IKEA courts China in first ever cultural collaboration

Click on an image to go to a slideshow of IKEA's first-of-its-kind Trendig collection.For many of us in the United States, IKEA is Sweden, and Sweden is IKEA. The big-blue-box retailer has brought Scandinavian design into American homes like never before.

But now, in a sharp departure that its design director says is "a starting point for a new behavior within IKEA," the company is looking farther afield for fresh inspiration.

The result, the company says, "is something totally new for IKEA."

Click on an image to go to a slideshow of IKEA's first-of-its-kind Trendig collection.Its limited-edition Trendig collection, rolling out now in American stores just in time for the Chinese New Year on Jan. 31, merges IKEA's now-ubiquitous Scandi design aesthetic with materials and motifs of Chinese design. 

The line was produced as a genuine cultural collaboration between designers and artisans in both Sweden and China, "ping-ponging our ideas back and forth," says Marcus Engman, IKEA's head of design, in the video below. The collection playfully references this modern ping-pong diplomacy: A paddle decorates a vase, for example, and inside a dish, a "Chinese" lucky cat holds a paddle; plus, a marketing photo is strewn with ping-pong balls. Click here for pictures of them in our slideshow

More fish and grasshopper motifs on fabrics from the Trendig collection. "The collection is a true collaboration between designers and craftsmen in Sweden and China," IKEA told Yahoo Homes in an email. "The IKEA design philosophy of creating products that solve everyday problems at home was the starting point. After that, the rule book was thrown out."

Engman added in the email: "We weren’t tourists shopping around for expressions from foreign cultures. It was a new way to work with design. We learned even more about working together, about sharing ideas and how everyone can contribute to one single product. The result is that the whole group takes credit for the ideas."

What do you think of IKEA Trendig's new Swedish-Chinese fusion? Let us know in the comments. (And if you wind up purchasing anything, please share pictures with Yahoo Homes' Flickr group at http://bit.ly/yahoohomesflickr. We're always looking for original photos of home -- and we might even feature them on this blog!)

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