The other day I went to IKEA and bought four Pax, a Malm, a PS Gullholmen, an Ofelia, a Blanda Matt, a Mysa Ronn, and a few other essentials. To many that list may be incomprehensible, yet there are enough customers around the world who swear by IKEA’s cheap and stylish, albeit flimsy, products that surely some readers will understand.
Where do these crazy names come from? It turns out they are part of a system created by dyslexic founder Ingvar Kamprad, who wanted to avoid relying on numbers.
Here’s the system:
- Upholstered furniture, coffee tables, rattan furniture, bookshelves, media storage, doorknobs: Swedish placenames
- Beds, wardrobes, hall furniture: Norwegian place names
- Dining tables and chairs: Finnish place names
- Bookcase ranges: Occupations
- Bathroom articles: Scandinavian lakes, rivers and bays
- Kitchens: grammatical terms, sometimes also other names
- Chairs, desks: men’s names
- Fabrics, curtains: women’s names
- Garden furniture: Swedish islands
- Carpets: Danish place names
- Lighting: terms from music, chemistry, meteorology, measures, weights, seasons, months, days, boats, nautical terms
- Bedlinen, bed covers, pillows/cushions: flowers, plants, precious stones
- Children’s items: mammals, birds, adjectives
- Curtain accessories: mathematical and geometrical terms
- Kitchen utensils: foreign words, spices, herbs, fish, mushrooms, fruits or berries, functional descriptions
- Boxes, wall decoration, pictures and frames, clocks: colloquial expressions, also Swedish place names
Fascinating, right? Unfortunately, this system is so complex and has so many exceptions that even Swedes may be mystified — though they will find it easier to understand the humour in many names.
A more efficient tool for decoding names is the unofficial IKEA Dictionary, though even author Lars Petrus admits it is imprecise.
Returning to my recent purchases, Malm, named for a village in Norway, is a bed frame; PS Gullholmen, named after a Swedish island, is a wicker chair; Ofelia, a Swedish girl’s name, is a throw blanket; the Blanda series, named after the Swedish for “to mix,” are bowls; the Mysa series, named for the Swedish “to be cozy,” are comforters; and I still don’t know where they got the word “Pax” for closets.
The company name is also an inside joke, standing for Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd (where the founder grew up) Agunnaryd (a village near his hometown).
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