I know, I know – it was a hard pill for me to swallow, too. But the time of judgment and sneering has past, and we can no longer ignore the facts – IKEA is awesome. I totally get your cynicism – I really do. But IKEA is well on its way to becoming (and I’m going to get controversial here) a bit of an industry champion.
Yes – in design circles, IKEA has traditionally always been synonymous with a very grey area of debate: is their product “inspired by” or is it “replica”? And to be fair, it wasn’t an entirely unfair question to raise. IKEA has spent years pumping out affordable product that has at times bared a shocking resemblance to existing original designs, particularly that of Scandinavian design houses like artek, where for example you can walk into any IKEA around the world and pick yourself up a few Stool 60s (or “Frosta Stools” ask IKEA calls them) for half the price of one original.
The “inspired by” or “replica” debate is still very much alive, but in the last few years however, IKEA has really turned a corner – investing in original and authentic designers to deliver accessible design to the masses. Tom Dixon, Jasper Morrison, Naoto Fukasawa, Patricia Urquiola, Walter Van Beirendonck, Studio Truly Truly – these are globally established and celebrated design icons, contributing to widening the scope of design democracy under the IKEA banner.
It seems that IKEA is very keen on continuing this path, having recently teamed up with the world’s greatest designers at the recent Salone del Mobile last week.
Dubbed The IKEA Festival, the Swedish brand launched their newest furniture collaborations alongside daily workshops, talks, musical performances, all focused round the idea of the living room and what it means to us today.
From morning yoga to robotic painting, this warehouse in the Lambrate district became one of the highlights (and most Instagrammed) of Salone. On show were collaborations with Tom Dixon and with Hay as well as room concepts created by Faye Toogood for IKEA. Rounding off with a flash sale on Sunday in which classic IKEA furniture items were discounted by 40 per cent, visitors were invited to take home their own piece of the Festival.
Though admittedly, there are still some problematic aspects to the house of IKEA, but it’s a more than encouraging step in the right direction, particularly on the authentic design front. And while it might seem frivolous and even a bit unfair, it should be acknowledged that anything which opens our industry up to being accessed by the wider public is a good thing, maybe even – dare I say it – beneficial.