January 23, 2014 | Alex
Update 2/1/2014: Unfortunately, the Brakig Collection will not be available in North America. Major disappointment. I'm sorry to have raised any hopes with false info. If you have your heart set on a FROSTA, try searching ebay or craigs list for the originals-- they occasionally pop up.
I'm always surprised when people use Ikea as a synonym for "cheap and shoddy." I know Ikea can be divisive and, yes, they do have some disappointing products. But as a devotee of affordable and accessible design, I find myself in a constant state of amazement that the company can continue to design simple, elegant products for staggeringly low prices. Ikea's core business strategy-- maximizing economies of scale, passing on the savings from operational efficiencies (like flat-pack shipping, self-assembly and illustrated directions) to the consumer, etc-- is the key to the democratization of design. And Ikea pioneered it!
I also love that they embrace the adage "you get what you pay for" in a positive way by arming their customers with a range of choices. No business can afford to offer something for nothing (ahem, US financial regulators). But they can afford you the freedom to make economic choices that best suit your priorities and resources-- an a la carte menu of products and services. For example: at this stage of my life, I opt to stagger the 30 blocks from the Red Hook Ikea to my apartment with 60 lbs of boxes strapped to my back. It's worth it to me to save the $65 delivery fee (hey, that's 3-5 dinners!) In 10 years, I may feel that $65 is a steal for the time and backache it saves me. With their kitchen line, they've extended the "you get what you pay for" principle to materials. You select from a melamine, lacquered or wood-veneer finish (in increasing order of price) and accept the associated longevity.
Ok, so I really like Ikea. You get it. The point is, a couple times a year Ikea debuts their limited edition collections and my enthusiasm for Ikea triples. The collections, like the annual Stockholm and the new Brakig, are where Ikea really flexes their design muscles. The recently announced Brakig is no exception. And it's generated extra buzz with the return of the fan favorite FROSTA stool. (Side note: this is where Ikea gets even more controversial. The FROSTA is "inspired by" Artek's Stool 60 by Alvar Aalto. I'm not going to delve into the intellectual property issue, not because I shy away from controversy, but because it's a subject on which I'm personally conflicted. Also, its been exhaustively covered by the design community-- including Morgan Satterfield's very funny commentary.)
Here are a few of my favorites from the Brakig Collection, including the polarizing FROSTA: