There is an invisible line between the chair suitable for public seating and the one suitable for putting in your home. An aluminum folding chair might look perfectly fine at a business conference, but put it in your kitchen, and all of a sudden you look like the saddest bachelor who ever was.
But Ikea’s latest chair, the Janinge, tries to bridge both worlds. Designed for Ikea by Sweden’s Form Us With Love studio, it’s a reinforced polypropylene chair with a sleek, post-Eames aesthetic. It’s as stylish for design-oriented homes as it is durable and space-efficient for schools, rec centers, or even Ikea’s own cafeteria.
“Ikea’s been on our dream client list since we started in 2005,” says Jonas Petterson, founder of Form Us With Love, the studio behind some of the best designer furniture of the past few years. It turns out the admiration was mutual: after meeting Ikea at the company’s headquarters, Form Us With Love was brought on to design the Janinge.
“The brief was to design a chair that looks stylish not just in the home, but also can pass the demands for public use,” Form Us With Love’s founder Jonas Pettersson tells me. With the Janinge, Ikea wanted a chair that could reach as many people as possible: something that could pass the BIFMA test, which defines durability and sustainability standards of commercial-grade chairs. Getting BIFMA certification would open the door for Ikea to market the Janinge to the business and institutional market. But just like the Galant desk, another BIFMA-certified Ikea product, the Janinge still needed to be something someone might pick up to furnish his or her trendy apartment.
How Form Us With Love accomplished this feat was to design an attractive chair, then tweak that design to make it stackable. In appearance, the Janinge looks like a lowslung dining chair with a backbend and legs that resemble extruded steel pipes. The Janinge chair can be stacked as easily as plastic lawn chairs, allowing enough chairs for a dozen people to fit into a single closet. It’s a sleek modern design, if not a statement piece.
For inspiration on how to design the Janinge, Form Us With Love headed to a place that seats more people every year than most sports stadiums: the first Ikea ever, located in Älmhult. “One of our design goals was to come up with a chair that would actually suit an Ikea cafeteria,” Pettersson says. “So we started the design journey there over lunch. We had the meatballs, of course.”
Ikea was a demanding client. Each design Form Us With Love came up with had to pass the scrutiny of 10 different experts, each of whom judged their work on criteria such as strength, durability, and aesthetics.
“Despite the challenges of designing furniture up to the standards of Ikea, the Janinge line of chairs are some of the most affordable objects we’ve ever made,” Petterson says. At 395 Swedish kroner, the price of a Janinge starts at just a little over $50. The finished chairs are made of reinforced polypropylene plastic and come in white, gray, and yellow. They will go on sale in Sweden in mid-October, with other countries to follow.