This week on the blog, we were due to publish a charming tale of a Rococo chair steeped in history and elegance and the author Gun Bjerkander Handberg’s adventures of extracting its image from an old slide taken many moons ago. However, in light of the passing of IKEA founder, Ingvar Kamprad and as the Editor, I felt it important to pay homage to the many IKEA chairs that perhaps are in many peoples home and have played important roles in their lives despite the quite temporary appearance or disposable future.
In 1973 Japanese designer Noboru Nakamura came to Sweden to learn more about Scandinavian furniture–and there, he collaborated with Lars Engman, at the time the director of design at IKEA. Nakamura went on to create the Poäng, a chair that would use a plywood veneer construction. The Poäng chair has sold over 30 million around the globe, a modern day chair icon.
We often discuss and debated around the Please Be Seated table (whilst seated on beautiful wooden carved chairs), that people today do not value the competitively priced mass-produced chairs and furniture that often fills homes, office and schools. Ikea is considered fast-food furniture picked and purchased from a large warehouse-style superstore, assembled in under 30 minutes and thrown away within a decade. Consumed but not loved. Used but not thought of with great fondness or affection. The question of the environment is never far from the mind of author Gun Bjerkander Handberg. The forests, recycling and the eco-footprint of a chair which will be used and discarded in a lifetime, not passed down to a relative or resold or reused by another, leaves a very bad taste in the mouth of those who celebrate the importance and presence of the historical chair or antique.
I am of the generation where IKEA chairs seem to have seamlessly blended into my life alongside the inherited chairs, chairs bought from online antique sales and those gifted to me from relatives who are downsizing and no longer have a use for them. They all live together, contemporary and historical and neither the flat pack chair or the antique chair seems to mind the other. One clearly has more aesthetic and financial value, but the others, often well designed, mass-produced chairs have served me and my family over the last two decades in a very practical and comforting fashion. Surely they too have tales to tell of everyday life? Surely they already are part of history?
I have a new found respect for chairs and their place in our lives since working with the publication of the Please Be Seated – Historic Chairs and The Tales They Tell. Possibly, this new understanding of chairs and the passing of the IKEA founder and the many iconic chairs the global furniture superstore sells, might just encourage me to hold onto these lesser chairs which have played a significant role in my life? I might be just a little less eager to dismiss and discard them, rather repair and hold on to them just in case they might come in useful in years to come.
Could they too possibly now be seen as classic or vintage or even historical? I think there will be much more discussion and debates with Handberg before we agree on that!
Editor – Juliet Rees-Nilsson
The Please Be Seated series by the author Gun Bjerkander Handberg is now available to purchase online,