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.