The Most Famous Design Store in the World is Getting Nostalgic

A new museum takes us all back to the brilliant successes and quirky ideas throughout the history of furniture behemoth Ikea. That's a whole new Ikea space to fight with your loved ones in!

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Three years ago, Ikea staff member Thea Davidsson was tasked with the curious assignment of buying back certain Ikea products. She scoured internet auction sites for chairs, lamps, rugs—any remnants of discontinued designs she could get her hands on. And now, Davidsson's finds are finally coming together in a new museum dedicated to the furniture behemoth's 73-year history.

The Konfetti candle holder, circa 1995, is one example of the bright, plastic designs of the past collections
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Opening tomorrow in Almhult, Sweden, the Ikea Museum puts this historic home décor on display, rebuilt as if the pieces came fresh out of a storeroom flat-pack. The furniture makes a fitting home in Ikea's very first retail space, which originally opened for business in 1958. Here, you can walk amongst generations of collections and perhaps hear the whispers of family design spats of the past. Fall in love all over again when you come across rare designs from the 1990s (including the failed inflatable furniture line), as well as Ikea perennials like the Billy bookcase and Klippan sofa. You'll soon forget that you see these every day in your own home (and your friends', and your neighbors')—this is a memorial of one man's design revolution.

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Ingvar Kamprad in his office, 1963-4

That man is the 90-year-old founder, Ingvar Kamprad, who started his business in 1943. Back then, it was a mail-order service selling pens, picture frames, nylon stockings, and other such sundries at a discounted price. Now, owning over 118 million square feet of retail space worldwide, he wants to tell the story of Ikea.

So let's take a look inside the new museum!

Dream up your own multibillion-dollar business. Kamprad began his by collecting the money he made selling fresh-caught fish in this cigar box, which is on display at the new museum.

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The museum will show Ikea displays through the ages, including this one from the 1990s, which is installed on the ceiling—naturally.

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In this right-side-up display, you can see the matching lacquered oak furniture from the 1960s. The Danske dining chair, which was created by Arne Wahl Iversen, is an example of Ikea's collaboration with Danish designers.

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Ikea launched its first restaurant in 1960 and, ever since, has become a destination for one particular Swedish delicacy: meatballs. The museum honors the favorite dish with nothing less than its very own display case.

In the 1990s, Ikea came up with what they thought was the ultimate flat-pack solution: inflatable furniture. They launched "Ikea a.i.r.," but unfortunately the furniture developed leaks quickly and the design was discontinued.

 

Plastic furniture took off, however, such as this side table circa 1995. It's called Hatten and was designed by Ehién Johansson.

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Have a good Ikea hack? The Your Stories exhibition lets customers share how they've customized the Billy bookcase over the years. The museum, for example, has whitewashed the veneer—and all the books in the case.

The Klippan sofa, another Ikea perennial, was first introduced in 1979, one year after the Billy. It is shown here in a 1980s display.

The Klippan sofa, another Ikea perennial, was first introduced in 1979, one year after the Billy. It is shown here in a 1980s display.

In the 1970s, Ikea began using unconventional fabrics such as denim on its furniture. It was seen as a more durable fabric that could withstand some serious wear and tear. The Tajt lounger, which was on the cover of the 1973 catalog, is one example.

A hall dedicated to Ikea's bright accessories (fake grass, anyone?) lets you imagine a more ideal world where all the colors in your home match perfectly.

Planning a visit to the Ikea Museum? For more information, see ikeamuseum.com.

All photographs courtesy of Inter Ikea Systems B.V. 2016

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