PS: Ikea looking back, and forward
Designer Anna Wallin Irinarchos has fused the passion of her Mediterranean heritage with a pared-back Nordic design sensibility to help create two key pieces for Ikea.
She and her business partner Lisa W?den, whom she met at the Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm in 2003, are among 19 Swedish designers invited to contribute to the PS 2012 collection. Shorthand for post scriptum but more a full-fledged addition than an afterthought, it is created every three years and draws on inspiration from 60 years of Ikea design.
Described as limited edition, the PS 2012 collection was introduced last Friday and will be on sale for an unspecified period of time into 2013, according to Ikea, which declined to provide production numbers.
'Instead of simply looking back,'' says an Ikea spokeswoman, 'we challenged [the designers] to take the design forward by updating and innovating forms, functions, materials and sustainability.'
Many of the results, comprising more than 30 homeware products, are recognisable as being quintessentially Ikea; others are imbued with an individual quirkiness.
In keeping with the furnishing giant's philosophy of affordability and value for money, there's also a range of price points, from the simple, yet visually pleasing spotted stoneware (bowl: HK$15.90; side plate HK$12.90) to an eye-catching sofa (HK$6,990) inspired by 1970s tubular- steel living room furniture.
Irinarchos and W?den's creations are a glass-door cabinet (HK$3,990) and a television bench (HK$2,490), both made from medium-density fibreboard and based on their brief to create storage solutions.
The former harks back to the cabinets of 1960s and 1970s Europe popular for displaying glassware, but embraces the contemporary by incorporating just one sloping front door hinged on the side. Nothing too unusual there, perhaps, except that it is composed of what looks like seven different-sized picture frames that act as display windows.
'I liked that a glass cabinet is a classic piece and we were inspired by the fact you can put your favourite photos in frames or anything else that you might collect,' says Irinarchos.
The TV/DVD bench stimulates with its fluorescent yellow doors that have a wavy bottom edge and fold back.
'If you think about the countryside, in the 1950s you might have seen a table with drapery in front of it,'' says Irinarchos, who has a Greek father but grew up in Sweden and lives just outside Stockholm. 'Ours is a new take on something old.'
It took about two months to complete the final design sketches for the cabinet and bench. 'I tend to design in my head first,' says Irinarchos. 'Sometimes I decide to sketch but that can be hard to do. Then I start talking to Lisa. She feels like my older sister and always gives good advice.''
The time-consuming part was turning the design into a prototype, a process that took about two years.
'Ikea looks at things like perfect hinges. It's very keen on safety as you might expect.''
While specialists in storage design for their own company, WIS Design, Irinarchos confides that her perfect piece of furniture to design would be a chair.
'I'd really like to design a good-looking chair. I think it's a fundamental test of whether you're a good designer,' she says.
'There're so many facets to think about.'
Much of the PS collection has been designed with the environment in mind. Range manager Karen Chau points to the use of bamboo in a three-sectioned drop-leaf dining table.
'The top is made from fast-growing bamboo. And if you look closely at the grain, you can see it's just one piece.''
The spotted tableware is another example of helping the environment.
'The blobs were put on existing tableware that had small marks on them. There's no wastage and each piece will be unique,' says Jacklyn Tse, also a range manager.
Other highlights include an almost whimsical floor lamp (HK$1,490), which the observer will immediately realise is inspired by a ballet tutu with a floaty tulle fabric lampshade.
A side table (HK$459), also partly made with bamboo for its frame, combines fun with practicality by incorporating four deep bowls into its surface. In-store they've been filled with plants to look decorative. Other creative uses might be to store children's toys, or on those long hot summer days, filled with ice and used to keep bottled drinks cool. Similarly, another version (HK $359) has just one large bowl, ideal for holding a selection of fruit.
Irinarchos, who remembers as a teenager always being interested in the furnishings her parents were going to buy, feels her grandfather would be thrilled if he knew that she's designed for Ikea.
'When I was a teenager I was quite critical of what my parents had. Can you believe I even offered to take a year off school to help them renovate their house?
'I remember my grandfather always being into furniture design. He loved the Danish classics such as the Verner Panton chair. He was a great fan of Ikea too. He thought it offered good design at an affordable price.''
Years to the present in which more copies of the Ikea catalogue have been printed annually than copies of the Bible