Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad, whose company has brought its distinctly Scandinavian design sensibility into homes the world over, died at home in Småland, Sweden, at age 91. His death “follow[ed] a short illness,” the company announced in a statement on Sunday.
Kamprad founded Ikea as a mail-order home goods business at 17 and, in the proceeding decades, grew the company into a multinational furniture powerhouse. Today, Ikea has stores in nearly 30 countries and, according to the New York Times, sales of $47.6 billion. The Times also notes Kamprad’s net-worth of $58.7 billion.
In its statement, Ikea points out that Kamprad hadn’t had an operational role at the company since the late ’80s, but had continued to act as an advisor.
Kamprad was notoriously frugal throughout his life, and brought that ethos to Ikea—which is named from an acronym of his initials, the farm where he lived (Elmataryd) and the nearby village (Agunnaryd).
It wasn’t until the 1950s that Kamprad opened the first physical Ikea stores and began to develop the self-assembly-style furniture the retailer is known for today.
According to company lore, the concept originated with Ikea designer Gillis Lundgren’s 1956 Lövet side table. Lundgren’s elegant three-legged leaf-shaped table wouldn’t fit in his car, so he sawed the legs off and invented flat-pack furniture. Other iconic pieces introduced under Kamprad include the Poäng chair (1976), Billy bookcase (1978), and Klippan sofa (1980).
Kamprad’s drive to reduce costs was the prime motivator behind the Ikea’s warehouse-like store design, its use of particle board in furniture, and the practice of home assembly.
Today, Ikea continues to deliver furniture essentials while experimenting widely, exploring everything from coliving trends and virtual reality to urban agriculture and collaborations with top product designers like Tom Dixon and Rolf and Mette Hay.