An IKEA In-House Designer Shares Her Design Process

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We caught up with Iina Vuorivirta, an IKEA designer to find out what what inspires her to create functional, nature-inspired furniture pieces for the famous furniture store.

Tell us more about your new collection for IKEA.

For this collection, I worked with materials like rattan, bamboo, seagrass and water hyacinth – it was the first time I worked with natural materials but with the knowledge gathered along the way, I’m definitely taking it forward and making more of it. We’re talking about extremely sustainable materials and IKEA’s hopes to produce more handmade things in the future.

Iina IKEA planter prototype

Iina chose to work with terracotta for an IKEA planter because of its porosity.

How did your interest in handcrafted furniture come about?

I think it has to do with my parents. My mum is a textile designer and my dad is a photographer. So yes, I was born into the creative hustle of my family. My mom has a studio at home, but both of my parents were part-time teachers in a university in Helsinki. Of course, it wasn’t any surprise to my parents that I came to be in the creative business too.

Have you always known that you’d become a designer?

I’ve always been focused in what I want to achieve. The thing is, becoming an IKEA designer is unplanned for. I guess it was unreachable. No matter, I’ve always wanted to be a star designer when I was young.

Iina IKEA furniture production process

Materials used for Iina’s collection for IKEA include rattan, bamboo and seagrass.

Who are your favourite designers and craftspeople?

I’ve got quite a lot of favourite designers. There is Alvar Aalto from Finland, Arne Jacobsen from Denmark and the Bourourelloc brothers that run a design studio in Paris. It is especially through the recent years that the French are starting to work with Scandinavian companies. I also have to add Kenya Hara from Muji. There are a lot of things in common between IKEA and Muji – both Japanese and Scandinavian designs kind of started at the same time and helm similar aesthetics.

Where do you get your inspiration?

If I say nature, it is only half the truth. I need the city as well. It’s the combination of mountains, water and forest. Scandinavian landscapes change wherever you go, just like how you can be moving along the waterside, then you walk for 10m and you’re in the middle of the forest.

Iina Vuorivirta IKEA furniture designer

The self-confessed workaholic believes that there is no clear boundary between work and play in the creative industry.

How do you feel about being one of the judges for IKEA Singapore Young Designer Award 2016?

It was just a few years ago that I was in design school – and I won the prize that made my career soar. So it is easy for me to empathise with the students in the competition – I know the problems they’re facing and how unsure they are of the production processes. The IKEA way of working is new for many of them, so I might be able to help them. That’s why it is so fun to be part of the judging team and I had so much fun with the students.

If there’s one word to describe your design, what would that be?

Functional. The use of friendliness is a boring phrase, but that’s the philosophy behind my designs.

This was adapted from an article originally written by Sharon Salim in the July 2016 issue of SquareRooms. 

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