Image via emka74 /

Of the multitude of products in IKEA’s catalogs, there would certainly be a number of hits and misses. Many fans stand by their versatile ‘BILLY’ bookcases and ‘LACK’ desks that seem to blend into every home, not forgetting the timeless table that’s anticipated to sell for thousands in the future.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are the items that the Swedish giant wishes never existed. One of its greatest regrets, apparently, is the inflatable ‘a.i.r. Sofa’ that IKEA made the mistake of releasing twice between decades.

The air sofa, the Ikea product that was ‘one of the biggest mistakes’ in the company’s history

— Amol Agrawal (@mostlyeconomics) September 3, 2018

At the IKEA Democratic Design Week event in Sydney, the brand’s global design head Marcus Engman called the product, “one of the biggest mistakes in IKEA’s history. An amazing fiasco.”

The idea to create an inflatable sofa came to him at a whim back in the 1980s.

“It’s one of those eureka moments when you sit around the table and instantly feel this might be the best IKEA idea ever,” Engman recalled.

Most chairs and sofas at that time were sold at full size. Being a pioneer of flat-pack furniture, it was second nature for IKEA to launch a flat version that could be blown up at home with a hairdryer. What could go wrong?

“What could be better and more flat than doing air and to sell nothing and get paid for it?” said Engman. “That was the starting point.”

The end product, for lack of better word, fell flat. It failed just about every one of IKEA’s design requisites: form, function, quality, sustainability and affordable pricing.

Firstly, IKEA forgot to remind customers to switch their hairdryers to the cold setting. Since the hot setting was often the default, the insulated air eventually melted the sustainable plastic that formed the structure of the sofa.

It also sunk just a few days after it was purchased, and squeaked at every little motion.

One of the product’s strengths eventually became its weakness. Its lightness meant you could lift up the sofa with one hand and vacuum underneath it with the other, but Engman said that it was so light, it had, “this tendency not to sit still. You were actually floating around in your living room.”

Nevertheless, Engman described that he was “really proud” that he was partly responsible for the product fail. It was a “failing forward” experience that taught the company what not to do.

He also deduced that the concept was too unconventional for everyday consumers.

“If you want to do new engineering, maybe put it into something people can relate to from the beginning instead of something that is such a new form, because it’s hard to relate to—[people] can’t understand it.”

[via, cover image via emka74 /]

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