Ingvar Kamprad stands behind a flatpack box in the middle of an aisle in an IKEA warehouse.

Snapshots. The history of the IKEA brand at a glance.

1920 - 1959

1926 – Ingvar arrives

IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad is born at the maternity ward “Vita Korset” in Älmhult in Småland, southern Sweden.

1933 – An entrepreneur right out of the mould

Even as a young boy, Ingvar knows he wants to develop a business. He takes his first step to becoming a businessman at age 5 when he decides to sell matches. From there he moves on to selling Christmas cards, seeds and pens to neighbours on his bike.

1943 – The first IKEA company is founded

To reward him for doing well in school, Ingvar’s father gives him a small sum of money which he uses to set up a company. He names it IKEA: an abbreviation of Ingvar Kamprad from Elmtaryd (the family farm), Agunnaryd (the local parish).

1948 – Furniture is introduced into the IKEA range

The dark brown RIGA dining table in varnished birch.

1950s – Shut out in Sweden

Many Swedish furniture retailers feel threatened by the low prices of IKEA products. They put pressure on suppliers to boycott the IKEA brand. In the 1950s, they try to prevent Ingvar from exhibiting at or even visiting furniture fairs. But every challenge has a solution – this is one of the reasons we started to look for collaborations abroad.

1950 – The IKEA Catalogue makes its debut

A future icon, the first annual IKEA home furnishing catalogue is published in Sweden.

Stacks of the IKEA catalogue with some copies opened in random pages.

1953 – The first showroom opens

A permanent showroom opens in Älmhult. Here customers can see and experience the quality of the products before ordering them, and Ingvar can meet customers in person and learn from them.

1953 – Say Hi to the flat pack

High costs and damage rates when transporting furniture via mail order are a constant thorn in Ingvar’s side. Although flat-pack furniture already exists, it hasn’t really taken off in Sweden yet. It takes a demonstration by IKEA supplier Ovendals in Hultsfred of a very stable flat-pack table for this to change. Flat-pack, self-assembly products become the solution to the transportation struggle, and the rest is history.

The IKEA DELFI coffee table in natural elm wood.

1960 - 1989

1960 – The first IKEA restaurant opens

In June 1960, only coffee and cold dishes are offered in IKEA stores. By the end of the year, the IKEA restaurant kitchen is fully equipped, including a microwave oven – a novelty at the time. Everything from hot snacks such as hamburgers to á la carte dishes are served. The idea comes from something Ingvar observes: people leave the store at lunchtime to eat in one of the restaurants or street kitchens in Älmhult. This interrupts the whole buying process. He realises that hungry customers buy less. Or as we often say, it’s tough to do business on an empty stomach.

In a lively IKEA restaurant, families, couples and friends are enjoying their food, while large white MASKROS lamps hang above them.

1963 – Hej Norway!

The first IKEA store outside Sweden opens in Norway.

1965 – The flagship IKEA store opens

The Kungens Kurva store outside of Stockholm opens its doors. It’s the largest furniture store in Northern Europe at the time, and the store’s design is inspired by the Guggenheim museum in New York. Its location is strategic — it’s easy to reach by car and has plenty of parking spaces.

An black and white aerial photo of the IKEA Kungens Kurva store in Stockholm, which opened in 1965.

1970 – The “miracle” fire that changes everything

An electrical fault causes a sign on the roof of the flagship IKEA store to catch fire in September 1970, causing a lot of damage. It isn’t all bad news though. It is also the beginning of something new. In the chaos following the fire, we open a self-service area, which turns out to be a roaring success. By the time the store re-opens in 1971, most products can be picked up in the self-service area, driven home and assembled by our customers.

1973 – Hej Europe!

The first IKEA store outside of Scandinavia is established in Spreitenbach, Switzerland, soon followed by stores in Germany.

Globes of different sizes are lined up on a shelf above a cosy and tidy desk with books, a blue typewriter and other office accessories.

1976 – Ingvar puts pen to paper

30 years after his business is born, Ingvar Kamprad writes “The Testament of a Furniture Dealer” with its 9 points. This is where many of his ideas are first written down, including the IKEA vision: to create a better everyday life for the many people.

Early ‘80s – A new sustainable owner structure is created

Ingvar seeks an ownership structure to create the best possible conditions for total independence and a long-term business perspective. He describes this as trying to give the IKEA brand “eternal life”. His solution is to separate the ownership of the retail operation from the IKEA concept and the IKEA brand — to keep these separate roles in independent business groups, operating under a franchise system.

1983 – Bye, bye (for now) Japan

Around 1970 exports to Japan are introduced. By 1973, our products are sold in a sort of mini IKEA store called “IKEA Corner” through a joint-venture with a Japanese retailer. However, the IKEA franchise system is not yet developed, and cooperation difficulties lead to the end of the Japanese business in 1983. Happily, our second attempt 20 years later is successful, which just goes to show that good things happen if you try and try again.

A young boy with a rainbow striped shirt puts in stuffed toy vegetables inside a play oven at an IKEA store.

1990 - The present

1995 – ”Democratic Design” is launched

The term “Democratic Design” is used for the first time during the furniture fair in Milan in 1995. “I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing that statement on the billboards and trams of Milan during the fair. I sat outside drinking Campari and watching the trams go past bearing the words `Il design democratico – IKEA´”, explains Per Hahn, an archivist at the IKEA Museum in Älmhult.

1998 – “Sow a seed” launches

In 1983, a forest fire destroys 18,500 hectares of rainforest in Malaysian Borneo. When Ingvar Kamprad, hears about it he wants to contribute to the rainforest’s regeneration. So, in 1998, we begin financing the “Sow a seed” project, leading to more than 12,500 hectares of rainforest being replanted.

2012 – The TV everyone’s been waiting for. Or not.

The IKEA UPPLEVA TV is appreciated for its design and even its sound, but the actual TV part…not so much. Needless to say, UPPLEVA is phased out of the product range and we are reminded of the importance of bringing in expert help.

2014 – The first Life at home report

We start using a new method of exploring life at home: a mix of our own research and interviews. The first report focuses on morning routines. We interview a total of 8,292 respondents aged between 18 and 60 in 8 cities. We find out all kinds of things – for example, we learn that 52% of Berliners interviewed press the snooze button at least once, and 36% snooze more than once. Read more about these sleepy Berlin night-owls and other fun facts in the report here.

2015 – All-in with LED

As of September 2015, halogen and energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs are no longer available and the switch is made to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for all lighting sold globally.

Four IKEA PS lamps with carrying handles and bulbs encased in sleek wiring are placed on the floor against a purple wall.