As IKEA celebrates the 50th anniversary of making raw, simple wood shelving go mainstream with the 1968 introduction of the IVAR series, it's time to take a deeper look at the design history of the nearly-ubiquitous shelving and cabinets. Once solely relegated to workshops and garages, at least one piece of unfinished furniture can now be found in nearly every home around the world — and on every DIYer's supplies lists.
The basic building blocks of many a DIY project, IKEA's most hackable furniture line — the IVAR series — is turning 50. In the annals of budget decorating, it's easy to take unfinished furniture for granted, but someone had to make raw, knotty pine popular, and for some that candle gets lit in front of a photo of IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad.
First called BOSSE, then INGO, then UFFE — then, finally and forever more, UFFE appeared in the IKEA catalog in 1984 with a new (permanent) name: IVAR, according to a new pamphlet celebrating the milestone and design history for the Swedish furniture giant.
Kamprad wanted to start working with affordable and abundant knotty pine, and product designer Lasse Olsson was simultaneously inspired by "the simple pine shelving he saw in state buildings around Sweden, like post offices and police stations." As IKEA's autobiography goes, a young IKEA home furnishing specialist in Stockholm named Lennart Ekmark then took cues from the "utilitarian, youth-inspired social movements" going on in Europe and the time and "took the bold step" of styling a raw pine shelving unit next to a leather sofa in a living room setting and "the rest, as they say, is history."
While mid-century design blog Retro Renovations shows that knotty pine was already prevalent in popularity in the US during these years — especially in paneling and cabinetry, two of the "10 Most Endangered Features" — perhaps IKEA can be counted for channeling the "pop furniture" movement and bringing raw, knotty pine into European homes.
Whomever takes the credit, the morale of the story is that 50 years later IVAR is now a classic component and jumping off point for many a modern IKEA hack.
For more inspiration, here's our Projects Editor Dabney Frake's favorite, most inventive ways to hack IKEA's IVAR in every room of your house. And you can stock up, because IKEA has IVAR products for 15% off through January 28.