People from an IKEA product developer team discussing a GLESVÄR chest of drawers.

Safety by Design

Whenever Madeleine visits someone’s home and sees a chest of drawers she automatically checks to see if it is securely attached to the wall. If it isn’t, she is not afraid to point it out. Madeleine has worked with GLESVÄR for a year now and we talked to her about the limited edition chest of drawers with specially designed safety features and an industry wide issue.

Can design decrease one of the furnishing industry’s most serious safety issues – tipping furniture? One might think that only tall narrow furniture can tip over but even a low, sturdy chest of drawers filled with heavy things can become unstable if several drawers are open. The centre of gravity shifts and the heavy piece of furniture can topple forward, and both children and adults can be seriously injured, even fatally.

At IKEA product safety is a top priority, and a variety of initiatives has been designed to increase home safety through the years. For decades IKEA customers have been urged to anchor dressers with the wall attachment devices provided. IKEA also has one of the most rigorous approaches to product testing of any furniture company.

A year ago,  Madeleine Kullegård, Project Leader at IKEA, and her team started working with a number of already existing IKEA stability innovations to see how they could be used in products. They wanted to make these innovations available to the customers in a product that is both production-friendly and easy to assemble with high quality at a low cost. They also wanted to give the customers options, because Madeleine is convinced that there is not one solution that fits all. The result of their work is GLESVÄR, a new family of dressers designed by Knut and Marianne Hagberg with three different safety features.

Madeleine Kullegård standing in front of three white chests of drawers in a white room.
Madeleine Kullegård, Project Leader at IKEA.

“The first one has a forced wall attachment, where you cannot open any of the drawers before you have attached the furniture to a wall. The second one has an interlock system with an unlock function. As soon as you open a drawer the others are locked. When the furniture is attached to the wall, you can open all drawers as you please. And the third chest of drawers has only two legs, and only by looking at it you understand that you have to attach it to the wall,” says Madeleine.

How did you come up with these three features?

 “We started out with a number of IKEA innovations and finally decided to continue with seven of them. Customers were invited to score the different solutions and give us their feedback. We really learned a lot from them and finally settled on three solutions,” says Madeleine.

What surprised Madeleine and her team was that the forced wall attachment mechanism versus less restrictive concepts was well received, especially from families with children.

“A forced wall attachment really gives you no choice – you must secure it to use it. Sometimes that is the best thing, especially for parents.  There are so many other things to think about and choices to make as a parent, and I am happy to learn that in this case, they put their trust in us,” says Madeleine.

A handmade sketch of a wall-anchoring safety feature for a storage unit.
A sketch from an earlier concept idea describing the principle of the forced wall attachment mechanism. 

How does the forced wall attachment mechanism actually work?

“The chest of drawers with a forced wall attachment has a vertical metal bar that locks the drawers when it is not attached to the wall. When the chest is properly attached, the bracket moves horizontally and the locking function is disabled. This also means that you have to anchor the furniture to the wall before drawers can be inserted.”

… and the interlock mechanism?

“The interlock mechanism works almost the same way. When one drawer is opened all other drawers are locked by a metal bar. Attaching to the wall overrides the mechanism and unlocks all the drawers. The interlock prevents an important risk, but the safest way is always to secure it.”

 What was the biggest challenge during the work with GLESVÄR?

 “Since the limited edition sales have not started, it is a little tricky to say yet, but communication is one challenging area. The communication around the different safety features is crucial for these innovations to be accepted by the customers. Because the mechanism is hidden, it is not obvious that there is anything special with the product by just looking at it.”

A handmade sketch of a storage unit on a notepad.

A pair of hands holding a notepad with a handmade sketch of a storage unit.

Left: A sketch from an earlier concept idea. The vertical metal bar locks the drawers when it is not attached to the wall. When attached to the wall the bracket moves horizontally and the locking function is disabled.
Right: One of many early ideas was a visible reminder for the customer to attach the piece of furniture to the wall, but the team decided to continue with other safety features for GLESVÄR.

What are you most happy with looking at the stability features now?

“The fact that they are here! Tipping furniture is a hidden hazard in people’s homes and an industry-wide issue. Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our products. With GLESVÄR we are not only providing safety options for new purchasers, but we also want to send a message to everyone out there to secure the furniture they already have at home. At IKEA, we are committed to changing and helping move the industry ahead in this area, and with GLESVÄR I really hope others will follow.”

Are you working on any other new safety features?

“First, we need to follow up on the limited edition sales and share our findings. But we’ve also got some other ideas. One is a piece of storage furniture with cabinet doors that we hope to continue working with. When the drawers are open the floor supported doors are locked in position to prevent tip-over.”

Has the work with GLESVÄR changed the way you look at safety in your home?

“As a mother of three, I know it’s impossible to watch over your children at all times. It gives me a peace of mind knowing that we have taken all the measures needed to address hazards at home, including securing furniture to the wall. When visiting someone’s home I automatically check if they have attached their chest of drawers to the wall. If not, I don’t hesitate to point it out!”

Sale starts February 2020 in Germany and the United Kingdom, and April 2020 in the USA and Canada. More markets will follow in 2020.