History of Flat Packed Furniture
Friday, 19 July 2019 | Admin
So, as I had previously mention on Wednesday I was going to provide further information on what we had been up to prior to our big release, but as is often the case, during my research on all things web related, I found an interesting article over at Bonsoni about 'the inventor' of flat packed furniture, so of course I was intrigued, and as I am sure, once you start digging around you then find things out that you never knew, and so it led me write this article, So please enjoy my little history lesson on Flat-Packed Furniture
As is normal, please feel free to leave a comment or even if you agree or disagree with my article, but please, please get in touch if you do find solid proof of the Chinese 'rumour'
Flat Packed Furniture a Brief History - Sweden v USA A Battle of Countries
So in the world of furniture you can go to pretty much any country in the world and there is one store that towers over all other, IKEA, now if you were to ask 100 people what IKEA or who, I’m fairly confident that 95% would offer one of 2 answers,
- Swedish Furniture Company
- Famous for Flat Packed – Build yourself furniture
In fact, prior to researching for this blog, I would definitely be in the two above, but also add in their meatballs :D
So, here I am after starting at Wikipedia (sorry to my Degree professors I know, I know) I read an interesting line about how an American writer had a book published in 19th century that basically stated about furniture made from mahogany being ‘built’ at home. - Lets just leave this for time being and jump forward about 100 years.
The generally accepted timeline of flat packed furniture generally involves a young Swede Called Gills Lundgren – He was incidentally the 4th employee of a small Swedish firm called (you guessed it) IKEA[i]
So the story goes he was attempting to deliver a table to a customer using his then small car, and when it wouldn’t fit ,being an engineer mind he realised that simply removing the legs from the table the would then fit in ‘2 parts’ the table-top and then the legs on top flat, and this is how the flat was born.[ii]
So Gills then goes on to think about other styles and sizes of furniture and how it could be packed and then built with ease, and here we are today, you can buy a King-sized bed that comes in 5 boxes[iii] and can be delivered in a medium sized van.
So, lets back track now to late 1850s and a book published called “The New American Cyclopaedia, A Popular Dictionary of General Knowledge”[iv] This book details some of the popular things of the time, and under the chapter called “Furniture” we find this gem
“Among American inventions may be mentioned what is technically called " knock-down furniture;" the name is applied to complete sets of furniture, which are made to come entirely apart, so as to pack for transport to the West, &c, in a very small compass.”[v]
So here we are, 100 years or so prior the dismantling of the table and what do we find but mention of furniture that ‘packed for transport in small compass (packaging) it even talks about it coming apart. Now, I am no historian of the period, but this definitely seems like flat packing to me, albeit on a higher quality or pure wood rather than the MDF or such that is widely used today.
In my research I found some unconfirmed reports that there is also far earlier version of flat packing and that was in China back pre 18th Century, now as I stated, I was unable to confirm this, but whilst I have been unable to find any solid evidence of this, does it seem a big jump? given how a lot of todays inventions have roots in ancient or historical China.
However, sticking with the evidence that is in front of us, we can only conclude that Flat Packaged or “Knock-Down” furniture was in fact invented in the US, and then, promptly forgotten about for about a 100 years.
So, what does this change, well in fact it would change very little IKEA is still the monster of the furniture shop, America still exports more wood than all but 1 country (Canada)[vi]
But I do wonder if Gills was aware of this book or was it just luck that he came up with his idea, right time, right place. Sadly, we will know as he passed way in 2016, but one thing is for certain, IKEA have changed the way that furniture is sold, unfortunately I have been unable ascertain what percentage of new furniture sold is actually flat packed.
[iv] D Appleton & company 1859 New York