The simple, versatile IVAR storage shelf is one of the best-known products in the story of IKEA. But the famous shelf wasn’t always called IVAR and has actually had many names. But it has always kept its simple, rustic style.
When the storage shelf first joined the range in 1967, it was called BOSSE. Lasse Olsson, head of purchasing at the time, remembers: “It was really only by chance that we started to sell it at all. I had bought a lot of small products from the workshops in Sweden’s prisons. One of them was making a storage shelf for the Swedish Post Office, the police and other government organisations. On one of my visits, it emerged that they had a massive surplus, and wondered if IKEA could sell the shelves. So I took a few samples and showed them to the range team in Älmhult, and they somewhat reluctantly agreed to start selling them as storage shelves.”
The name BOSSE was the idea of a product developer, from Swedish boxer Bosse Högberg. The famous fighter led quite a wild life, and had just been given a short prison sentence. So the product developer thought BOSSE would be a good name for a shelving unit made in a prison workshop. Surprisingly enough, the name was approved by Ingvar Kamprad’s right-hand woman, the normally so prim and proper range secretary Inga Brita Bailey.
In Stockholm the shelf was discovered by Lennart Ekmark, who had worked at IKEA in Kungens Kurva since 1965, partly as head of the decoration department, and as a decorator and head of marketing. Lennart thought BOSSE was perfect for the progressive interiors of the time, along with political posters and rice lamps. He went to Moderna Museet and other cultural institutions in Stockholm and bought cheap posters, which were then used as decoration details in the room displays, catalogues and furniture fairs. BOSSE was ideal for the age of student revolution, and it quickly became a best seller.
As sales increased, more suppliers were needed, which meant that the shelf had to be adapted to production. The design was changed, so it was simplest to change the name as well. This time the shelf was named after another Swedish heavyweight boxer: Ingemar ‘Ingo’ Johansson. When the INGO shelf was launched in 1975, the IKEA catalogue read: “A robust, rustic shelf, originally intended for the garage, basement or attic. Now people stain or paint the INGO shelves and put them in their everyday living environment, in the living room and other rooms. Good function can finally compete with fine wood, status and convention.”
The shelf soon started being made in other countries as well, such as Finland, Poland and Czechoslovakia. New production methods came along, and the shelf was once again renamed, this time UFFE. In the 1979 IKEA catalogue, UFFE was presented as “the shelf that inspires unconventional ideas”. More and more people grew inspired. Steadily rising volumes made it necessary to change the design once again.
Finally, in 1984, the shelf was launched under the name IVAR. The catalogue for that year described it as “The shelf that’s so perfect, we can only change the name”. A well-loved child has many names, and in 2021 IVAR is still being sold, under the heading “a modern 50-something”.