It's no secret that IKEA has a huge fan following. From dorm dwellers to professional designers, people the world over look to the Swedish furnishings purveyor to outfit homes of every stripe. The one downside to this popularity? An IKEA-furnished home isn't exactly unique. Despite IKEA's cheeky creativity, it's nearly impossible for the world's most well-known furniture company to offer enough options to satiate its massive customer base. This is exactly the market hole one Canadian-born Swedish transplant ingeniously thought to fill. Ten years ago, Lesley Pennington founded Bemz, purveyor of stylish coverings for the most popular IKEA silhouettes. Working with local patternmakers and internationally renowned designers alike (Bemz has collaborated with Designers Guild, Christian Lacroix, and Tom Dixon), Bemz enables its customers to marry the functionality and affordability of IKEA with a more tailored style (all with the approval of IKEA). Though the company has long been popular in Europe—especially in Scandinavia—its presence is less widely known Stateside; most in-the-know Americans only learned of Bemz through Tom Dixon's collaboration, which was unveiled at Salone del Mobile earlier this year. To learn more about the company and its vision, AD caught up with Pennington to talk pattern, personalization, and more.
Architectural Digest: What do you think it is about IKEA furniture that invites so many ideas for personalizing?
Lesley Pennington: IKEA is the largest furniture company in the world, and they are the masters at mass production of furniture and flat-pack delivery. Their accessible price points and design simplicity translate to a fantastic platform for personalization. Consumers today are looking for ways to upcycle, recycle, and personalize their living spaces. Companies like Bemz offer the possibility to create unique, one-of-a-kind pieces that reflect personal style with furniture that might already be on hand.
AD: How does your brand philosophy play into or differ from IKEA’s?
LP: We both focus on Scandinavian design and accessible design. IKEA’s goal is to make design accessible to everyone, and they do that by creating a global infrastructure to deliver mass-produced products. Bemz wants to make design accessible but also personal, so we focus on individual style. I would say that we are the perfect complement to IKEA’s brand aspirations—we supplement their brand vision by taking accessibility directly to the customer. We allow them to participate in the design process and co-create the final product together with Bemz.
AD: What are the most popular Bemz styles?
LP: Linen is always popular—and our Linen Loose Fit covers are coveted by designers— because it invokes a Paola Navone aesthetic. Our Vintage Velvet covers, designed in collaboration with Designers Guild, have been flying off the shelves since we introduced them last fall. Velvet looks to be a long-term trend.
AD: Can you tell us more about the collaborations you do? How do you choose? What do you hope the collaborators bring to the table?
LP: Bemz chooses to work with designers who match our brand values, fit into our existing textile portfolio, and bring diversity and value to our collections. In some cases, we get suggestions from our customers about the designers they would like to see us work with. We take our customers’ input very seriously. Once we bring a new design partner into our product portfolio, we work to create value around that collection—curating the textiles and creating mix-and-match textiles to coordinate from the Bemz collection. Today we work with Designers Guild, Christian Lacroix, and Romo (among others), and have just recently announced our collaboration with Tom Dixon. All of these design collaborations offer our customers the chance to transform their IKEA furniture into a completely different piece.
The article originally appeared in Architectural Digest 06/05/2017 by Hadley Keller. Read the original article here.