Characterised by contemporary materials, mid-century design is fun, colourful, light and often inspired by car design and space-age aesthetics. Shapes are organic and whimsical. Danish designers impress the world with their sophisticated furniture in wood like teak and jacaranda.
1957, HANSA bookcase, design IKEA of SwedenHANSA bookcase was the beginning of how IKEA of Sweden AB started to work with its own designs. The bookcase, with its black steel frame sections, had wooden shelves that could be height-adjusted. HANSA was sketched by Gillis Lundgren, one of Ingvar Kamprad’s closest co-workers.
1958, BÅSTAD rug, design Gillis Lundgren
The new Axminster wool rug, BÅSTAD was proof of the ongoing effort to modernise wool rugs with contemporary designs, rather than the usual imitations of oriental patterns. Wilton rugs and Axminster rugs are machine-made, making them very efficient and quick to manufacture, and the techniques used are very similar. They also have a lower price level than traditional hand-woven rugs.
1960sColourful furniture and design objects in bright red, yellow and orange plastics reflect the youthful attitude of the era. Italian designers like Vico Magistretti, Joe Colombo and Achille Castiglione create playful space-age designs, embracing the possibilities of mass production in contemporary materials. In Finland, designers like Yrjö Kukkapuro and Eero Aarnio create a Nordic version of the Italian style.
1961, TORE drawer unit, design Gillis LundgrenThe TORE drawer unit was one of the 60s products that wasn’t flat-packed. Back then, there weren’t as many good fittings and production solutions to enable flat-packing and self-assembly. Those that did exist would have left the product difficult to assemble and rather unstable. Because of this, the TORE drawer unit remained factory assembled.
1963, MTP cabinet, design Marian Grabinski
MTP cabinet was, initially, a wedding gift for Ingvar Kamprad and his wife, Margareta. Light oak wood design in combination with the many functions and affordable price made this cabinet a true IKEA sensation that people were thrilled about for more than 10 years.
1964, ANNA children’s table and chairs, design Otto NielsenThe ANNA children’s chair was reversible so it could offer two different seating heights: 24,5 and 18,5 centimetres so that the child could grow with it. It first appeared in the 1964 IKEA Catalogue and was sold for an impressive 25 years.
Mostly remembered for shag carpets, lava lamps and over-the-top wallpapers, the 70s also sees the rise of an environmentalist conscience in the design world. The dominance of plastics in contemporary design comes to an abrupt halt with the oil crisis of 1973. As a protest against mass-production, Italian designer Enzo Mari publishes drawings for simple do it yourself design.
1970, TELEGONO table lamp, design Vico MagistrettiThe TELEGONO table lamp was made from plastic, a huge trend thanks to the mass production possibilities. The smart design made it possible to turn the lamp and direct the light. But despite this, it only lasted one season.
1973, TAJT armchair, design Gillis Lundgren
Ingvar Kamprad purchased five kilometres of denim fabric and told the designers and product developers to be creative – and that’s how TAJT armchair was born. The denim fabric and beautiful leather buttons made this armchair one of the most famous IKEA products at the time.
The Italian, postmodern design movement Memphis, founded by Ettore Sottsass in 1981, replaces the reductionist Modernist design aesthetic with geometric, playful furniture and objects bordering on kitsch. The same tendency is seen in architecture, where the glitter and glamour of Las Vegas becomes an important influence, and in the arts, where big, brash paintings fetch record prices at auctions.
1980, KLIPPAN/BLOCKRAND sofa, design IKEA of SwedenThe KLIPPAN sofa was designed to be an alternative to expensive designer sofas that weren’t safe, or durable enough for children to play on. The soft shapes and removable and washable covers in many styles, like the BLOCKRAND cover, made it a child-friendly favourite that lives on to this day.
1981, SKYAR quilt cover and pillowcase, design Sven Fristedt
The SKYAR print was designed by Sven Fristedt, and this dreamy cloud-pattern is one of his most well-known IKEA designs – it was even sold as a wallpaper!
Minimalism makes a return in design. Designers such as Marc Newson, Jasper Morrison, Naoto Fukasawa, Swedes Claesson Koivisto Rune and many more create sleek, minimalist and blonde furniture and objects that stand in stark contrast to the playful, postmodern aesthetic of the stylistically wild 80s. Stockholm is officially the coolest place on Earth, according to trend bible Wallpaper.
1994, ANTILOP high chair, design IKEA of SwedenThe ANTILOP high chair was the first IKEA children’s chair that went straight to being created as a model in a computer, instead of being developed through a designer and a design engineer collaboration. It is sold to this day and has become somewhat of a classic that is found in thousands of homes.
Designers like Konstantin Grcic and Patricia Urquiola dominate the furniture fair in Milan, the former with web-like geometric shapes, the latter with organic shapes and unexpected, playful meetings between materials, colours and patterns. Inventions such as CNC milling (Computer Numerical Control), CAD software (Computer-Aided Design) and 3D-printing make entirely new shapes possible.
2000, IKEA a.i.r ROLIG armchair, design Jan Dranger
IKEA a.i.r armchair was an attempt to solve the eternal IKEA problem – how to get the flattest packages with the lowest possible weight. An inflatable plastic chair was filled with air using a hair dryer, then dressed with a fabric cover. Even though this reduced the use of raw materials by 85% and transport volume by 90%, the chairs leaked. Deflated, IKEA a.i.r ROLIG quietly floated out of the IKEA range.
2000, FAMNIG cushion, design Anna EfverlundThe FAMNIG children’s cushion is actually the successful result of a big setback: the plastic eyes of the existing IKEA soft toys could come loose. So, we created FAMNIG – a hug-friendly, eyeless heart that is loved by children around the world. Thanks to what happened, we learned to systematise safety work even more.
2002, IKEA PS/VÅLLÖ watering can, design Monika Mulder
This watering can is a true IKEA classic thanks to its affordable price and clean design in a variety of colours. The slightly bent pour spout makes manufacturing easier and it has helped to water lots of plants and flowers in many homes throughout the years.
Socially and environmentally sustainable design is presented as a way for designers to help combat climate change. By sourcing raw materials close to the production, lessening the need for transportation with the aid of 3D printing, enabling recycling and reducing toxic materials, designers want to help people change their behaviour and save the planet.
2015, SINNERLIG stool, design Ilse CrawfordThe SINNERLIG stool, with its natural cork material and clean design, was primarily created to appeal to the human senses and enhance the feeling of well-being in the home. Cork was the obvious choice – both for its style and because all bark that is harvested is taken care of in the production to minimise waste.
2015, MÄSTERBY step stool, design Chris MartinThe MÄSTERBY step stool is lightweight, sturdy and stackable. And not only does it help people reach things on the top shelf, it also helps them be a little kinder to the planet as it’s made from recycled polypropylene.