Something for everyone

More than flowers.

Black silhouettes of four simple chairs in different styles.
Black silhouettes of four simple chairs in different styles.

At IKEA, there should be something to suit all tastes. But how do you create a varied range of products? Part of the answer can be found in a floral pattern from the 1990s.

In the 1980s, IKEA had done its best to satisfy its international customers’ dreams of luxury, frivolity and exclusive furniture, but at low prices. Along the way, the company lost something of its identity. That problem was particularly evident in the 1992 catalogue. Virtually every page included the same floral pattern, on everything from curtains and sofas to crockery. The product developers had grown a bit too fond of the pattern, which was called MARCELLA.

Close-up of sofa with floral pattern in red, blue, yellow and brown at brown.
Table lamp with base in brown ceramic and lampshade in floral pattern in blue and red.
Several fabrics and curtains displayed, in floral patterns and solid colours.
White crockery with multicoloured floral pattern, filled coffee cup, sugar bowl, creamer and plate with cookies.
Room with curtains and roller blind in multicolored floral pattern, leather armchair.
Table set for one with white floral patterned porcelain, plates and cutlery.
A prime example of the 1980s ambition to better meet demand and reach a wider international market: MARCELLA, a floral pattern that suddenly started appearing on everything, from crockery to curtains.

There was nothing wrong with the pattern, but the mistake did lead to an insight: IKEA needed to be better at organising its range. To get back to its roots, the company went back to The Testament of a Furniture Dealer, Ingvar Kamprad’s IKEA constitution for the company. In it, he talks about the range as the company’s identity: “offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”

With those words in mind, IKEA went back to the drawing board.

The range was divided into different styles, which together would meet the different needs and tastes of the public. If you like a more traditional style, you should be able to find a chair that fits nicely into a rural kitchen. If you prefer a modern style, you should just as easily be able to find a sofa that suits the clean style of a city apartment.

Modern style living room with blue and white tones with dark blue hardwood floors, blue sofa, white tables and cupboards.
The modern international style is characterised by minimal shapes combined with rich materials. Colours are muted, adding a touch of elegance and sophistication to interiors that may be either dark and sombre or light and airy. It has a timeless expression, but is also open to contemporary trends.
Traditional style living room, hardwood floor, grey sofas and display cabinets with books, glass sets and ornaments.
The traditional style has a classic expression, drawing inspiration from early 20th century design styles as well as farmhouse interiors. Using woods, natural materials and detailed ornaments, it creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Textiles usually have decorative patterns, inspired by turn of the century design as well as folklore.

The secret lies in not going too far in one taste direction, but holding on to the company’s foundation in functional, Scandinavian modernism – the platform for everything IKEA does. But in these postmodern times, there are also influences from around the world, mixing and matching styles, colours and materials. For a global company, it’s important to have products that fit into different kinds of homes.

Scandinavian style bedroom with blond wood furnishings, white bed linen, a woman stands by bed with a glass of water.
The Scandinavian style is inspired by functional modernism. It is a rational style, where basic shapes, natural materials such as blond wood and a light colour scheme dominate. Patterns are often bold in primary colours, referencing both Scandinavian traditions and playful pop art. This is a clean, basic style, typical for IKEA.

Today, the range essentially comprises two parts. On the one hand there’s a more international style, that can be either traditional or modern in its expression. On the other hand is a style based on the company’s Scandinavian heritage, with elements of both the old farming society and modern functionalism.

Developing new products is a science in itself, including everything from a low price and colour choice, to sustainability and which materials to use. Exactly how the company solves that equation varies from year to year. But one thing always remains: by finding out about the needs of the many people, IKEA can build a firm foundation of functional products that help everyday life to work better, whatever your taste. The thing that they all have in common is that they feel “typically IKEA”. And if you do want floral fabric or crockery, you’ll find plenty to choose from still today.