamprad was very open about the fact that he didn’t believe in IMPALA. He found the shape too ‘difficult’, and bet Gillis a bottle of whisky it wouldn’t sell. He lost the bet when IMPALA became a huge seller, and Gillis won the whisky.
Design Tomas Jelinek
The KULING seating series combined red-lacquered tubing in soft shapes with sand-coloured cotton upholstery. The furniture targeted younger consumers, and was designed by Tomas Jelinek.
Tomas fled Czechoslovakia for Sweden during the Prague Spring of 1968, and was initially employed at the catalogue department. He had a solid education and experience as a designer, and became a full-time IKEA designer. He is behind some of the biggest sales successes of all time at IKEA. Having said that, KULING was an exception. With its sand-coloured cushions and bright red steel-tube frame, KULING should have been ideal for the trends of the time, but it vanished after just two years in the IKEA catalogue.
Design Lennart Centervall
The MANICK lamp was called “usefully versatile” in the 1972 IKEA catalogue. It was labelled as a desk/piano lamp. In the catalogue, IKEA explained that MANICK could also be used on “modern headboards with a shelf surface”, and last but not least, on a piano. The foot of MANICK had an angled arm which made the lamp particularly useful.
MANICK came in white, black and orange, and was designed by Lennart Centervall, an industrious designer of lamps at IKEA. But it wasn’t until the 1972 catalogue that he was mentioned by name. By then there were ten lamp series designed by him in the catalogue, including KLOT which he designed in 1970.
Design Svante Schöblom
In its early decades, IKEA often bought existing products from different suppliers. One example is the SNILLE chair, which was designed by Svante Schöblom.
Even during his years at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design Svante was interested in ergonomics. He carefully researched seat curves and back curves on seating furniture. After art college, Svante became a designer at plastics company Overman. One of his first jobs was to create a comfortable, stackable chair in moulded thermoplastic.
Overman had long had a working relationship with IKEA. When Ingvar Kamprad saw Svante Schöblom’s chair, he was so impressed he decided to buy it for IKEA. It was named SNILLE and launched in the 1973 catalogue. But despite its smart design, the chair was only in the catalogue for three years.
In the 2004 IKEA catalogue, however, SNILLE was back again, now as an office chair in two versions: stackable and on wheels. It was a great comeback, and SNILLE was in the catalogue for another 12 years!
Design Karin Mobring
The STABIL series included a dining table, chair, armchair, bench and mirror, and was launched in the IKEA catalogue in 1973. This was rustic furniture in the pine that was such an important part of the IKEA identity, and it suited the rural furnishing ideal of the 1970s.
STABIL was designed by Karin Mobring, one of the most influential designers at IKEA over the years. She was a brilliant, versatile designer who could deal with anything from traditional pine furniture to modern pieces made from steel tubing. Karin grew up on a farm in northern Sweden, and was firmly anchored in the rural vernacular style.
When Karin designed STABIL she insisted that the dining table should be untreated so it could be scrubbed with liquid castile soap like in the old days. The 1973 catalogue describes it as follows: “It’s called STABIL. A solid untreated pine table that’s 180 cm long and a full 100 cm wide. A lovely, steady table with a 3 cm top of solid pine which should ideally be left as it is. But if you like, polish it with fine sandpaper or scrub it with castile soap. … If the top gets a stain, simply sand it off! … People have been asking for a table like this for years. And now it’s here. And just look at that price!”
When Ingvar Kamprad later needed a desk at home, he chose the STABIL dining table.
Design Gillis Lundgren
With its blue denim upholstery, TAJT was youthful soft furniture that fit perfectly into the laid-back zeitgeist of the time. It was a combined sit, rest and lounge piece comprised of two 90×90 cm cushions which were 18 cm thick. The cushions were buttoned together by leather buttons in leather straps. If you put them on top of each other you had a sitting height of 36 cm. They could also be laid side by side to form a simple mattress. TAJT also came with a rolled cushion with a chrome-plated tubular stand, which could be locked to keep the cushion in place.
This innovative furniture was designed by Gillis Lundgren. TAJT was given pride of place on the 1973 catalogue cover, and was presented enthusiastically: “An invitation to the lovely, soft world where people and furniture spend time together in an easy-going, unconventional, status-free environment. Great, brand new furniture for 225 well-spent kronor (EUR 22.50). … TAJT is a fun, exciting piece of soft furniture. An easy chair, a bed, a kind of tête-à-tête sofa. … De-stress on TAJT, listen to music on TAJT, watch TV on TAJT!”
A few pages later are the words: “Denim, or jeans fabric. It leads the thoughts to leisure time and leisure jobs, to comfy, summer-light jeans. And everyone knows what jeans are! Finally, furniture with denim fabric! Robust, durable quality that comes mainly in blue or brown, and above all for the cushion-soft furnishing for the colourful tube range.”
The text makes it sound as if the world had just been waiting for denim furniture. But the story behind TAJT is far more practical. Ingvar Kamprad had bought kilometres of jeans fabric from a factory in China, and it was up to the product developers and designers to find a use for it. Lars Göran Peterson, head of purchasing at IKEA, said in a 2017 interview: “Ingvar Kamprad said ‘You need to start making products because the fabric will be here soon’. It’s interesting that denim is well-known in clothing, but no one has thought of using it for furniture. That fresh thinking, going outside the box and thinking differently, is very typical of Ingvar and IKEA.”
TAJT was in the IKEA catalogue for a full nine years, up to 1981.
Design Ole Gjerløv-Knudsen/Torben Lind
The SKOPA armchair was designed in 1969 by Danish designers Ole Gjerløv-Knudsen and Torben Lind, who called it ‘spandestolen’ in Danish, meaning ‘the bucket chair’. If you’ve seen it, it’s easy to see how it got its name. The frame for SKOPA was available in trendy colours for the time: white, brown or orange. There was also a cushion covered in black corduroy or striped turquoise/orange cotton fabric.
SKOPA came along at a time when plastic was a trendy material. The light, mouldable material was used for colourful furniture that reflected the optimistic, youthful zeitgeist. The 1974 edition of the IKEA catalogue writes enthusiastically about plastic as “the material of the future”: “The product development of plastic is an exciting, lively activity. Old enough to build on knowledge and experience. New enough to stimulate designers and technical designers into intensive further development. IKEA began using plastic in earnest several years ago. And today, we’re well advanced. Here, plastic is not an expensive innovation. Admire the design and colour, buy and enjoy!”
When IKEA had bought the rights to the SKOPA, it was only natural to have it made at a factory that produced plastic buckets and bowls. And it worked out great. According to the catalogue, it was a “surprisingly comfortable armchair with fine proportions”. Light and stackable.
But the oil crisis was looming in the background. The price of plastic rocketed. In the 1976 catalogue, SKOPA was the only plastic furniture left. The production method was so efficient, that the armchair could still be made despite the higher material costs. SKOPA remained in the range until 1981.
Design Tomas Jelinek
With its contemporary look and low price, the STRAJK trolley table was a popular product that could be found in many a teenager’s room in the 1970s. STRAJK was a smart, multifunctional piece of furniture on castors, with two table tops and a magazine pocket on the side. It was launched in the IKEA catalogue 1975 as a trolley table, bedside table and side table.
STRAJK had white-lacquered tops and a tubular frame in typical colours for the time: yellow, brown or red. The fabric magazine pocket on the side was in the same colour as the frame.
The table was designed by Tomas Jelinek, who was behind many of the biggest sales successes at IKEA. STRAJK was one of them. Thanks to its modern design, smart function and good quality at a low price, the table was a big seller that remained in the IKEA catalogue for a whole 19 years.
Design IKEA of Sweden
ARKITEKT is the best-known and longest lasting of the countless work lamps IKEA has launched over the years. It came in many bright colours, and lit up the life of many an industrious student and office worker for a full 17 years.
Many of the IKEA work lamps have been based on the classic anglepoise style, with springs allowing simple height adjustment. One of the first models was RICTA from 1960.
ARKITEKT was launched in 1976. Customers could choose between white, red, yellow, blue or brown.
Design Noboru Nakamura
With a frame of layer-glued bent wood veneer, POEM was an armchair in the same Scandinavian vein as the furniture of ground-breaking designers Bruno Mathsson and Alvar Aalto. But it commanded a far lower price.
POEM was designed by Japanese designer Noboru Nakamura. Lars Engman, who later became head of design at IKEA, talked about how it came about: “It was 1975, and I had just started working on easy chairs and armchairs at IKEA. In the designers’ room, Noboru Nakamura was sitting in the corner looking a bit abandoned. So I went up to him and said maybe we should make an armchair.”
By then, Noboru Nakamura had been living in Sweden for a couple of years, and was familiar with the Scandinavian design heritage. Together, he and Lars Engman starting working on an armchair that was intended to be like Mathsson’s and Aalto’s in terms of style. But of course, the price had to be lower. The solution was to order the wooden parts, the cushions and the seating units from different factories, to keep the price as low as possible. Therefore, POEM was also packaged and sold in three parcels.
The armchair was launched in 1976. It became an immediate sales success, and a long-term faithful product. It stayed in the range as POEM right up until 1991. And in 1992 its successor was launched: POÄNG, a modernised version where the 15-year-old design had been updated to give even better value for money. It is still sold at IKEA in 2021.
Design Niels Gammelgaard
The TED folding chair that was made by the millions is an eternal classic, by designer Niels Gammelgaard. One of the secrets of its success is the fact that it’s unusually comfortable compared to other folding chairs. Niels talked about the chair’s background:
“As a designer, you often visited the factories with the buyers to adapt your products into designs they could produce. On one such trip, we went to a large factory in Italy that made a lot for IKEA. While the buyer was negotiating in the office, I wandered around the factory to learn about their production process. In their model workshop, I developed a new chair with their skilled craftsmen. Just before we left, the buyer took my chair to the conference room and promised that if the factory could make them for 16 kronor (EUR 1.6), IKEA would buy 500,000 over the next three years.”
“After that, I didn’t hear anything about it for a long time. But at the range viewing in spring 1977 it was everywhere, in all kinds of colours, and was presented as that year’s new product. The comfort was great as I’d made the back curve twice as deep as other chairs on the market. The chair had been approved in Möbelfakta consumer tests, and it was the best and least expensive folding chair on the market. In the first year IKEA sold 1.2 million chairs.”
The chair was named TED when it was added to the IKEA range in 1976. It was then launched in the 1979 catalogue and remained for ten years. In subsequent years the series was supplemented with two small tables and a folding table that was mounted on the wall.
Design Lennart Centervall
When designer Lennart Centervall designed the FOTO floor lamp, he was clearly inspired by the lighting in photography studios. His idea was to create a lamp that provided directed lighting, ideal for reading or needlework. The shade was height adjustable and rotatable, so the lamp could be pointed in any direction.
Lennart had the same idea about a directed light when he designed a pendant version of FOTO. The lamp was described as “focus lighting for plants or a music centre, for example” when it was presented for the first time in the 1979 IKEA catalogue.
FOTO was a popular lamp in both versions. Its light, lacquered aluminium shade came in several colours: bright blue, black, white, signal red, yellow and clear-lacquered aluminium. The pendant version of the lamp is still sold at IKEA in 2021, in lacquered aluminium and two different sizes.
Service, 16 pieces
Design Carl-Gustaf Jahnsson
RONDO was a durable tableware series in undecorated feldspar porcelain, and it became very popular when it joined the range in December 1978. It was designed by Carl-Gustaf Jahnsson, who was originally a silversmith. When he started working for IKEA in the mid-1970s, he had had his own silver workshop since 1963.
RONDO was one of Carl-Gustaf’s first products for IKEA. There were plates and bowls, coffee cups, different sizes of deep bowls, and oval serving dishes. All with the characteristic raised round edge. One smart detail was that the plates also served as lids for the bowls. It was durable and dishwasher safe. The service was brought into the range in December 1978, and was seen in the catalogue on and off right up to 2001.
Carl-Gustaf also designed a range of cast-iron pots and pans which were also called RONDO, as well as several cutlery series for IKEA.
Design IKEA of Sweden
The BILLY bookcase is one of the biggest successes ever made by IKEA. With its many colours and combinations, it has a natural place in homes all over the world.
In the early years bookcases by IKEA largely comprised glass doors, drinks cabinets and base cabinets. But as time went on, more and more customers were looking for a ‘real bookcase’, and they got one in the 1967 catalogue. It was called TIGA and was the forerunner to BILLY. The words used to present TIGA in the catalogue were: “A real bookcase obviously contains books and nothing else. It’s high and offers plenty of shelf space.”
TIGA was a success. But it was difficult for IKEA to meet demand. It therefore launched the two similar models VIRA and REGAL, made by various suppliers across Europe. This was good for the business, but not for the customers. The shelves were similar to each other, but they couldn’t be combined. It would be better to have a single model, both for customers and for IKEA, as it could save money on distribution and logistics.
During a trip to Romania in 1975, engineer Arne Hall from IKEA visited several factories that made the various shelf models. This is where he got the idea for BILLY and drew a sketch right there in the factory.
The new model had to work for everyone, factories and customers alike. The bookcase came into the range in October 1977 and was named BILLY. No designer was mentioned in the protocol. Perhaps it was named after one Billy Liljedahl, head of advertising at the time – he had, after all, criticised the range department several times for the lack of a ‘real’ bookcase.
In the 1979 IKEA catalogue, BILLY was presented in oak and pine for the first time, alongside TIGA in white lacquer. BILLY was a success, and in the 1981 catalogue BILLY also appeared in white lacquer, while TIGA was discontinued.
Over the years, many new colours and designs would come along. In 2021, BILLY remains a best seller at IKEA.
Design IKEA of Sweden
The LACK side table is an IKEA classic that has come out in countless colours over the years. It has gradually grown into a whole series of shelves, TV benches and table nests. But say LACK, and most people think of the original square table, 55×55 cm. And this was also where the most fun colours could be found.
Vivianne Sjölin was the range coordinator at IKEA in those days. She thought that IKEA had too many big, heavy tables made of wood, metal and glass. Vivianne wanted to see nice, little, colourful tables that were easy to place with flexible use, and that customers might buy on impulse – almost like a souvenir.
She talked to Jan Hellzén, who was responsible for coffee tables at IKEA. Jan and his colleague Tomas Paulsson, who was in charge of dining tables, had just been to the furniture fair in Milan together. Tomas remembers: “Janne and I took a walk along Milan’s ‘fashion street’ and happened to see a little table in a window. We were impressed by the design. It was perhaps 50 by 50 centimetres, maybe ten centimetres thick and the legs were ten centimetres thick as well, very sturdy. So Janne and I said that we didn’t have a table like that in our range, one that you could put anywhere.”
Back home in Älmhult, Jan Hellzén made a sketch and had the model workshop make a trial version made out of particleboard. The table turned out very heavy. A few days later, Jan and Tomas were in the samples room talking about tables when Ingvar Kamprad stopped by, pointed at the table and said: “That’s a damn fine table, what’s the price?” So Tomas and Jan improvised a price of 298 kronor (EUR 29.80).
Ingvar’s reply: “Hell no! Make it out of board-on-frame [sandwich construction], and it can’t cost more than 75 kronor!”
Tomas was familiar with board-on-frame. He had developed big table tops made out of it. They were called BRA and were produced by a factory that made interior doors. So Jan visited the factory, and product development began in earnest.
Once the construction was finalised, it was left to Vivianne Sjölin to choose the colour. She remembers: “I have some of the first samples that Jan made at home. I said they should come in various colours as well.”
On 18 May 1979, the table came into the range in white and another four colours. The price was 78 kronor (EUR 7.80).
“Everyone who saw it warmed to it immediately and thought it was the best product of the year!” remembers Jan. LACK was launched in the 1981 catalogue, by which time the price had gone up to 89 kronor (EUR 8.90). Everyone was happy – apart from Ingvar, who thought the table was far too expensive.
In 2021 you can still buy the LACK table at IKEA, and at a lower price than the original. Ever cost-conscious, Ingvar Kamprad would probably have been happy with that.
Design collectivemade their first joint textile collection for IKEA in 1978. With their colourful patterns, in many ways they depicted the playful, youthful aesthetic of the 1970s. The group included artistic multi-taskers and strong designers who all believed in bright colours and bold patterns.
The initiative for the collaboration came from product manager for textiles at IKEA, Vivianne Sjölin. She had known the group’s founder, designer Inez Svensson, since she studied under her at Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm. Inez had worked with IKEA back in the early Seventies, and she was also an important discussion partner for Vivianne when it came to trends and tendencies in textiles.
10-gruppen’s first joint collection for IKEA was a large one, remembers Vivianne – and therefore expensive to make: “I spent the entire pattern budget, and my boss reminded me of it at every Monday meeting… all the money! … There were more than ten patterns and fabrics by the metre. There were also a few big fabric pieces. So it was quite a collection.”
When 10-gruppen was dissolved in 2015, IKEA acquired their rich archive. In connection with that, the AVSIKTLIG collection was launched, in which some of the group’s members worked with young designers at IKEA. AVSIKTLIG was a tribute to the iconic collective, which is such an important part of Swedish design history.