On the occasion of IKEA’s 80th birthday, the IKEA Museum in Älmhult, southern Sweden, inaugurated the “IKEA Through the Ages” exhibition, curated by Mats Nilsson, and “Hej Ingvar!” by Anna Sandberg Falk, who review the brand’s long history and the life of its founder, Ingvar Kamprad: the first through historical pieces of the IKEA catalog able to show its transformations and the second thanks to unpublished interviews.
Kamprad began selling pens and matches in Småland in 1943 and then started the world’s leading furniture company, which produced some iconic pieces such as the Jacaranda wooden and brass coffee table LÖVET, from 1956, described as “an adorable little thing, with an ultramodern design” and re-presented in the catalog in 2021 under the name LÖVBACKEN; or the CAVELLI armchair, designed in 1959 by Bengt Ruda, the first professional designer hired by the brand, in respect of which Kamprad said he spared no expense for what he called “a sixties aristocrat”, and of which apparently only five were produced. In 2012, Wiebke Braasch inspired by the chair developed an outdoor version, reducing it to its essential frame.
The unmistakable ÖGLA bar chair could not miss. It is the IKEA reinterpretation of the Thonet chair. Kamprad found the prototype for the first model of this chair in 1961 during a trip to Poland where he was trying to study the machinery used to produce the typical bentwood chair, made for the first time in the early nineteenth century by Michael Thonet, in Austria. Not finding the chairs stable enough, Kamprad adapted the structure of the leg to make them more robust and durable and from 1984 the chair began to be produced in plastic. However, over the years the model has been improved to make its production more sustainable while keeping the price low.
In 1972, chair IMPALA – another protagonist of the exhibition – was launched as a real historical event. It is not known who chose the name, but it certainly deviated from the typical system of nomenclature of the company. Perhaps, given that its creator Gillis Lundgren was a car enthusiast, it could be a reference to the Chevrolet Impala, very popular in Sweden in those years. Kamprad would never have thought that this piece could have a market, and instead, it became a great best seller.
Among the other historical objects, there is also the round chair with reinforced fiberglass plastic legs of 1967 POLO, famous in orange; the AMIRAL chair of 1970, beautiful but with the defect of not being able to be flat-packed, and therefore unrelated to the logic of IKEA; the classic sofa of 1980 KLIPPAN, with endless patterns of upholstery and still in production; the table watch series IKEA PS, a sort of stylistic postscript to bring the brand back to the standards of sobriety before the previous decade; MASKROS, the chandelier in the shape of a dandelion flower; and finally the stool MÄSTERBY, a unique piece made entirely of recycled plastic and designed by Chris Martin in 2010. Lightweight, perfect to easily reach the highest shelves of the house but also to seat children, the stool will not be flat-packed, but you can always stack it to save space.
All images courtesy IKEA