What trends?

How to be trendy in moderation.

Garments on clothes line hanging over outdoor seating space, in front of big sign saying: Because we are curious. Are you?
Garments on clothes line hanging over outdoor seating space, in front of big sign saying: Because we are curious. Are you?
The IKEA Temporary exhibition at the furniture fair in Milan, 2015.

Does IKEA care about trends? Yes and no. Of course, IKEA wants to be curious and reflect the times, but fundamental needs are always more important than temporary trends. “We believe that timeless furniture is more sustainable in the long run,” says Mats Nilsson at IKEA.

What’s ‘in’ this autumn? Pale pink or bright orange? Brass or stained oak? As a consumer, it can be tough to navigate among all the fleeting trends. IKEA is of course aware of what’s hot and what’s not, but prefers to hold loosely onto the reins of fashion. Mats Nilsson is today a curator at IKEA Museum. He has worked at IKEA for many years, including as an interior designer at the Kungens Kurva store in Stockholm, and as product developer and creative leader at the design department in Älmhult. He says that the company’s designers and product developers monitor the wider world in all kinds of ways; for instance by visiting furniture fairs and trend seminars.

Smiling man, arms crossed, he has grey hair and a knitted sweater worn over white shirt and black trousers.
Mats Nilsson is a curator at IKEA Museum. For many years he worked as a product developer and creative leader at the company’s design department.
Textiles in different blue and white patterns hanging on clothes line against blue sky.
Pendant lamp with blue-white batique-coloured textiles, above rattan table. Woman holding wicker basket.
Using natural materials such as rattan, natural fibres, jute and seagrass, the temporary collection TÄNKVÄRD was perfectly aligned with the growing concern for the environment when it was released in 2019. It contained textiles in summery blue colours as well as handmade furniture in sustainable materials.

“We are curious and keep up with what’s happening in design, art and fashion,” he explains. “We visit cities around the globe to get inspiration and find new expressions, but then they have to be adapted to our own identity and be possible to mass produce. This teaches us a lot about the latest trends, but that doesn’t mean we have to follow them.”

Instead the focus is on creating solutions that meet people’s needs in the everyday. “We want to create homes that work,” says Mats. “We believe that timeless furniture is more sustainable in the long run. You shouldn’t have to get a new sofa every two years.”

Glass and white mug, against white background.
Function is more important than trends for IKEA. The IKEA 365+ series comprises timeless products for a functional everyday life – without frills or fuss.
Six images of blond wood stool used for different purposes such as bedside table, and side table.
IKEA wants to create products that fulfil several functions simultaneously. These prototype stools show how they can be used in all kinds of everyday situations.

This approach fits very nicely with modern demands on environmental and social sustainability. But IKEA hasn’t always been in harmony with the zeitgeist, says Mats Nilsson: “In the 1970s, IKEA and the outside world were very much on the same page. The spirit of the times suited us perfectly, an age when conventions were being questioned and children’s needs were in focus. The colours were bright, a lot of the upholstery was washable, and the design was unpretentious. That was IKEA in a nutshell. But the 1980s with its fancy, boastful design, leather sofas and glass tables… That wasn’t us at all. Everything had to be ‘luxurious’, and that simply isn’t in our DNA. By the 1990s, the zeitgeist had caught up with us. Scandinavian design was popular internationally, with its minimalist style and simple materials. So the mood was in our favour again.”

1970s style interior with blue carpet, white table, blue director's chairs, yellow armchair and white shelving system.
In the 1970s, IKEA and the outside world were very much on the same page. The colourful, democratic design of the time went hand in hand with the company’s belief in reasonably priced, functional design for all people.
Minimalist interior, 1990s Scandinavian style, white sofa, 2 recliners, blond wood side tables in front of large windows.
When minimalist Scandinavian design became internationally popular in the 1990s, IKEA was once again in harmony with the times.

So how does IKEA work with trends? One way of meeting people’s desire for change in the home is to supplement the range of simple, timeless furniture with textiles and other accessories that are reasonably priced and easy to swap.

The temporary collections in collaboration with well-known designers and fashion designers are another way for IKEA to be curious and explore other aspects of design. At the same time a different, more trend-oriented audience can be reached.

Interior with green plants and sofa, stools, table, sideboard of natural materials such as cork, wood and bamboo.
The SINNERLIG collection by designer Ilse Crawford from 2015 is based on pure shapes and honest materials.

“For us, the temporary collections have mainly been a way to cultivate our curiosity,” says Mats. “We’ve always been curious about new ideas, new materials and new distribution methods. That’s far more important than what colour is popular right now.”

As a global player, IKEA can also play a part in influencing people’s tastes. “If people want greyish-pink products, they’ll find them at IKEA. But we’re also big enough to actually influence trends in home furnishing. If we want to make Christmas completely green, we can do it. That’s confidence boosting for us.”

Nowadays, the range of styles and tastes is wider perhaps than ever before – also at IKEA, where modern and more traditional design live side by side. “In the postmodern society, anything goes,” says Mats. “This is great and very appealing, and it means we can offer a broader spectrum of colours, styles and tastes. But we always have an ideological foundation in everything we do. Our products should be accessible to the many people and create a better everyday life.”