A new feature for an old favorite
It's no surprise that in 50 years of existence, IVAR storage system has filled many different roles in people's lives. It can fill large rooms or fit into small spaces, ready to do whatever you can dream up. You'll find it packed with preserves in the pantry, painted a bright color for a bedroom, tucked into the basement for storage, marked with oily stains from garage projects, or proudly displaying books and frames in living rooms. But how can furniture that's been around for decades stay relevant for life at home, today?
Karin Blindh Pedersen is part of the team tasked with updating IVAR to meet today's reality, a world where people are living in smaller spaces and have more multifunctional rooms than when IVAR launched half a century ago. "Depending on the market and the customer and the living situation, IVAR ends up everywhere," says Karin. "Customers all have a different perspective of what IVAR is. And we wanted to meet all of them." One of the new features Karin and her team created is a storage unit with foldable table that's simple and easy to use. But trying to create something that works for everybody turned out to not be a simple and easy task.
Refusing to compromise
The IVAR team is squeezed into a room at the headquarters for IKEA product design. It's not a tiny room, but it's nearly overflowing with stuff. There are at least a dozen foldable table prototypes, plus fittings, and boxes of things people might put on IVAR: books, tableware, vases. Add to that sketches, designs, and five people. It's here that Philip Nedergaard, the engineer responsible for the project, sits on the floor (the only place he fits). He's shaking his head in frustration. His teammates say, "it's impossible!" and "we can't". "Many times, we'd be stuck, not knowing what to do," says Philip. "The challenging part has been trying to combine all these different functions—storage, eating, hobbies, working, display—into one." "We don't want IVAR to feel like a compromise for anyone," says Karin. "But every time we changed something we’d lose the possibility for something else." Despite all the times the team found themselves on the floor, lost in frustration, they'd always get up. After a coffee, or a walk, or maybe some time working on something else, they'd come back with new ideas, saying: "There must be a way".
"We don't want IVAR to feel like a compromise for anyone," says Karin. "But every time we changed something we’d lose the possibility for something else." Despite all the times the team found themselves on the floor, lost in frustration, they'd always get up. After a coffee, or a walk, or maybe some time working on something else, they'd come back with new ideas, saying: "There must be a way".
Trial and error and solutions
The team was determined to think of all the ways people might use—or accidentally misuse—IVAR and its storage unit with folding table. That's how the question came up: what happens if someone accidentally kicks a table leg during dinner? Because of the design (the table folds down from the storage unit) it wouldn't collapse to the floor, but it would drop a few inches. What would that mean for a home-cooked meal? They gathered around a prototype and set a glass of water on the table top. Philip delivered a swift kick to a leg. Crack—smash—splash! There was a moment of silence, and then the team laughed. "It was quite apparently a problem," chuckles Philip. "To solve it, we added a lock onto the legs, so you can't kick them in."
Committing to the customer's wants
"I'm so happy we didn't compromise on anything," says Karin. "Really understanding the customer helped a lot. We've always come back to the customers. And we're so proud that we managed to do everything that we wanted for them." Every aspect of the storage unit with foldable table is designed to be easy to use, durable, and relevant for all customer needs, no matter how they use it. "It's been extremely challenging but it's been very fun at the same time," says Philip. "We've made so many mistakes along the way, but every mistake has been a learning opportunity. The fun part is seeing the concept evolve into a product that we really like."