Via Homes to Love
Real Living visited IKEA’s hometown in southern Sweden for its annual Democratic Design Days to discover how a mail-order business evolved into a modern day design icon. From what goes on behind the scenes of an IKEA catalog shoot to the date they started flat packing furniture, here are 34 insane things you probably didn’t know about IKEA.
1. The first two letters of IKEA are founder Ingvar Kamprad’s initials, and the last two stand for the name of the farm and village where he grew up in southern Sweden: Elmtaryd Agunnaryd.
2. Every year, hundreds of people from the media from around the world descend upon IKEA HQ in Älmhult for its Democratic Design Days, where the latest designer collaborations and innovations are revealed for the year ahead.
3. The iconic blue Frakta bag has become a design classic. This year, the bag has been redesigned by both Hay and Reform Studio — the latter gave it a blingy silver makeover using material made entirely out of 32 recycled chip packets!
4. Pieces from the brand’s designer collaborations can be a real investment. Some vintage pieces are selling for record prices at auction. The Åke clam chair from 1944 recently sold for more than $66,660 at an auction in the United Kingdom.
5. Over 640 million people eat at IKEA every year — 30 percent visit solely to eat. Meatballs, anyone?
6. Danish design wunderkinds HAY have just released their collection Ypperlig, featuring beautifully understated pieces in their signature palette. To see the range, click here.
7. Streetwear meets homewares in fashion designer and artist Chris Stamp’s ridiculously cool Spänst collection, coming in May 2018! Look out for the very first IKEA skateboard.
8. IKEA is working on a fragrance project with cult perfume brand Byredo. But don’t expect run-of-the-mill fragrance diffusers.
9. Ever wondered what KLIPPAN means? Each piece is given names in categories, for example, sofas and armchairs are named after Swedish places — such as Klippan, a region in southern Sweden.
10. British designer Tom Dixon has collaborated on a bed sofa. “I wanted to make a coffin but they wouldn’t let me,” he says. The Delaktig bed sofa is a bed first and foremost, but can also be used as a sofa and more with the addition of extra pieces.
11. The Industriell collection by Legendary Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek celebrates the beauty of imperfection and is expected to fly off the shelves when it goes on sale in April 2018.
12. And in another unexpected pairing, IKEA's teaming up with muses Teenage Engineering on Frekvens, a “party” collection expected to hit stores by February 2019.
13. The IKEA catalog is produced by more than 280 people in a huge photo studio called ICOM. Designers, photographers, art directors, copywriters, carpenters, and artists are all employed. #dreamjob
14. ICOM produces approximately 40,000 images and 250 films a year. That’s more than 110 photos a day!
15. During “catalogue season," the team will build 30 to 50 rooms a week (almost everything is shot in studio,) and hire an additional 100 freelancers to help with the epic workload. When we visited in June this year, the team was already working on the 2019 catalog.
16. In addition to a sewing room and carpentry workshop, ICOM also boasts a kitchen where food is prepared for use in shoots — all matched to suit the tastes of different countries.
17. ICOM has a huge library of props and international delicacies, so sets can be dressed with the right cultural ingredients (think a jar of Vegemite for Australia or a bag of Reese’s Pieces for the U.S.)
18. Ingvar Kamprad launched IKEA in 1943 as a mail-order business selling a variety of household products — everything from stockings to pens — before diversifying into furniture in 1948. His motto: “To create a better everyday life for the many people."
19. The company didn’t start flat packing furniture until 1956. The idea came about when the legs of a table were removed to transport it more easily.
20. Sustainability is a major goal, with the company aiming to be energy independent and forest positive by 2020. Many products are already made from recycled materials. These vases (pictured below) are made from melting down glass products that have been rejected due to irregularities at their factory in China.
21. IKEA tests every item for functionality, durability, and safety, with the product development process taking up to three years before a product reaches the store.
22. Today, testing is carried out by the latest robots, but before they were introduced, one man, a former carpenter, was a “test butt” of sorts, physically testing the furniture by sitting on it.
23. It’s estimated one in 10 Europeans were conceived on an IKEA mattress!
24. Contrary to popular belief, IKEA's assembly instructions are also painstakingly tested, with the instruction designers – called “communicators” — charged with putting a product together first to pinpoint any potential issues.
25. Consider yourself handy with an Allen key? Customers are invited at random to test out the step-by-steps.
26. If that sounds like your idea of hell, fear not — IKEA furniture is becoming easier to put together! IKEA researchers discovered younger generations are less likely to have basic tools on hand for assembly, so their design has evolved. Many new pieces simply clip together.
27. This year a team of designers journeyed to the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah in a bid to learn how astronauts live and better understand compact living.
28. There is a slew of businesses taking IKEA hacking to the next level. Superfront produces doors and attachments to personalize your IKEA kitchen, and Bemz makes custom covers for IKEA furniture.
29. IKEA still operates in Älmhult, where the first IKEA showroom was opened in 1953. Älmhult is also home to the Ikea Hotell, the IKEA Museum, and ICOM, where the catalog is produced. The hotel and museum are open to the public, the latter boasting a meatball restaurant.
30 SPACE10 is IKEA's innovation lab based in Copenhagen. This year, it unveiled the IKEA Growroom, a communal urban garden, and also shared the plans online so anyone could build it. The think tank works with people from around the world on projects designed to improve life in the future, tackling issues like climate change, urbanization, and natural resource shortages.
This post was written by the editors at Homes to Love. For more, check out our sister site Homes to Love.