Design IKEA of Sweden
The ANTILOP high chair is one the longest-living products at IKEA. It is still in the range today, 30 years after being launched in January 1991. The idea was to make a highchair that was easy to bring along, with legs that were simple to attach and remove.
Generally speaking, IKEA develops products in a team including product developer, designer and engineer. The product developer outlines the functional requirements, the designer designs, and the engineer makes technical design drawings. But on this occasion, the engineer already had a firm idea of what the chair would look like, and calculated the optimum angle between the seat unit and legs to make the highchair as stable and safe as possible. To keep the price low, the design also had to be simple.
Over time, the highchair was given metal-coloured legs instead of white, and was fitted with a safety belt. However, it was soon discovered that the belt sometimes opened by itself, and posed a risk that the child might fall out. IKEA received eight reports that the belt had come undone, and in three cases the child had fallen out and received minor injuries. Immediately, IKEA issued a warning, telling everyone who had an ANTILOP at home to contact IKEA for a free replacement buckle. Otherwise, the design is the same today as it always was. ANTILOP has been in every issue of the IKEA catalogue since 1991.
Design Nike Karlsson
The EMIL wooden chair was originally a student piece by joiner and future University College of Arts, Crafts and Design student, Nike Karlsson. IKEA discovered and fell in love with the characteristic chair at the Stockholm Furniture Fair in 1992, and started working with Nike.
The chair was launched in autumn 1992 and was named EMIL. It was made of untreated pine or spruce, and also came in a brighter version with red, green-yellow or black stain.
In 1993 EMIL received the Excellent Swedish Design award for its contemporary simple design. And when, in 2004, IKEA launched an IKEA PS collection exclusively for children, EMIL turned up in a children’s model, also designed by Nike Karlsson.
Design IKEA of Sweden/Swedish National Heritage Board
The HALLUNDA dining chair was part of the renowned 18th century collection which IKEA launched in 1993. Inspiration was taken from a group of Gustavian chairs at Gripsholm Castle, which in turn was inspired by a chair King Gustav III had seen in the French King’s dining hall at the Palace of Versailles.
Castles, kings and Gustavian chairs were perhaps not what people associated with IKEA at the time. But the Gustavian collection does have a special story, which began at the listed Medevi Brunn spa outside Motala, where a collection of unique 18th century furniture was in danger of being sold off. Sweden’s National Antiquarian at the time, Margareta Biörnstad, turned to IKEA for financial help in preserving the furniture. She eventually came into contact with Ingvar Kamprad. Over lunch, they reached a business agreement between IKEA and the Swedish National Heritage Board.
True to form, Ingvar never did anything that didn’t pay in some way. Along with head of design Lennart Ekmark, he decided that an 18th century collection would be good for the upcoming 50-year anniversary of IKEA. The Swedish National Heritage Board made Lars Sjöberg, curator at Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, into a collaborator. He was tasked with finding the right originals for the collection. Medevi Brunn would receive about 8,500 euros for every Swedish 18th century model that was taken into the range.
A series of carefully copied Swedish 18th century furniture was developed. The Heritage Board placed high demands on quality and faithfulness to the Swedish tradition of craftsmanship. But IKEA also stuck to its principles of low prices and certain adaptations to industrial production. The reproductions were carefully checked by the meticulous curator Sjöberg before they were given the Swedish National Heritage Board’s seal of approval.
In June 1993, the collection was presented at Råshult outside Älmhult, birthplace of the famous botanist, Linnaeus. A special brochure was produced, Swedish 18th century at IKEA, which included the HALLUNDA chair. The name came from the Hallunda estate in Botkyrka parish, where chairs of this kind had been in the main building’s dining room since the late 18th century.
Design Ehlén Johansson
It’s easy to see where HATTEN got its name, which means ‘the hat’. The small side table looks like an upside-down hat on legs The ‘brim’ is a lid, and inside the ‘hat’ is room for storage.
HATTEN was designed by industrial designer Ehlén Johansson, and was part of the focus on small tables at IKEA in the early 1990s. The material was transparent plastic, and the table initially came in clear, red and blue. More colours would eventually be added.
HATTEN was launched in the 1995 IKEA catalogue and was last seen in the 2015 edition.
Design Morten Kjelstrup/Allan Østgaard
MAMMUT is a colourful series of children’s furniture that’s still a popular part of the IKEA range. The playful design was created by architect Morten Kjelstrup and fashion designer Allan Østgaard, who were inspired by their own children and the way they played.
Morten and Allan understood that children’s furniture had to be completely different to adult’s furniture. It not only has to have different proportions, it also has to be lighter and more stable. The design should fit in with children’s imagination, rather than their parents’ tastes. The world of comic strips was an important source of inspiration, and the designers’ children were often consultants when MAMMUT was being developed.
MAMMUT was originally made in solid wood, particleboard and had polystyrene legs. This made the furniture quite heavy, which made it difficult for children to handle. After a few years of further development, since 1999 the series has been made entirely out of UV-resistant plastic. This made the furniture lighter, and it could be used both outdoors and in.
MAMMUT was launched across a whole spread in the 1994 IKEA catalogue. That same year it was voted Furniture of the Year by Swedish interior design magazine Sköna Hem (Beautiful Homes).
MAMMUT is a series under constant development. Every year it undergoes meticulous safety tests. And it costs less today than it did when it was launched.
Design Tina Christensen
The small, kidney-shaped NJURUNDA table could be used both alone and in pairs. It cost so little that customers could ideally buy two at once. And if you put two NJURUNDA together, they made the classic Chinese symbol for yin and yang.
NJURUNDA was part of the IKEA initiative to produce small, easily placed side tables in playful modern designs. The plastic played an important part in the small tables, since it’s a flexible material that makes it possible to create complex shapes at a low price. The kidney-shaped table-top with a wavy edge would have been very expensive had it been made in any material other than plastic.
Designer Tina Christensen also designed a little sibling to NJURUNDA called APPLERYD. It had the same wavy edge as NJURUNDA on the round top and foot.
Design Ehlén Johansson
BJÖRKVALLA was a series of bedroom furniture designed by Ehlén Johansson. It was made in light birch and had soft, simple shapes. The bed had a headboard that was easy to adjust if you wanted to sit up in bed.
When BJÖRKVALLA was launched in the early 1990s, it marked the beginning of a new era in design. It was far from the earlier wayward range that included black leather, chrome and mahogany that was so popular during much of the Eighties, and could still be found in the IKEA range to some extent. IKEA had been looking too much at its competitors for inspiration, but new times were coming, with lighter woods and simpler forms. The style that came to be called Scandinavian soon began to take shape.
Design Uno Dahlén
The SMOG floor lamp was designed by lighting designer Uno Dahlén. It was intended as part of a new style from IKEA called ‘Young Swede’, which would have a young, rebellious, colourful expression with roots in the youthful 1970s profile at IKEA. SMOG was also a playful new interpretation of older lamps designed by Uno Dahlén in the 1960s and ’70s.
The sale start of SMOG was in 1993 and it stayed in the IKEA catalogue until 1997.
Design Thomas Eriksson
The IKEA PS table and wall clock today features in Sweden’s Nationalmuseum’s permanent collections, as an example of tone-setting Swedish design. This is how iconic this small, slightly plump, keyhole-shaped clock, designed by architect and designer Thomas Eriksson, has become.
The clock was part of a design project initiated by IKEA during the first half of the 1990s. IKEA had brought in three strong designer profiles who all represented a modern, minimalist expression: Stefan Ytterborn, Thomas Sandell and Thomas Eriksson. The collection would be a tribute to the traditional Scandinavian style, and was in stark contrast to the more extravagant, kitschy design of the 1980s. The collection was named IKEA PS, as it was a kind of post script to the standard range.
IKEA PS was launched in 1995 at the international furniture fair in Milan, under the heading Democratic Design. These words summed up the ambition to create products of good design, high quality, good function and sustainable production. All at a low price that many people could afford. The collection was very well received.
The clock, which came in several colours and could also be used for small storage, became one of the stars of the collection. Thomas Eriksson had been inspired by the top section of old-fashioned floor clocks, but the expression in the IKEA PS one was modern through and through. It was sold at IKEA until 2005. Nowadays, it is available in the IKEA Museum shop.
Chest of drawers
Design Tomas Jelinek
With the VAJER chest of drawers, designer Tomas Jelinek wanted to move away from the flat drawer fronts that are most common on drawers today. Instead he wanted to make a modern version of the somewhat bulbous, bow-shaped drawer fronts on Baroque and Rococo chests of drawers. This kind of front became too expensive to make out of wood when furniture began being made industrially in the 1950s. So Tomas Jelinek decided to make a plastic drawer front. Plastic makes it possible to produce sophisticated shapes, but that requires costly plastic tools. But since IKEA sells such high volumes, the investment in expensive tools soon pays for itself. And the high volumes mean prices can still be kept low.
Tomas designed a unique chest of drawers with six drawers and a bulbous, wavy front. It was named VAJER and was available in various colours and sizes up until 2003. Perhaps the best known is the bright red version.
Design IKEA of Sweden
The BANG mug is the first example of an approach that has become key to IKEA: that it is possible to have a far lower price for a familiar product which everyone knows the normal price of. On its launch, BANG cost just fifty cents. It came in white, green, yellow and blue, and was immediately very popular.
But it actually all started with a hot dog. Most people who have visited an IKEA store are familiar with the hot dog, which still costs fifty cents today. It began being sold at stores in the late 1980s, and Ingvar Kamprad wanted the hot dog to be half the price of one in town. Customers should be amazed at how cheap the hot dog was, and also how delicious. It was a success.
IKEA soon discovered that the same approach could be applied to other products – and the BANG mug was the first. The mug sold very well, but it soon required some product development. Since the mug was not stackable, it took up too much space in distribution and sales. A new model of BANG was developed, but the function and design were not as good as before, and it was nowhere near as popular with customers. After four years it was replaced by the TROFÉ mug, which was stackable and looked good. It is still sold in 2021, only under the name FÄRGRIK. The price has barely gone up since 1996 and, to quote Ingvar Kamprad, it still doesn’t cost any “more than the loose change in people’s pockets”.
Design Magnus Lundström/Susan Pryke/Anki Spets
With its IKEA 365+ kitchen series, IKEA wanted to provide a complete solution for everyday life. The collection was launched in 1997 and included more than 70 simple basic products that the customer could use from the kitchen worktop to the dining table every day, all year round. Thus the name: IKEA 365+. The number for the days in a year, and a + to indicate that the products offered ‘that little bit extra’.
The series was inspired by Ingvar Kamprad’s business idea for IKEA and ‘More beautiful everyday items’, the classic campaign for simple yet aesthetically appealing everyday products launched by the Swedish Society of Crafts and Design in 1919.
It was a comprehensive series of well-designed, functional products for preparing and eating food, at as low a price as possible. The series was developed by product developers at IKEA in collaboration with Anki Spets, a glass and textile designer based in New York, industrial designer Magnus Lindström from Stockholm and Susan Pryke, a porcelain and ceramic designer from London. They chose materials that could take many years of robust use, such as feldspar porcelain and stainless steel.
IKEA 365+ was updated with new global functions and a new design launched in 2017. And still today, IKEA 365+ products are very popular parts of the IKEA kitchen range.
Design Knut Hagberg/Marianne Hagberg
The ROBIN multimedia shelf was part of a series of furniture that also included a TV bench, a bookcase, wall shelving and a desk. It entered the range in 1997 and quickly became a big seller, as CDs were still ‘in’ and would remain so for several years.
Initially the successful ROBIN was the result of a failed experiment. At the end of the 1990s, IKEA had started experimenting with dyed particleboard. The idea came from Giorgi Nocievski, known as ‘The Inventor’ due to his ingenuity. The particles for the board were mixed with pigment, adding colour to the furniture without having to paint them. Design sister and brother Marianne Hagberg and Knut Hagberg fell in love with the idea and designed a whole series of furniture made from dyed particleboard with birch-coloured edging. Unfortunately, it turned out that the technique was not suitable for mass production. But the series that included the ROBIN multimedia shelf was too good to give up on. It proved better to make it from foiled particleboard with birch-coloured edging.
ROBIN remained in the IKEA catalogue for five years, but as CDs became a thing of the past, so too did the shelf in the mid-noughties.
Design Ehlén Johansson
TAKTER was a large pendant lamp in polished, clear lacquered aluminium, reminiscent of an upside-down glass. With its directional light, the lamp was particularly suitable to have above a table. The height could easily be adjusted with a decorative weight that hung from steel wires.
Designer Ehlén Johansson spread light with this unique design that was launched in the 1999 IKEA catalogue. Unfortunately, it only stayed in the range for another two years.
Stool with storage
Design Studio Copenhagen
A stool that also serves as a storage box: BURSJÖN is a good example of furniture that serves several purposes. Multifunctional furniture became an important area for IKEA, partly to meet the needs of the increasing number of people living in compact spaces.
BURSJÖN came about at a design studio in Copenhagen, where designer Niels Gammelgaard and IKEA design manager Lars Engman were trying to design products for IKEA that would reflect new trends and use new production technology. Several other trend-setting designers were added to the team, including Ehlén Johansson and Nicholai Wiig Hansen.
In 1998 the team designed a storage box and lid in sturdy plastic. Thanks to the lid and the product’s stability, it could also be used as a stool. Named BURSJÖN it was launched in the 2000 IKEA catalogue, and was sold in a range of colours for a further five years.
Design Anna Efverlund
The story behind FAMNIG, a heart-shaped child’s cushion with outstretched arms, was a dramatic one that could have ended very badly. In spring 1997, a co-worker at IKEA discovered that the eyes on the soft toys at Children’s IKEA could come off. At this, all soft toys were immediately removed from the stores. Thankfully no child had got an eye stuck in its throat, but the danger was obvious. IKEA immediately recalled all its soft toys and gave a refund. Production at the supplier company in India was halted, but IKEA wanted to take responsibility for the workers at the factory and carried on working with the company. And one of the first new products made there was FAMNIG, which appeared in the range in 1998 and in the IKEA catalogue in the 2000 edition.
The incident led to an even more structured approach to safety at IKEA, particularly on children’s products. Clearer routines and responsibilities were established, and one of many important measures was that IKEA decided to no longer use plastic eyes on its toys. Embroidered eyes were not only safer, they also turned out to give the toys more character and personality. At the time this was not the norm in the toy industry, but after a while many other companies followed suit.
In 2021 the red cuddly cushion remains in the IKEA range, now under the name FAMNIG HJÄRTA.
Design Nicholai Wiig Hansen
The JULES chair has appeared in various guises at IKEA over the years. In 1998 it was launched as a height-adjustable swivel desk chair, mainly intended for home use. The characteristic shape soon became so popular, that designer Nicholai Wiig Hansen also created a stackable version with four legs, which was referred to as a ‘visitor’s chair’. JULES has also been made in child and youth versions, and is still sold in the child version at IKEA in 2021.
All models of JULES have a seat of layer-glued wood veneer, with the distinct nine holes in the back. Because of the holes, the chair got the nickname Emmenthal, after the Swiss cheese, before getting its official product name JULES.
Incidentally, the holes in JULES were originally stencilled around wine glasses. Designer Nicholai Wiig Hansen got the idea for JULES during a trip to Italy. He had long wanted to make a new chair for the home office. A chair that was good looking enough to use as an extra chair for guests, yet sturdy enough to be used for hours of working at home. On a visit to an Italian furniture factory, he was suddenly inspired, and along with the factory owner’s father he immediately made a cardboard prototype. Nicholai wanted the chair to have holes in the back to make the seat lighter and create shadows. But he didn’t have anything to shape the holes with. As luck would have it, the factory had a wine cellar. He borrowed a wine glass, and used it as a stencil to draw the nine holes. Nicholai and the factory owner’s father then rewarded themselves with a well-deserved glass of wine.
MAINE/ MAJLISEN/ MALVINA/ MARGARETA
Design Mikael Löfström
A cohesive textile collection in cotton, adorned with a number of bold patterns in vivid colours like bright blue, red, yellow and black. The entire collection was designed by interior designer Mikael Löfström, who claimed to have the Scandinavian origin in mind when creating the fabrics.
The textile patterns are based on fragments, beginning with MALVINA representing small blue windows. The patterns grow and expand on the subsequent fabrics, and come together in MAINE, where an entire city in several colours covers the fabric.
The collection was presented over a whole spread in the 1999 IKEA catalogue, under the heading “Scandinavian design”. It was sold at IKEA until 2001.
Design Knut Hagberg/Marianne Hagberg
UNESCO proclaimed 1979 as the International Year of the Child, and in the same year IKEA launched a new child safety programme under the name PATRULL. It was a series of products that would make life at home safer for children. PATRULL was about preventing everything from scratches and bruises, to more serious accidents.
One important product in the child-safety range was the SORK children’s stool with anti-slip, which was often used in bathrooms or kitchens. The first version, in 1979, was a plastic stool with a ribbed rubber mat and rubber feet. In 1988, SORK was replaced by HARE. These stools had rubber details that were glued on to prevent slipping.
In the 1990s, a better stool was developed by designers Knut Hagberg and Marianne Hagberg, alongside experts in plastics at IKEA. This also allowed a freer, softer design. For instance, the synthetic rubber anti-slip features were cast in the same single stage of production. The updated stool entered the IKEA range in March 1998 and was named PATRULL. It was stabler and more durable than the previous stools, and the integrated anti-slip dots and feet prevented the stool from moving on the floor, and the child from slipping.
The PATRULL stool was awarded Excellent Swedish Design in 1998, and premiered in the 2000 IKEA catalogue. It is still sold in 2021, but under the name FÖRSIKTIG.
The PATRULL child safety series remains at IKEA and includes window catches, bathtub mats, plug socket covers, corner bumpers, non-slip mats and other solutions to make all areas of the home safer.
Design Mikael Warnhammar
The 1999 edition of the IKEA catalogue saw the launch of VÄRDE, a brand new kind of kitchen that would be called a modular kitchen. Designer Mikael Warnhammar had an extensive background and professional experience as a carpenter, builder and construction engineer, and had graduated from the School of Design and Crafts (HDK), University of Gothenburg in 1988.
Even in the 1980s, people had started dreaming of a ‘kitchen island’ or ‘kitchen bar’ to gather around. And international expansion at IKEA had also revealed another need. Unlike in Sweden, consumers in other countries often had to take their kitchens with them when they moved. A normal, wall-mounted kitchen from IKEA didn’t meet this need.
The launch emphasised the ability to be able to rearrange, supplement or modify the kitchen at any time, thanks to the modular setup of VÄRDE. It was described as a brand new way of thinking when it came to kitchens. Drawer units and wall units were in birch/birch veneer with white details and feet of stainless steel. The free-standing units were easy to place, and had the same capacity as a traditional ‘fixed’ kitchen. Moreover, the individual parts made it easy to plan, install and take the kitchen with you when you moved. Scandinavian design was popular, and the execution in solid, thick, light birch was exactly right for the times.
In 2000 the VÄRDE series received the Red Dot Award. VÄRDE was in the IKEA catalogue for a total of ten years, and was even made in a mini version for children under the name DUKTIG. Mikael Warnhammar also designed another two modular kitchens, ATTITYD and BRAVAD.
Design Nicholai Wiig Hansen
When Danish designer Nicholai Wiig Hansen created the IKEA PS low metal cabinet, he had two sources of inspiration. Many of his friends in Copenhagen liked to furnish using old metal lockers from changing rooms, but Nicholai felt these were too narrow to work really well in a home. He came to think of a sideboard, the low, traditional piece of furniture that was so popular in Danish design. Perhaps the two could be combined to make a good sideboard out of metal?
The second edition of the IKEA PS collection was largely manufactured at factories in Poland. The project manager for IKEA PS, Lars Dafnäs, and the head of design at the time, Lars Engman, found a Polish factory that made metal cabinets for the military. They brought back a prototype for a sideboard, but Nicholai was not completely happy with the quality. He felt it was too much of a ‘metal box’ and that the assembly could be improved. A DJ friend had also given him the idea of making the cabinet suitable for LPs, with holes in the rear section for leads and cables. He also wanted the cabinet to be red, something that met with suspicion from IKEA. Surely it wouldn’t be possible to sell a red cabinet?
But Nicholai stuck to his guns and finally got his way, and the red cabinet was an immediate sales success. In 2001 it also received the international design prize, Red Dot Award. In 2021 IKEA still sells the cabinet, and it costs less now than it did on launch 21 years ago.
Design Eva Lilja Löwenhielm
The round, tufted IKEA PS wool rug was part of the second IKEA PS collection. It was designed by Eva Lilja Löwenhielm, who wanted to create a product “with its own character, that goes just as well at the office as at home”.
The first IKEA PS collection had been launched at the Milan furniture fair in 1995 under the name Democratic Design. It summed up an ambition to create products of good design, high quality, good function and sustainable production. All at a low price. The collection was very well received.
The only one who wasn’t fully delighted was Ingvar Kamprad, who thought the first collection was far too highly priced. Although sales of the products exceeded expectations, he wanted to try a new strategy for reducing the prices. A group of young Scandinavian designers was sent to visit factories in Poland, where they created new products directly on the factory floor, under the theme of ‘think differently’. That then became the second IKEA PS collection. Because the designers took a fresh approach to design and production processes, production costs, and therefore also prices in store, were now far lower. The collection entered the IKEA range in 1998–99.
Eva Lilja Löwenhielm was one of the young designers who was on the trip to Poland. At the time she had recently graduated from Beckmans College of Design and had her own design studio, along with a scholarship from IKEA. Since then she has been an important part of the Swedish design scene, with jobs for many famous brands including IKEA. In 2019 she was appointed the new head of design at IKEA.
Design Chris Martin/Thomas Sandell
The smart, two-seater IKEA PS sofa could easily be folded out and made into a double bed. It also had wheels, which made it extra flexible. It was designed by Thomas Sandell and Chris Martin for the second IKEA PS collection, launched in 1999.
The first IKEA PS collection had been launched at the Milan furniture fair in 1995 under the name Democratic Design. It summed up an ambition to create products of good design, high quality, good function and sustainable production. All at a low price. The collection was very well received. The only one who wasn’t fully delighted was Ingvar Kamprad, who thought the first collection was far too highly priced. When the second collection of products was launched under the name IKEA PS the prices had been kept down, but the high design ambition still remained.
The designers, Thomas Sandell and Chris Martin, epitomised this. Thomas Sandell was already a well-known architect and designer, with his own design firm. Chris Martin had a degree in furniture design from the Royal College of Art in London, and had worked as an assistant to the renowned designer Jasper Morrison. In the IKEA PS brochure from 1999, the designers say: “We wanted to create good design that makes people happy. Design that has a positive influence on people. You can pull the IKEA PS sofa bed out with one hand, without spilling wine from the glass you’re holding in the other.”