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Ikea isn’t known for beautiful, handmade products. Its latest collection may change that

Rugs from India, blankets from Jordan, bowls from Thailand: Ikea’s Lokalt collection used local artisans from around the world.

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Ikea is known for its modern, simple designs. But for all the ease and affordability, they definitely read mass-produced more than handmade.

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Akanksha Deo [Photo: Ikea]
That shifts a bit with Ikea’s new Lokalt line, which is part of its social entrepreneur initiative that launched in 2013 to create jobs for vulnerable groups. This collection is a collaboration between designers in India, Thailand, and Jordan, and it has a decidedly different look than much of what you see at Ikea.

Ploypan Theerachai and Decha Archjananun [Photo: Ikea]
The designers behind the Lokalt line found inspiration in their home surroundings. Akanksha Deo, who’s in-house at Ikea and based in Delhi, looked to matka, a pot typically used as a water cooler, when designing area rugs and hand-tufted pillows. She also used the organic curves she says sees everywhere in India.

Tania George Haddad, a head designer and partner at Beit Sitti, was inspired by what she calls the “beautiful chaos” of the colorful cars, people, alleyways, and rooftops in Amman, Jordan. The result is the hand-embroidered Lokalt cushion covers and throws with painterly illustrations that capture Amman cityscapes (and its proclivity for personalized trucks).

Ploypan Theerachai and Decha Archjananun, of Bangkok-based Thinkk, worked with ceramicists in the Doi Tung region of Thailand to create dishes, bowls, and vases with glazes in earthy neutrals, robin’s-egg blues, and black that meld contemporary Thai design with Thai traditions. All of the bowls have two thin handles, a callback to Thailand’s custom of offering something with both hands. The bowls also have little indentations left behind from the ceramists’ fingerprints, for a human touch that’s baked into the product. All the designers worked with local organizations, such as Industree, Jordan River Foundation, and Doi Tung DP, to connect with local craftspeople and bring their ideas to life.

Tania Haddad [Photo: Ikea]
Whether handmade lampshades from banana bark or an oversized vase, the pieces in this collection bridge Ikea’s modern aesthetic with unique local crafts. “I looked for designers with a modern expression because I wanted to show that handicraft doesn’t have to look traditional or old-fashioned,” says Ikea creative leader Maria O’Brian in the press release. “It can be modern and even avant-garde.” Prices range from $9.99 to $239. The Lokalt collection launches in June and will be available in 294 stores in 25 markets.

About the author

Lilly Smith is an associate editor of Co.Design. She was previously the editor of Design Observer, and a contributing writer to AIGA Eye on Design.

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