IKEA is known for many things, meatballs and Frakta DIYs included, but perhaps above all for its instantly recognizable aesthetic. It’s what we think of as classic Scandinavian style: simple silhouettes and largely neutral color palettes that go with everything. Or, at least, that’s what it looks like on the surface.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll notice that IKEA has also always been the champion of playful designs in bright colors, often collaborating with cutting-edge artists ranging from Verner Panton to Bea Åkerlund. We saw this most recently in the brand’s playful summer 2019 collection—but nowhere is IKEA’s penchant for the funky more evident than its old collections. We went through the retailer’s archives to dig up some (unfortunately) decommissioned products, and they’re good. Here are five highlights:
The Vilbert Chair
Created in 1993 by Verner Panton for IKEA, this super-limited-time-only chair—only 4,000 were made—is a sculptural dream. Multicolored boards are simply screwed together for an uber-contemporary silhouette. You can still find originals sold on sites like 1stDibs and Etsy, but be prepared to shell out a pretty penny. For a similar (but much easier to find) look, consider Gerrit Thomas Rietveld’s zigzag chair. It may not be an exact replica, but it has the same geometric flair.
The Duett Pendant Lamp
Ombre is evidently more of a classic than a trend. This 1970s-era IKEA lamp, designed by Bent Gantzel-Boysen, came in a few different colorways and was undoubtedly the star of any room it was placed in. (Pssst: Pamono still has a few pairs you can purchase.) Louis Poulsen’s PH5 pendants are a great lookalike. Hang yours proudly over your dining table or breakfast nook.
The Oti Lounge Chair
Niels Gammelgaard’s 1986 green wire chair wouldn’t look out of place in a modern showroom, thanks to its sleek diamond shape. Luckily, you can find lots of kindred styles today. DWR’s classic Bertoia chair includes a cushion, so lounging in it with a book is that much more comfortable.
The B719 Lamp
This primary-colored task lamp is Memphis-era gold. The geometric shapes, the primary colors… suffice it to say, we’re very jealous of 1980s-era IKEA shoppers who got to take one of these home. In 2019, we suggest investing in Alessandro Mendini’s Amuleto Table Lamp; it’s definitely a splurge, but it’s as much a piece of art as it is a functional light fixture.
The Guide Shelving Unit
The best thing about these shelves, another Niels Gammelgaard for IKEA product, is the fact that they were reversible. One side was black, the other was white, and both featured trim in bright colors. Scoop up an original on 1stDibs or, less colorful but just as practical, a wooden France & Son unit. If you’re really craving color, you can flex your DIY muscles and give the edges a fresh coat of paint.