WHAT’S HIDDEN in Karl Malmvall’s wallet? Alongside the bills and banknotes are two items, a tape measure and a list of pallet sizes from a large Swedish furniture maker. This discovery may seem trivial, but says quite a lot about Karl’s view on design. He is very conscious of his role as an industrial designer; the objects he creates should not only meet aesthetic and functional demands, but should also lend themselves to being successfully manufactured.

Karl has over a decade experience working with Ikea – eight years in Basel, three in Southeast Asia and one in Älmhult. He knows a thing or two about large-scale furniture production. How does one design, within prescribed financial limitations, a beautiful and comfortable chair? Where are the main costs hiding? Can they be reduced? How can one fit another stack of chairs in the shipping container? Anyone who deals with these questions on a day-to-day basis is wise to keep a tape measure in his wallet.

Karl grew up with his feet in the sawdust of Småland (a county in southern Sweden). Over one hundred years ago, his grandfather, Karl Andersson, started Huskvarna’s famous furniture factory. As a student at the School of Architecture in Århus, Karl designed the table, Prima Vista, which with its wooden expansion legs became his ticket into the industry. The table also won its designer his first Excellent Swedish Design diploma.

Today Karl also works with materials other than wood, such as plastic and rattan. His best-selling design to date, the reclining chair Karlskrona, is one example of his work with rattan. The elongated shape may seem bulky, but thanks to Karl’s careful measure-ments, every container is filled to the brim with chairs. The dishwashing brush Faren, has a hole in the handle. There are two reasons for this solution; it gives the brush an exciting shape while at the same time lowering production costs since less plastic is needed.


Born 1965 in Huskvarna, Sweden

Carl Malmsten Centre for Design, Stockholm 1986–1988

School of Architecture: Århus, Denmark 1989–1990

IKEA Design AG: Basel, Switzerland 1990–1998

IKEA Southeast Asia: Singapore;Jakarta, Indonesia 1998–2001

IKEA of Sweden: Älmhult, Sweden 2001–2002

Karl Malmvall Design: Stockholm, Sweden founded in 2002