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.
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.
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.
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. 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.