Curious on HAY

As the launch of the YPPERLIG collection approaches, find out more about Mette and Rolf Hay, the duo behind the Danish company HAY, and their collaboration with IKEA.

The Facts

Rolf and Mette Hay, the husband-and-wife duo behind HAY, were both born and raised in the Danish countryside. Rolf began his career working for various design companies in Denmark and teaching himself design and design development, while Mette’s parents ran a design store. In 2000, the couple met while working at a Danish furniture brand before founding HAY as a contemporary design and furniture company in 2002, when Mette was just 23 and Rolf 33 years old. The couple lives in Copenhagen with their two children.

The Collaboration

YPPERLIG is the name of the collection that includes a wide range of home products and accessories. There are sofas, dining and coffee tables, chairs, table lamps, benches, pillows, and even an updated version of the IKEA bag. The approach was to look at each product as an individual object – not to make a conceptual collection that matches or fits together. The products are, however, held together with a colour scheme that’s brave but will age well, just like the pieces themselves.

Rolf and Mette Hay.
Rolf and Mette Hay. "Yes, we’re designers but we also have a genuine passion for how things are made."

Thoughts from Mette & Rolf Hay

Our first get-together with the people from IKEA was casual and easy. It was here in Copenhagen – they came to one of our stores after hours, we had a few glasses of wine and discussed design and production. That was a good start. We’ve been doing many collaborations, and the chemistry just needs to be there.  

From the start, IKEA was very open and shared everything. There were no secrets and nothing they wouldn’t answer, which we honestly didn’t expect from such a big company.

At HAY we’re not that concerned with the label “Scandinavian design” – or any label for that matter. We just try to do our best and work instinctively, aiming to create great products with value for money.  

From the start, we were very clear with IKEA that we wanted this collaboration to be true to IKEA, meaning honest and substantial products at an affordable price that could be around for a long time. So no fancy stuff basically.

We learned a lot of things from this collaboration that we can apply to our own company: the simplicity in the IKEA supply chain, and making something that’s complex more simple and therefore better and less expensive.

Early on, I said (Mette) that we were to take this collaboration extremely seriously and dedicate all of our time to it over a certain period of time – because if we did it half-heartedly and failed, we would fail big because of the size and reach of IKEA. That was our initial concern, but after talking it through we decided to go for it, knowing it would be a lot of work.  

The idea of picking up on possibilities in the IKEA supply chain was attractive to me (Rolf), and to learn more about that. For each product we chose to go with, IKEA immediately gave us the techniques, materials and production facilities.

There was a lot of work, but it was never a struggle, one of the reasons being that HAY and IKEA are both driven by production. Yes, we’re designers but we also have a genuine passion for how things are made. To other designers wishing to work with IKEA, I (Rolf) can only say: it certainly helps to have an understanding of industrial production. So many decisions are made on the factory floor, so you better be there.  

There was one misunderstanding, but only one. We were told to make around 45 products – or so we thought. What IKEA meant was 45 article numbers, which is a hell of a lot less than 45 products. The problem, or perhaps the pleasure, was that IKEA liked them all. In the end, we’re launching around 35 products in the collection.

We went to the first big meeting in Älmhult, and there were 15 people sitting around the table. We thought, is this really necessary? Not to mention the cost. Soon, though, we could see the efficiency of doing it this way – all questions were answered, and everyone knew what they were supposed to do.

Working with the two product developers, Ricky and Krister, was pure pleasure. I don’t think you could find anyone in this business with more experience and knowledge than these two. They were demanding, yes, but they were demanding on themselves as well because they expect solutions.   

One of our darlings in the collections is the “monobloc chair” that’s made with an injection mould – a mould in the shape of the chair that’s then filled with a single shot of liquid plastic.

We learned a lot of things from this collaboration that we can apply to our own company: the simplicity in the IKEA supply chain, and making something that’s complex more simple and therefore better and less expensive. We also learned a lot about creating the best tools and strong solutions, and dealing with flat pack challenges.

One of the products is a take on the blue bag, one of the most known and used IKEA products – but one that no one appreciates as a design object. So we kept its measurements and updated it in new patterns and colours. It’s a celebration of this iconic product.   

One of our darlings in the collections is the “monobloc chair” that’s made with an injection mould – a mould in the shape of the chair that’s then filled with a single shot of liquid plastic. The shot takes around 30 seconds, and what comes out is a beautiful, comfortable, and strong yet light chair. We liked it so much that we made dining chair model, and a lower lounge chair too.  

What we’ve done for IKEA does not look like HAY, which is a natural consequence. The supply chain and how IKEA produces is totally different to ours, so naturally, the product would also be different.

We didn’t want to do something that was just a marketing stunt, but something that was beautiful, well-made and usable. Really good products made by IKEA and sprinkled with a bit of HAY.