Designing with recycled materials interview with Iina Vuorivirta

Designing with recycled materials interview with Iina Vuorivirta

While visiting Sweden earlier this June and attending the IKEA Democratic Design Days, I got the chance to sip a quick cup of coffee with the lovely Iina Vuorivirta, now this is a name that you would want to remember in the design world, because what she has pulled off for the 2017 collection is out of this world.

Iina Vuorivirta had her own design studio, and she left it to work for IKEA, in a world where most people are leaving corporations for startups, this is quite different, and refreshing to hear. Apparently the decision was quite easy, “I’m here to stay…I love my work, and as tacky as it may sound, it comes from the heart!” she exclaimed when I asked her about it, adding that while having her own freedom while running her own studio and the thrill of going to sleep and not knowing what’s going to happen the next day is great, working for IKEA is even greater, because you really never know what’s going to happen the next day at work, so the element of surprise and the adventure is still there. The communication between people and making products together at IKEA is just amazing, with 1,500 people working together daily, it’s a match made in heaven.

Prior to meeting Iina in person, I wanted to see what her previous work has been all about, and I was impressed to check out some really impressive domination and manipulation between objects and lights that could totally change a home space whether small or vast. You can check out the designs on her tumblr blog

When asking her about her work and focus on lights and objects she said: “I think that lights and objects are also materials, it’s not only a thing that you see, but it’s a feeling itself. Especially when it comes to using different materials, so we have the LEDS and new high end techniques but you also have a candle that can also give light, so it’s so many different ways of you can work with the material because it has so much to say and gives warmth and light, but then it also offers a depth”.

Her inspiration to working with light did not happen overnight, it’s not really something that you can manipulate as easy as actual objects. On the contrary Vuorivirta seemed to differ, and told me that it definitely is, because you have to start building around it and because you do have to start from scratch and you do not have anything around it. After all, it’s an immaterial thing, and how you start collaborating with other materials in order to get something that you want, and in order to get the result you want and a story to tell, light really allows you to do so.

For the upcoming 2017 collection, Iina Vuorivirta has created has worked tremendously with waste and recycled materials in an effort to make sustainable living accessible to all. The 2017 line of “no waste products”; includes seating, vases, and kitchen cabinets that are all designed and produced from recycled materials.

Check out this prototype kitchen below, I first approached it because I couldn’t help but be attracted to the shade of black in the cabinets, and the way the light hit it made me want to consider redoing my own kitchen. Imagine my surprise when i learned that 99.9% of this kitchen doors is recycled. The doors are made using recycled plastic bottles. Named the KUNGSBACKA, the kitchen door launches February, 2017.


Also impressively sitting there to be admired were these colorful vases which have a beautiful story behind them. See those vases were inspired by one of IKEA’s suppliers in Chine who were throwing out products that were damaged or imperfect. In an effort to minimize waste, IKEA has decided to melt the glass and turn it into these mouth-blown vases that are so unique and different.

While they all use the same mold, the melted glass comes from various left over materials of glass, ensuring that each vase is unique and different in its own way.



I had to ask, working so hard on a product and to find it in the catalogue and in the actual store, how does that feel?

Iina: When I had my own design studio, I was designing for certain people, and it was simply that community, so thinking about the scale, it’s completely different. Working for IKEA, I’m designing for the world, from people in India, to Jordan, to Brazil. I’m not telling the story in a different way, and it’s just amazing that all of these people all over the world are buying the same story that I have been working and breathing for so long; I really do feel that whatever story I am telling is carrying out a different context within the cultural that’s buying it, and it’s just an overwhelming feeling.

I also asked her about her sentiments about the IKEA Democratic Design Days, from a designer’s perspective?

Iina: The interaction that is now possible is amazing; it’s not every day that you get to talk about your work. Work is not only a job, it’s a way of thinking and a way of interacting and communicating, so when you are able to share that, that’s how you end up going places. You are the ones that help us tell the stories throughout our work, and it’s not only about the products, so to get the chance to interact and share the story is what the IKEADDD is all about, and it’s a win-win situation.

What are pieces of advice that you can give my sleepless readers about decorating their own space?

Iina: If you really see something that you like, take it into your home because since it got your attention then it has a place where you can tell your own story about that object. I also think that when you buy something, sometimes it’s just something that you need that goes beyond the décor, and it could even be functional while being decorative, so don’t be afraid to bring it into your home.

The best advice I can give is whatever you own, whatever you want, it’s something to appreciate!

Finally, what is your favorite room in your home?

Kitchen! Easily, it’s the kitchen. Because the home is a place where I want to share with loved ones, where I want to invite in my family and my friends, and the best part is, it’s usually around the food when you get to have these blessed memories. If I’m cooking, I can be cooking alone for these people, or even cooking together, so a kitchen to me is a place to gather…


On average, a product designed at IKEA from the preliminary sketches to the final product on the shelf, takes around 3 years in the making, but it does depend on the actual product. Iina Vuorivirta is currently working on the textile range for 2020 and is incorporating different techniques that should be a crowd pleaser by the time they are launched…


Director of Digital Marketing Strategy by Day, Blogger by Night. Mother to my lovely Hana and a food addict.

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