The JÄRPEN easy chair was the result of many years of experimenting with materials and techniques that had never previously been used to create comfortable seating furniture. It was Ingvar Kamprad who first challenged designer Niels Gammelgaard to create a different kind of easy chair, without filling or fabric. It should be able to produce industrially, and the price naturally had to be low.
Niels’s first version of Ingvar Kamprad’s vision was the folding chair RAPPEN. On a factory visit the designer had seen how steel mesh was made, and he became curious: would it be possible to sit comfortably on wire mesh rather than wood or plastic? And he realised that yes it would, as long as the holes in the mesh were no more than 3×3 cm! RAPPEN was almost identical to the TED folding chair, another big seller at IKEA that Niels had designed. But rather than plastic in the seat and back, Niels used steel mesh. RAPPEN was launched in 1982 and remained in the range for six years. It was sold alongside TED, but at a lower price since the mesh seat cost less to manufacture than the plastic seat.
The success of RAPPEN made Niels Gammelgaard want to carry on experimenting with steel mesh. He wanted to create the filling- and fabric-free easy chair that Ingvar Kamprad had asked for. At last the JÄRPEN easy chair was introduced, made of steel mesh that had been pressed and welded together. The chair was delivered in a flat pack with three parts, which could simply be pushed together without using tools.
Niels Gammelgaard has said that shortly after the catalogue launch in 1983, the easy chair sold at a rate of 4,000 a week. And in the eight years it was in the catalogue, it was the least expensive of all the easy chairs and armchairs in the range.