IKEA’s foundation puts it right in the middle of the mid-century modern design movement of the 1940s to 1960s. The flat-pack furniture giant seems to have always offered a sprinkling of MCM furniture since then. The recent interest in the style has brought about even more attention to IKEA retro designs.
Ingvar Kamprad founded IKEA in 1943 in Sweden. At the time, Sweden was pulling itself out of an economic downturn through a new focus on social programs and housing. Kamprad had been successful selling cheap household items, such as nylons, pipes, matches, etc., to neighbors and later by catalog in his youth. He saw the opportunity to expand into furniture as the country began investing in affordable housing. Ingvar’s focus on reasonably priced wares led him to develop inexpensive furniture with the economical flat-pack concept arriving soon after.
IKEA provided design-oriented furniture within just about every budget. Consumers could keep up with interior design trends at a much lower cost.
True to its nature, IKEA has led the low-cost MCM furniture category during the ongoing revival in mid-century modern style.
One of the most accessible modern mass retailers out there, IKEA has kept the Scandinavian flair it was founded with by designing furniture with clean lines and simple silhouettes, true to MCM style.
Top purchased IKEA furniture like the Poäng chair, Klippan loveseat, and Docksta Table all debuted after the MCM era, yet are decidedly modernist. IKEA’s ever-popular Poäng armchair, developed by Japanese designer Noboru Nakamura in collaboration with then director of design at IKEA Lars Engman, was made available in 1976 but was distinctly modern in design. The molded plywood form and natural wood finish creates beautifully simple lines completely reminiscent of Scandinavian modern design.
The Klippan loveseat was released in 1979 and resembles the club chairs of the mid-century era. The Docksta table is a clear copycat of Eero Saarinen’s tulip table, for which IKEA has taken some flak over. The styles are quintessential MCM in design and keep IKEA on the top of our minds when we think of affordable modern.
In 2014 IKEA released the ÅRGÅNG Collection, which brought back 26 of IKEA’s popular designs throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, seemingly coinciding with the renewed interest in retro design. The collection featured fresh takes on the brand’s MCM and Scandinavian designs from the 50s. The collection included retro lamps such as the Gårdskär pendant lamp, the Kläppa butterfly chair, the very Scandinavian Ekenäset armchair and the Lövbacken coffee tables, formerly called the lövet and the first item to have been offered as a flat pack.
IKEA takes great pride in their designers’ creations and creativity. The company frequently showcases their designers alongside their products. Going beyond that, they allow their designers to be public facing on social media. Many designers post pictures of their work activity to their own Instagram accounts, showing off gorgeous new styled spaces or product design in-action. This freedom undoubtedly begets more creativity, which in turn enhances the ever-evolving MCM-focused designs of the brand.
IKEA may be the low-cost leader but that’s exactly why the company is so well known for their MCM designs. Accessible style is what it’s all about. And when one company can put furniture in just about everyone’s home, you can bet that company is influencing the furniture trends of the times.