STOCKHOLM collection

A democratic idea.

In the 1980s, IKEA faced an interesting challenge: to satisfy its loyal customers’ request for a bit of bourgeoisie. What could the company offer all those people who had grown out of their low pine sofa, taken down their pop and protest posters, and moved their IVAR shelves into the garage? They were looking for comfort and elegance, and Ingvar Kamprad came up with the solution: a ‘best of IKEA collection’. It was time for STOCKHOLM.

There was a gap in the range, and it would be filled with furniture and objects of high-class materials, in timeless design. IKEA would now develop classic furniture that most people could afford. The job went to Karin Mobring and Tomas Jelinek, two designers whose different backgrounds complemented each other well. Karin Mobring grew up surrounded by traditional rustic, had studied at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design and also under Carl Malmsten, one of Sweden’s best-known and best-loved furniture designers and craftsmen. Karin started at IKEA in 1964, and over the years she had clearly demonstrated her command of both traditional and modern styles. Tomas Jelinek was trained in the Central European furnishing tradition at the school of industrial art in Brno, now in the Czech Republic, and was particularly inspired by the legacy of Josef Frank and his colleagues of the Vienna School in Austria. Tomas had fled what was then Czechoslovakia to Sweden in the Prague Spring of 1968, and was employed at IKEA the same year.

Karin Mobring, dark haired in white knitted T-shirt sits at drawing table working with pen and ruler.
Designer Karin Mobring.
A smiling, dark-haired Tomas Jelinek, dressed in a dark shirt and light trousers, stands with hands on hips.
Designer Tomas Jelinek.

Beautiful for everyone

The result of the two designers’ collaboration was a collection launched in 1985 under the name STOCKHOLM. In the brochure, IKEA explained that “The most beautiful Swedish furniture had long been reserved for a few: the rich. Ordinary folk had to make do with poor copies or nothing at all. This doesn’t sit right with us.”

The STOCKHOLM collection would be an homage to the best of Swedish and Central European furniture tradition, and was intended to last for decades. The materials were selected with care, and behind the design was a strong foundation of craftsman’s know-how. No effort was spared. The wooden furniture was made of Nordic birch and came in three finishes: clear lacquered, white lacquered, and red-brown stained. The textiles were either Indian cotton or English cretonne, and the leather came from Svenljunga in Västergötland province.

Brochure cover with text New Classics. Photo of living room where a retriever relaxes in an armchair.
Light room with big windows, hardwood floors, two armchairs with blue and white striped cushions.
1985 New classics. The STOCKHOLM collection was launched at IKEA stores in Sweden in 1985. In the 1986 IKEA catalogue, STOCKHOLM was launched under the header “New classics”. This was also the name of a separate brochure, with the furniture photographed in a beautiful, manor house-like setting.

Simplicity was central

In an interview, Tomas Jelinek talks about IKEA being part of a longer furniture tradition centred on simplicity: “The mindset that evolved in Vienna around the turn of the century was handed down to me. A movement that wanted to create simple objects for a reasonable price, so that virtually anyone could afford them. That philosophy has always been a guide for me. It’s funny how the democratic thinking of 1920s Vienna was very close to the philosophy that IKEA later developed: to make simple things for as many people as possible.”

“You should buy STOCKHOLM as individual pieces so that it can blend in with other interiors, fill empty spaces and form a harmony with the furniture that’s already present in the home, in the room.”
– Tomas Jelinek

Tomas saw the STOCKHOLM collection as a group of functional solitaires, rather than a whole set of furniture that had to be bought in one go. He felt that the furniture in the series should subordinate itself to its environment.

“You should buy STOCKHOLM as individual pieces so that it can blend in with other interiors, fill empty spaces and form a harmony with the furniture that’s already present in the apartment, in the room,” Tomas Jelinek explained.

Elegance in flat packs

When developing the collection, the designers placed great emphasis on details, like hiding all the fittings and reducing the thickness of the materials. This created an optical illusion of lightness. And it was indeed an inviting and slightly exclusive series. But as with all the company’s furniture, here too the price had to be kept down and production had to be adapted to the factories’ capabilities. The STOCKHOLM collection may be elegant, but it didn’t stop the furniture coming in flat packs.

STOCKHOLM was launched in 1985, and the first sequel came in 1990. Over the years, various collections have been launched with several different designers . Each has had its own expression, but they also have many aspects in common. All of the collections are characterised by a modern Scandinavian style of the highest quality, in design, function and material.

See examples in the slide shows, from the first sequel in 1990 to the latest collection from 2017.

Dining room in white and beige tones, wine glasses and plates on table, display cabinet with crockery in background.
White wooden armchair stands on harwood floor, a bouquet of yellow flowers is placed on the blue-white-striped seat cushion.
Airy and light bedroom with bedspread, curtains and pillows in white.
Sofa with bold multi-coloured floral pattern.
1990 More beautiful everyday. Five years after the first STOCKHOLM collection a broader, updated collection came along: “More beautiful everyday”, which also included a coordinated textile and wallpaper collection, as well as glasses, crockery and cutlery. A further two designers, Ehlén Johansson and Agneta Svensk, now worked on the collection, which was still characterised by the classic Scandinavian theme with cautious Continental influences.
Detail from interior that shows comfortable yellow armchair and low bookshelf.
Stacked textiles in bold multi-coloured patterns.
Brown bureau filled with papers, books, photos and decorative items.
Brown low bureau in simple, sleek design, a modern looking fruit bowl sits on top.
Wicker recliner in green with green frame and leather details.
Sofa with bold multi-coloured floral pattern in green and yellow.
1996 Lasting beauty. More and more new designers were involved in STOCKHOLM from the third collection. “Lasting beauty” started from Scandinavian ideals with neat shapes and Nordic wood species. All parts were of high quality in design, materials and attention to detail.
Living room with seating area, bookshelf, orange rug and burgundy walls.
Large red velvet armchair and brown coffee table, in the background a lit floor lamp and a picture on the wall.
Living room with dark green walls, two black sofas around oval coffee table. High bookshelf covers one wall.
Colourful room on two floors with pouffes, seating areas in white and red, with green plants in the windows.
2006 Super quality! Super materials! Super expensive? This collection was distinguished by an innovative profile rather than its adherence to traditions. Textile and glass with strong accent colours in pink, purple, red and green contrasted with furniture in dark oak. In the meeting between leather, cowhide, velvet and mohair was a bolder attitude than in previous collections.
Dining room with brick wall, wooden table and chairs, black display cabinet with wine glasses behind round windows.
Red sofa with white pillow and a reddish throw blanket.
Detail, person seen from behind on white sofa reading magazine, bare feet propped up on colourful pillows.
Black and white pattern depicting a stylised fruit tree.
Green, black and white pattern depicting a stylized fruit tree.
The 2008 collection was primarily an update of the one from 2006. The textiles were given new colour constellations and were complemented by rugs in graphic patterns, and richly patterned fabrics sold by the metre, as well as boldly colourful glassware.
Living room with green plants in large windows, sofa and armchair in green tones, a bookshelf covers an entire wall.
Round yellow side table with drawer, a stack of books on top.
Two armchairs, one in brown velvet, the other in orange velvet, in front of a window with sheer white curtains.
Brown wooden chairs around large conference table in the same material. Low hanging lights, black notepads at each seat.
2013 With an eye for detail. This was a broader collection than previous ones, with several strong individual parts that were easy to combine with the furniture and objects already in a home. The collection was made with particular sensitivity and attention to fine details and only the finest materials were used, from the inside out.
Two rattan armchairs stand opposite the blue velvet sofa, a blue pouffe is used as a coffee table.
Small boy squatting by open linen cupboard made of light wood. On the floor are some small red toy cars.
Detail of rattan armchair, light wood and rattan table, silver table lamp and wicker baskets.
Orange red sofa, flower arrangement in vase, young woman standing by a window.
2017 The beauty of doing things at just the right pace. This collection contained as many as 47 parts, made to mix and match with the customer’s existing home interiors. Natural, tactile materials like rattan and hand-blown glass reflected the collection’s most important sources of inspiration: the light and nature of Sweden.