This is the age of great change in Sweden. In the 1960s, most people have a better life, well-being and prosperity are on the up, and more and more people are becoming interested in the home and interior design. Increasing home-building in city suburbs, close to nature, means that a lot of people have a bigger home and a real boost in standard.

The radical tendencies of late 1960s Sweden suit IKEA well. Youth culture, pop music and the 1968 protests make their mark on the range. Painted particleboard, plastic and other new materials open up brand new opportunities for creating furniture with a youthful, poppy expression.

Black and white patterned MIX sofa, in a carpeted room, that has details in white and decorations and a wall in bright green.
A completely blue, white and yellow room A long, white piece of storage furniture, director’s chairs around a dining table, a banana-like easy chair, blue rug.
A bedroom in white with colourful details, crowned by a HEPP bed, with textiles in sweet-wrapper-like pink and orange.
A light room with yellow and red details. A KATINKA seating group in thin, arched boards, standing around the KARUSELL rotary table.
Bold patterns, bright colours, poppy accessories and unconventional solutions characterise the youthful furnishing style of the late Sixties. The winds of change are blowing, and IKEA is clearly on the front line with a young, bold style. Images from IKEA catalogues: 1. 1969 2. 1969 3. 1969 4. 1969.

‘Shopping’ becomes a new concept. More and more households can afford a car, and the new IKEA store at Kungens Kurva in Stockholm becomes a popular destination for people in the capital. It has a restaurant and furniture displays with room settings where customers can see, touch and try out the furniture.

Two rustic style sofas with a red frame and checked cushions, facing each other. A light wood trolley nearby. Blue rug.
A typical Swedish 1960s living room is homely and comfortable. The inspiration from Karin and Carl Larsson is clear. This trendsetting artist couple, who had been influencing Sweden’s home environments and lifestyles since the turn of the century, now inspire IKEA to make products in rustic style, with bright colours and patterns with a home-woven look. Image from IKEA catalogue 1968.

In the 1960s, more and more women enter working life, while they’re still responsible for work around the home. Swedish interior designer and mother of four Lena Larsson is one of the people who want to liberate women from a life of unreasonable demands. She wants families to have child-friendly family rooms, rather than reception rooms where expensive furniture is shown off but never used. In a debate article in the magazine Form, Lena coins the expression “buy, use and throw away,” and urges readers to buy simpler furniture and products that they love and will genuinely use until they’re worn out. Then they can throw them out and buy new ones. But a lot of people misunderstand Lena Larsson’s expression, and accuse her of encouraging consumption and waste. As environmental awareness rises, the expression “use and throw away” takes on an increasingly negative meaning, far removed from the original writer’s good intentions.

For Ingvar Kamprad, it becomes increasingly important to strike a balance between low prices, quality and sustainability. So it’s a major success when, in 1964, renowned interior design magazine Allt i Hemmet (Everything in the Home) compares products from IKEA with furniture from ‘Fashion Street’ – and finds that a lot of IKEA furniture is of higher quality. IKEA also starts employing a number of skilled, contemporary young interior designers and textile artists, who make their mark on the furnishings with bold colours and shapes.

A children’s room with light furniture in light wood. Bunk bed, double desk, coffee table with two pin-back armchairs and a full bookcase.
A child-size table and two chairs, made completely of light wood. Frames and details in soft, round shapes.
A desk with a top in light wood and other details – wall-mounted shelves, drawer units and nearby pin-back chair – in red.
The 1960s home has room for both play and work. The pleasant writing corner is a place to sit and study or work. In the children’s room, IKEA optimises the space with bunk beds and desks with drawer units. The youngest family members get their own furniture, such as the reversible ANNA chair. Images from IKEA catalogues: 1. 1962 2. 1969 3. 1968.

Period furniture and the fine hardwoods of the 1950s have less and less space in the IKEA range, giving way to comfortable, genuine Swedish rustic, in a modern variation. Life at home should be relaxing and cosy, and this is reflected in the furnishing with its soft rya rugs, comfy seating furniture, and coffee table with room for the thermos and an evening snack.

Folkhemmet, the ‘people’s home’ of the Swedish welfare state is here, and IKEA is furnishing it.

Related