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IKEA HIGHLIGHTS 2016
THE NERDY
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WRITER: HANNAH MAGNUSSON
Close-up of a work bench with a bamboo worktop on top of a stainless steel bench.
Just go look at people shopping for clothes. The first thing they do, they’re touching the material. If it feels good, like what you expect it to feel like, then ‘oh wow, that’s quality!’
A  photo of Jan Ahlsén, material and innovation specialist at IKEA.
The words come from Jan Ahlsén, Material & Innovation Specialist at IKEA. His love for natural materials started over 40 years ago, with solid wood. “It was by accident I made the switch to bamboo and other nature fibre materials. Now I challenge solid wood,” he chuckles with a twinkle in his eye. “But I believe that everyone has this innate sense of quality.”
 A rocking-chair made of handwoven rattan, solid ash and steel, shown against a black background.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THAT FEELING?
“It’s about form and function. It’s about fulfilling my expectations, that the furniture works as I expect it to work when I use it. Quality is free - you see, quality itself doesn’t cost anything. It’s the errors that drive costs for both companies and consumers.”
A work bench with a bamboo worktop on top of a stainless steel bench, shown against a black background.
WHAT'S YOUR BEST SHOPPING ADVICE FOR SPOTTING HIGH QUALITY?
“It’s about form and function. It’s about fulfilling my expectations, that the furniture works as I expect it to work when I use it. Quality is free - you see, quality itself doesn’t cost anything. It’s the errors that drive costs for both companies and consumers.”
“This is of course if you’re prepared to do some maintenance over time,” he adds with a smile.
HOW WILL IKEA USE NATURAL MATERIALS IN THE FUTURE?
“The IKEA spirit is fantastic because we dare to do things differently. If you look ahead to 2020, 2030, we know already now that we’ll use a lot more materials. But, we’re also aware of materials that don’t possess those expected limitations. An example of this is bamboo; you plant it, and seven years later you can harvest it, without having to replant it. The roots take care of that - extremely sustainable material, right? So, why don’t we do more! I can of course mention cork as well. We only “borrow” the bark, we never cut down the trees.”
“We’re also very aware of the waste that is being generated in the process, and have a lot of initiatives around this today. Going forward we’ll take care of bamboo waste by mixing it together with other natural materials. This turns into something that looks a lot like ceramic,” he points to his coffee cup on the table. “Technically it’s all there, now we just need to make it happen! I think there’s a lot of future there, even from a customer perspective, and IKEA product development is very much at the forefront of this.”
Rattan and paper are two other materials to keep an eye on in the future:
“It’s great for storage because it allows items to breathe, and it’s better for the environment. Materials like this give us that cosy feeling at home,” Jan concludes with a warm smile.
Jan Ahlsén, material and innovation specialist at IKEA, holding a stool made of cork and powder coated steel.dardkbox
DID YOU KNOW...

…that bamboo has the exceptional ability to cleanse the air from substances like benzene, formaldehyde, chloroform, carbon monoxide and xylene?
Unlike most trees, it only needs eight months to fully grow, and never requires replanting - it will continue to grow new shots from its root system. Lastly, let’s not forget to mention its unique ability to absorb moisture, handling the dampest of environments. Thanks to this, IKEA has created the essential bamboo-made collection, RÅGRUND
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…that there are 90 different types of rattan?
You might have seen it used for products like RÅDVIKEN, the funky and comfy IKEA PS GULLHOLMEN, and for stackable AGEN. It’s one of few materials that hold up to extremely high degrees of humidity. For this reason alone it’s a great material for outdoor use. As a bonus it’s comfortable and durable.
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…that it takes about 20 years for a cork tree to fully grow?
The cool thing about cork is that the bark is what is carefully cut away while the tree itself survives, allowing it continue growing and producing fresh layers of bark. Then the process may be continued with 9-year intervals. Thanks to its peculiar cell structure, cork doesn’t absorb anything - which is why the SINNERLIG table won’t be ruined after those accidental spills of wine or coffee.
(BUT OH, SO PASSIONATE)
TRUTH ABOUT QUALITY
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MEET BILLY AT HIS
COUNTRYSIDE BIRTHPLACE
He has been around for nearly four decades. Most of us have either lived with him or gotten to know him at a friend’s place. Come along and meet BILLY at his countryside birthplace where about 4.5 million BILLY bookcases see daylight each year.
Get the full story about the BILLY production
PROTECTING DESKS
… AND THE PLANET
Why not take recycling one step further and actually make new products out of waste? A few years back, someone at IKEA had this ‘crazy idea’… But now, this is turning into reality, saving money for the customers and finite resources for Mother Earth.
Learn more about the crazy idea
PEEKING INTO THE WORLD’S
LARGEST PRINT PRODUCTION
Translated into 33 languages, in 48 different markets, reaching about 255 million people, this year’s IKEA Catalogue welcomed everyone to be themselves. The statement was clear: IKEA doesn’t design furniture for consumers - they design for people. And the reality? People are human, and humans are not perfect.
Get a peek behind the scenes
FURNITURE MADE OUT OF PAPER. NO, SERIOUSLY!
Sofas and chairs made from the same stuff as egg cartons? And bench tops and table legs made from bamboo? Anything is possible as IKEA design-teams explore a world of materials.
Learn more about new materials
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IKEA HIGHLIGHTS
Many companies, organisations and people, together, shape IKEA. Each and every person, idea and solution contribute to the big picture. IKEA Highlights collects stories from different parts of the IKEA world to describe this year’s accomplishments, quirks and maybe even a few slips. Good thing we’re all human.
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A FORCE FOR GOOD DESIGN
A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, David Wahl was given a mission. A young IKEA designer, David was asked to produce a unique object that could defeat the darkness in homes across the planet, bringing light and hope to the many. The result was the IKEA PS Pendant lamp: a planet-like lighting fixture that ‘explodes’ at the pull of a string, spilling warm, glorious light across surrounding spaces.
Read the full story about the IKEA PS Pendant lamp
MOST THINGS STILL
REMAIN TO BE DONE
Have you ever wondered where IKEA came from? Or how a simple country boy from Småland was inspired to create one of the world’s leading brands and help create a better everyday life for millions of people?
Find the answers in the full story