Our Roots

Part of the main exhibition

Experience old Sweden through stories, historical objects and interactive experiences. We talk about the inventiveness of the poor, stony farming community of Småland, and how increasing prosperity in the first half of the 20th century led to new ideas about a better life at home.

In Our Roots, it becomes clear how thrifty Småland creativity, Swedish modernism and Småland entrepreneurialism formed the very embryo of IKEA. We look at what it was like to live in Småland and Sweden in the old days, and how the landscape made its own demands and shaped the people, their character and their actions. About a continuous striving to keep hunger and poverty at bay.

Smålanders have a reputation for being thrifty and creative. Perhaps that’s why they coped so well when times were hard. If there was no money to buy things, they had to make them themselves. Although the aim was primarily functional – a chair to sit on, a table to eat at – there was often also a desire to make something beautiful.

Home entrepreneurs

In the exhibition, you will meet the ‘home entrepreneurs’ – the people who spent every free minute making things that could be sold at a market or to a travelling merchant, such as whisks and mousetraps. Everyone in the family had to help out according to their talent. It was about being clever and persistent, and seeing opportunities everywhere. If it doesn’t work one way, maybe it’ll work another? Or a third way? And if it can’t be done alone, maybe it can be done together with others?

The emergence of modern Sweden

The exhibition continues by showing what it was like when people started moving from the country to the cities. Most people still lived in cramped conditions, in dark, damp homes with no running water or sewerage. But starting in the early 20th century, modern Sweden began to emerge. A clean, well-planned, modern home was regarded as a democratic right. No one should have to sleep in the kitchen. Modernism and folkhemmet (the ‘people’s home’ of the welfare state) made their breakthrough in Sweden, including children’s rights and greater equality both generally and between the genders.

In the mass-produced apartments of the 1950s, what used to be a dream became an everyday reality for many. There was hot water in the taps, and people could lock themselves into their own toilet. In the exhibition, you can stand at the worktop of an original kitchen, built to the new standard specifications of the Home Research Institute for optimum efficiency and rationality.

As prosperity increased, so too did the need for practical modern furniture. For Ingvar Kamprad and his newly started IKEA, the timing couldn’t have been better.