150 years of

1943-2018 and the coming 75 years

Ingvar Kamprad registered IKEA in 1943. It is now 75 years since we first made it our aim to create a better everyday life for the many people. It’s a great task and an even greater responsibility – and something that we’ll never be finished with. The fact is, we’ll never really, fully grow up.

On the contrary, we are working hard to stay just as curious and playful now as we were back when it all started. But how did it all start? And how did we turn out the way that we have? Come and meet us – then, now and 75 years into the future!

50s – 60s

Where do we create the IKEA catalogue? In Älmhult of course!

You might have seen it – the IKEA catalogue, our yearly publication, free of charge and filled with inspiration for you. Ever since the early 1950s we’ve tried our best to inspire and offer tips and functional ideas through the IKEA catalogue.

Did we act differently from the competition when marketing our products? Yes! Instead of showing individual products, we were inspired by home furnishing magazines and how they showed real homes and fully furnished rooms. Over the years, we have improved our images, filling them with function, beauty and inspiration so that they satisfy as many different tastes and needs as possible.

But it doesn’t just happen by itself. Photographers, interior designers, carpenters, art directors, stylists and project leaders all work together to bring you and 200 million other households inspiration to create the home you are dreaming of.

2093: How do we create the inspiration that’s needed to make homes even better in the future?


Meet a retail rebel!

After the initial years of small-scale mail order business, IKEA grew quickly and needed a bigger showroom. More than 600,000 people were now reading the IKEA catalogue and IKEA had begun to attract attention outside Sweden. It was time to make a move. Ingvar Kamprad decided to build the largest home furnishing store in Scandinavia and approached a local architect, Claes Knutson, to create a store like no one had ever seen before. And where did he place it? In Stockholm or Copenhagen? No – in his small home town of Älmhult in the south of Sweden. A bold decision, contrary to all accepted retail thinking. Who would want to go there?

Ingvar proved he wasn’t just a retail rebel by going his own way and placing the first store in Älmhult, he also took a brave decision when deciding that the exterior actually mattered. He wanted the building to have a bold, interesting look.

He also saw the importance of great design when it came to products. So he employed a number of pretty wild and equally talented designers, and ever since the early 50s designers have been involved in the creation of our products. They have played an important role in making IKEA products affordable by thinking clever all the way through the process, optimising not only great design but also the production possibilities and material usage.

2093: How can we continue to be retail rebels in a fast-changing world? How do we shop in the future?


It’s simple, yet complicated.

First of all – it wasn’t us who invented the Allen key! However, we did see its huge potential. We dreamt about how one little tool could be the key that would turn our flat packs into everything from modular kitchens to sturdy dinner tables. With an Allen key in your hand, you wouldn’t need a screwdriver or even a toolbox – just an assembly instruction and a little patience. The flat pack made life a lot simpler, kept costs down and made it easy for people to take their furnishings home with them. But life in general, and assembling furniture in particular, is not always a smooth process. The upside, however, is a low price and that great feeling when you are done.

The flat pack and the Allen key both represent the revolutionary idea of IKEA – working together with our customers. We do our part and you do yours. Together we save money. Democratising the furniture business with the help of a handy little tool.

2093: How can we make things even simpler, easier and more straightforward in the future? And at the same time save money and resources?


70s – 80s

How do you make a sofa? Look in a trolley factory!

Innovation comes – at least in our case – from obstacles and challenges. Problems are treated like tangled opportunities. And to succeed in solving them, you need to look beyond the obvious. It’s a tricky equation to deliver great form + good function + long-lasting quality produced in a sustainable way at a price so low that as many people as possible can afford it. This is precisely the kind of tough challenge that forces us to think differently. Back in the 80s, we started to look at steel and metal in a new way. Steel can’t possibly just be for forks and trains, right? So, we visited a number of automated factories making industrial items and started to envisage furniture made of steel wire. A shopping trolley manufacturer inspired us to design an all-metal sofa. The sofa was a success and we started to develop a number of metal and wire furnishings. Throughout the years metal has been a great material for us – durable, low priced and recyclable.

2093: How can we challenge ourselves to only use renewable, recyclable and responsible materials. How can we become 100% circular?


The great fire

Oh, we were so proud that day in 1965 when we opened the big IKEA store at Kungens Kurva outside Stockholm. But late one September evening in 1970, the building caught fire and was seriously damaged. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Sure, it was
a huge setback, but it was also the beginning of something pretty fantastic. While cleaning up the chaos, we also sorted out what IKEA was going to be all about.

We made an even greater effort to come closer to life at home by creating over 200 unique interiors based on people’s real needs and dreams. Inspiring, functional and fun room settings that spoke straight to people’s hearts. 

It was almost as if we had needed the fire in order to define ourselves. To get rid of our insecurities and believe whole- heartedly in our idea and our vision.

2093: Do we need a new fire to be relevant? How can we be even stronger in helping people who are looking for a better everyday life?


The seriousness of a playful home

Got kids? Congratulations on a life folled with joy, worries and stickiness! We know that everyday family life is everything but easy. Fun, yes – but challenging. So over the years we’ve asked ourselves, how can we contribute to a safer and more playful home? Well, in the 70s we started to develop furnishings that allowed the whole family to play, nap and spill, everywhere in the home, even in the living room. Why? Because we believe that kids should be allowed to play at home, and that their parents should feel good about it. Washable sofa covers and easy-to-clean rugs make the home a great playground for every child.

We also developed a whole new range of safety products to make sure that neither kids nor their parents hurt themselves while playing in the home. In the 90s we adopted an even more serious approach to play and developed a range of products together with prestigious child specialists and serious play specialists – the kids themselves.

Pretty much since the beginning of our existence we’ve tried hard to make everyday life for families with children easier, safer, more functional and a lot more fun. Why? Because children are the most important people in the world!

2093: What will life look like for children and how can we make it more playful?


90s – now

Utopia? Yes please!

Imagine the irresistible combination of great form, good function, long-lasting quality produced in a sustainable way – and at a low price! This utopian ideal has been part of our DNA from the very beginning.

Our dream is to make sure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to choose according to their needs and taste, not the size of their wallet. Truly great design usually comes with a pretty steep price tag, alienating it from all of us with ordinary incomes and limited savings.

But if we could manage to create beautiful and inspiring furniture and other objects at a low price, we would democratise the entire concept of form, function and quality as being something accessible only to the fortunate few. A low price is crucial if we are going to be able to create a better everyday life for the many people. As a result of this, in 1995 we developed and launched a collection at the Milan Furniture Fair called IKEA PS. A huge effort has since gone into delivering on this idea about Democratic Design – now and in the glorious future.

2093: How can we reach even more people in the future with our Democratic Design?


How do you solve a problem? Together!

We want to make truly great things available to everybody. That’s why we always start with the price when we develop products. How can we make the price lower without sacrificing form, function, quality and sustainability? Can we use another material? An innovative production method? Or a new, unheard-of assembly method? We always try to think in new ways and look at the world with open hearts and minds.

One of the greatest experiences in product development is when a group of dedicated people are working together, almost obsessively trying to figure out the best possible solution for creating something new and better. The tougher the challenge, the more we enjoy trying to find a solution. Side by side, product developers, designers, technicians and suppliers are working together to create a better everyday life for you.

2093: How can we take on the growing challenges of everyday life? Small space living, more people in big cities and fewer resources? Together!


Are you just as curious as we are? Great!

A long time ago, we figured out that the best way to develop and create something truly great is to be curious and open. Open to new angles and curious about how other people think. People who don’t necessarily work at IKEA, but who have a new and interesting take on things. Because if you want to move from good to great, you’ve got to make sure you challenge yourself by adding a few more curious and creative minds into the mix.

So we’ve started to move from creating products to creating platforms. The idea of an open platform is that anyone should be able to make our products their own, based on their dreams and needs. Our job is more or less to let go and see what happens when we share the process. Like when we developed a new sofa platform called DELAKTIG. At an early stage we invited students from three continents to see how they would take it further and make it more relevant to their lifestyles. The whole idea was for us not to steer. We had no control over the end result and, guess what – it felt really good. What do we learn from this? By listening to many different voices, we are more likely to be relevant for many more different people. Open and curious is the way to go forward. Are you with us? Great!

2093: We are curious, how can we be even more open in the future?


The power of
asking why.

We don’t know everything. Far from it. But we are infinitely curious. And we’ve figured out that curiosity is the best research tool ever. How people live, what they dream of, materials, big cities, new technology, old technology, designers, researchers, inventors, all kinds of people.

Our curiosity is the fuel that get’s us moving every morning. What are your dreams for the future? Let us know on #life2093