Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Functionality & Frugality in Furniture

You probably can't pronounce their names, but if you're a college student furnishing your very first apartment, you've probably seen them before. In fact, you've probably built some. I'm talking about Ikea furniture. 

Inexpensive yet modern-looking, Ikea has been a go-to place for thousands of people to furnish their homes without breaking the bank. But have you ever wondered who designs all this furniture in the first place?

Ilse Crawford is the British interior designer who has designed the SINNERLIG collection, comprised of more than 30 furniture pieces, categorized into working, dining and lounging. 

If there is anything that Crawford places above all else in creating her spaces and products, it is the human experience. "The basis of the collection," Crawford said, "was to bring emotions values into that [mass manufacturing] system and come out with products that are not only sustainable but people really love." Crawford was not motivated extrinsically with the success and reach of product development and a big name like Ikea, but intrinsically motivated by the desire to develop experience for the owners of this furniture. 

You can see this in the products she designs. Her team decided to use cork for the tables and chairs to utilize sustainable materials. The stoneware used a Vietnamese dip-dye process-- making each and every product unique. Individuals could choose which dip-dye design they liked to fit their individual likes. The process of designing and using mass manufacturing to produce them took 3 years. 

On the subject of designing tables, she calls the measuring tape the most simple, yet important tool. A measurement as small as three inches could mean the difference between confrontation and conversation. "Tables can be metaphors for power and confrontation; the conference table is wide and long and the one at the top is the one that pulls the strings," she says. She prefers informal, oval tables that allow more people to join in on the conversation. 

Ilse prides itself on not just developing products, but also developing an experience-- which is why she has also been asked to redesign Ikea's restaurants over the next ten years. Her goal is to have the design change how families, especially children, think about their food choices and the effect these choices may have in the future. 

"Design is a tool to enhance our humanity. It's a frame for life," she says. And so she may be framing the way that we experience spaces, from the Ikea restaurants to our very own homes. 

“Abstract: The Art of Design, Interior Design: Ilse Crawford”. Dir. Elizabeth Chai Vsarahelyi, Morgan Neville. Radical Media, 2017. Netflix. Web. 18 April 2017.


  1. I think that this is a great post. I have furnished much of my current apartment with IKEA furniture and can speak firsthand about my appreciation for the inexpensive, modern, reliable furniture they provide. When talking about Crawford's creative process, I like how you made mention of her emphasis on creating an experience. I think that experience is one of the key things that IKEA prides itself on as a whole. From the way that they make you walk through the entire store during a shopping experience, to the numerous display rooms set up throughout the store your entire time shopping at IKEA is centered around a unique experience that you do not necessarily get at other furniture stores. I am curious to see how Crawford transforms the overall IKEA experience into their in-store restaurants!

  2. I love walking around IKEA and seeing all the different names for the furniture. I really appreciate how the designer talks about the emotions that go into designing the tables and other objects. Thinking about the interactions people have around the furniture is something that has never really be all that interesting before, but now I see how that can affect a person's experience.

  3. IKEA furniture is essential for any college apartment. I think that it is interesting how much thought goes into to the look and the name of the product. It makes it feel as if that piece of furniture was made specifically for that buyer. I never thought furniture as being personalized, but it really is. Pieces of furniture reflects personality and sets the mood in a home, as mentioned by the difference in round and rectangular tables. I wonder what changes Crawford will make to the restaurant? I would like to see what changes are made to the restaurants interior design and what types of food will be offered? In addition, I wonder how Crawford decides which pieces are added to the collection and how she collaborates with her team in order to come up with these ideas.

  4. Coming from a Germany, where most homes are a mirror image of IKEA, and where going to IKEA is considered a family vacation, I was very intrigued by this post. This is a great example of creativity, because Ilse's designs lean on the very simplistic, straight forwardness that IKEA's products are known for, yet they also bring something new to the table. Interesting is especially her use of environmentally stable materials, which IKEA should incorporate more into their products. The technique of dip-dying gives other designs an originality that usually absent in mass production. I would like to know more about Ilke's creative process. How exactly did she come up with her ideas? What is her background?
    On another note, I recently saw an article that IKEA will develop indoor gardens, which is really cool and (hopefully) will revolutionize home living and bring more green into office buildings or even apartment complexes.

  5. Even within the IKEA framework of well-designed, inexpensive furniture, Ilse's collection stands out. I am particularly struck by your illumination of the ways in which she incorporates intention into her design work. It would be interesting to see how she could redesign the IKEA dining experience to be more suited to families. In terms of our course material, I would be interested to know how collaboration factors into her work. Does she work with non-furniture designers in order to ascertain what problems she can tackle with her innovations? Or, does her own motivation to create well-designed products serve as enough of an impetus to exercise her creativity?


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