The Swedish designer, Anna Efverlund, keeps her inner child alive so she can come up with the funkiest, most fun designs.
After 25 years with Ikea, Smaaland remains Anna Efverlund’s most cherished creation. After all, it’s designed for “the most important people in the world.”
Meaning little country in Swedish, or the province where Almhult is located, Smaaland is a playground for children and an integral part of some 260 Ikea stores around the world.
“The colours of the balls are blueberry and lingonberry like Sweden’s forest fruits. I believe even children in the cities should feel free as if they are in a real forest,” Efverlund explains in an interview at Ikea in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
The Famnig Hjarta (embracing heart, red.) exemplifies Efverlund’s personality. The loveable heart-shaped cushion with two arms extending from both sides is covered with soft, red felt. And it’s still in demand after a decade. Ikea Malaysia sold over 3,500 pieces last year.
And to think it came about by accidentally! The story goes that in 1997, Ikea had to recall millions of teddy bears because the soft toys had eyes that could fall off under a child’s inquisitive hands.
Production of the bears in India halted. But that meant 600 factory workers would lose their jobs. Efverlund was sent to the factory to see what could be done. She hit on the idea of creating a cuddly cushion with two arms. And so Famnig Hjarta was born and a further 600 workers had to be employed to keep up with the demand! “People who have been hospitalised know how good it feels to have something soft to hug,” says Efverlund. “A pillow heart with outstretched arms is a substitute.
“We realised that not just children liked it. Sick people in hospitals like holding the cushion’s hands. And women like having it in bed when their husbands are away!”
In 1994, she lived in Thailand for a brief period to develop 100 new toys directly from the factory floor for Ikea, as the company outsources its production in various countries.