Yes, there will be meatballs! IKEA is opening its own museum to present a comprehensive story of the evolution of the Swedish brand that’s become synonymous with affordable flat-pack furniture.
Located on the site of IKEA’s first shop in Älmhult (opened in 1958) and where headquarters still are, the museum charts the company’s 73-year history, from the wild successes (the Klippan sofa) to the regrettable failures (anyone ever own a Fartfull?).
You can often tell a person’s stage in life from their IKEA collection. First share-houses are all about Fjellse beds and Billy bookcases plus those paper lightshades. Next stage, it’s the Expedit shelf system (RIP, Expedit), lined with grown-up books, vinyl and pot plants. Finally, chipboard is eschewed entirely in favour of IKEA’s modular sofas and designer kitchen installations.
The IKEA Museum's curators have spent several years gathering the iconic store's collection
One of the first flat-pack item IKEA released was the Lovet side table, which debuted in 1956. It’s a classic example of what’s great about IKEA: its mid-century design is so en vogue now that it has been reissued as the Lövbacken and its construction is so simple that even the least savvy customer can screw its three legs into place.
Much of the museum will be dedicated to IKEA’s designs from the second half of the 20th century, with room settings from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s providing a fascinating timeline of interior decorating trends.
A catalogue from 1970
An upside-down room setting in Älmhult's IKEA Museum
It will also document the company’s history, from IKEA’s inception by its 90-year-old founder Ingvar Kamprad as a teenager, when he would sell matches door-to-door. According to legend, he’d even go around selling fish if he managed to catch any. Next, it was cheap lighters, plastic trinkets and fountain pens via mail order. Kamprad’s first foray into furniture was resolutely 3D – there was no way to flat pack the first bentwood IKEA chairs. Also exhibited is a cigar box in which Kamprad would keep his teenage fish profits. He’s now a multibillionaire.
IKEA founger Ingvar Kamprad
A study in white: IKEA kitchenware
The IKEA archive in Älmhult, where many of its 9000 residents are employed by the company, only possessed a fraction of the items the company wanted to display. The museum’s opening on June 30 is the result of a dedicated hunt for IKEA’s long-lost, defunct and discontinued.
The museum also has early artefacts from IKEA's beginnings, including matches Ingvar Kamprad sold door-to-door and items he sold through his mail-order catalogue
A selection of brightly coloured IKEA products
Will visitors be guided around the concrete floors by arrows and encouraged to engage in arguments about storage solutions, hissed, sotto voce, through clenched teeth? Will they be given complimentary greyish meatballs upon completion of the exhibition? Should they BYO Allen key? We can’t say. What we can tell you is it’s highly likely you’ll recognise some of the exhibits. Raise your hand if you’ve never owned a Billy bookcase.
The IKEA Museum opens June 30.