It all started with a burning entrepreneurial spirit and a clear goal: to offer affordable furniture to people. Today, Ikea is the world’s biggest home furnishing retailer but it began as a small mail order business based in Smaland province, south of Sweden, 75 years ago.
When he was just five years old, Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad was already selling matches to his neighbours. Then, when he was 17, he started Ikea as a mail order business in 1943.
Kamprad coined the name “Ikea” by combining his name and also the names of his family farm (Elmtaryd) and the village (Agunnaryd) it was in.
In 1948, Kamprad began to add furniture into his business, which was made by local manufacturers near his home. He eventually dropped other products and focused solely on offering quality furniture at affordable prices.
The first Ikea retail store opened in Almhult, Sweden, in 1958. Today, the brand has grown to 422 stores in 50 countries worldwide.
To celebrate its 75th anniversary this year, Ikea introduces the Gratulera vintage collection, bringing back some of the most popular products from three different eras: 1950s-1960s, 1970s-1980s and 1990s-2000s.
The first range, available now, comprises dark wood pieces with a classic feel. Products from the 1970s-1980s are more playful with bold, colourful shades while the 1990s-2000s collection shifts to a more minimal look with natural light woods and graphic colours. These two ranges will be available in December this year.
“We are taking this opportunity to thank our customers by re-introducing Ikea products that were once appreciated for their exceptional form, functionality, quality, sustainability and low price,” said Gerard Jansen, deputy retail director, Ikea South-East Asia, at the launch at Ikea Damansara in Kuala Lumpur recently.
He highlighted two products during the event: the Strandmon wing chair, first produced in 1951, and the Lovbacken coffee table (picture in main image above).
“Back then, wing chairs were very expensive and held a special position in a home. But Kamprad wanted to make it accessible to more people,” shared Jansen.
The classic Lovbacken gave rise to Ikea’s flat pack idea by chance when Ikea staff member Gillis Lundgren could not fit the table into his car and decided to remove the legs to avoid damage while transporting it for a photoshoot.
At the launch, Ikea also unveiled its year-long plans to keep up with evolving trends and meeting people’s needs at home.
Jansen explained, “Through ‘Make Home Count’, we want to inspire and show how Malaysians can embrace various changes of life and build feel-good homes that truly complement their lifestyle and growth. We want to help individuals and families of different compositions organise their homes, create meaningful environments and spaces, as well as live in a sustainable way.”
According to the Ikea Life@Home study, having “too much stuff” is the single biggest cause of stress in modern homes. Therefore, the first focus area of the plan, “Make Home Count For You”, will demonstrate how to turn personal space into a sanctuary where you can rest and rejuvenate.
Jansen added that rapid urbanisation and city living is also seeing smaller square footage per person.
“With 58% of Malaysians being families with kids, some with three generations under one roof, there is a growing need to organise their homes better.
“We cannot give you bigger homes but we can increase the utility per square foot for you.”