Designing for Ikea: Gio Tirotto on the process of creating an Ikea chair

The first Italian designing for Ikea, Gio Tirotto tells Wallpaper* about the process of creating furniture for the most democratic design company

Gio Tirotto Designing for Ikea: the Ensholm chair
(Image credit: Courtesy Ikea)

Few endeavours in the world of furniture design are as iconic or impactful as designing for Ikea. With its global reach and democratic design philosophy – making the possibility of home enhancement accessible – the Swedish giant has been shaping not just living spaces but also the way we interact with furniture. Now, in 2024, Ikea has collaborated with Italian designer Gio Tirotto (who is also the first Italian to work with the company) to introduce the ‘Ensholm’ chair, a fusion of functionality, sustainability, and iconic design.

Designing for Ikea: Gio Tirotto

Gio Tirotto sitting on Ikea Ensholm chair

Gio Tirotto sitting on his ‘Ensholm’ chair for Ikea

(Image credit: Courtesy Ikea)

Tirotto's perspective on designing for Ikea encapsulates the essence of the project and his ‘Ensholm’ chair offers a sophisticated and practical solution for outdoor environments. He says, ‘Designing a chair for Ikea is certainly one of the most interesting and important challenges for a designer. Ikea is known all over the world for its democratic design approach, in which an object's creation and production prioritise accessibility, ensuring it is attainable to the widest audience while preserving the core design characteristics.’ 

Named after a small island in eastern Sweden, the ‘Ensholm’ chair blends thoughtful design with functionality. Crafted with painted steel and a unique plastic mesh fabric, the chair offers durability and comfort. Tirotto's emphasis on assembly as a social and educational process underscores Ikea's commitment to its customers. ‘Designing for Ikea, there is a phase that I particularly love, which concerns the relationship between the object and the user – that is the assembly,’ he says. ‘During assembly, users become aware of the design process, increasing their relationship with the object itself.’ 

Two Ikea Ensholm chairs

(Image credit: Federico Villa, Courtesy Ikea)

The technical prowess of the ‘Ensholm’ chair lies in its structural integrity. The tension between the fabric and the seat/backrest frame creates a supportive yet yielding surface, inviting users to relax without worry. Additionally, the design features an ergonomic handle integrated into the rear legs, allowing for easy mobility without direct contact with the fabric.

Tirotto's commitment to synthesis and functionality is evident in every aspect of the chair. He notes, ‘Every element of the chair is useful; if we eliminated only one of its components, it would fall.’ With only ten Allen screws required for assembly, the chair embodies simplicity and sustainability. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, the chair also prioritises environmental consciousness. Every component is fully recyclable, aligning with Ikea's sustainability principles. 

Parts of Ikea Ensolm chair and instructions laid out for assembly

(Image credit: Federico Villa, Courtesy Ikea)

 The design’s strength, as Tirotto puts it, is ‘its absolute synthesis, the tireless search for subtraction’, and the ‘Ensholm’ chair invites us to reimagine outdoor comfort and sustainability in our living spaces. 

The ‘Ensholm’ chair, £27, is now available via

Stacked Ikea Ensholm chairs

(Image credit: Federico Villa, Courtesy Ikea)

Ikea Ensholm chair pre and post assembly

(Image credit: Federico Villa, Courtesy Ikea)

Maria Cristina Didero is an independent design curator, consultant and author, who has contributed to many publications over the years. Didero has consulted for companies such as Vitra, Fritz Hansen, Lexus, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Valextra among others. Based in Milan, she works internationally, curating exhibitions for institutions: some of her most recent projects include Nendo: The Space in Between and The Conversation Show at the Holon Design Museum, Israel; FUN HOUSE by Snarkitecture at National Building Museum, Washington D.C.; SuperDesign a project about Italian radical design, NY; Vegan Design, or the Art of Reduction by Erez Nevi and The Fish and The Crowd by Carlo Massoud, Milan. In April 2022 she curated a Mathieu Lehanneur exhibition at the Triennale in Milan called The Inventory of Life, while in July she debuted a project at the MK&G in Hamburg titled Ask Me if I Believe in the Future, alongside a series of ongoing collaborations. She was appointed 2022 Curatorial Director of Design Miami/. She is currently preparing two projects for Milan Design Week 2023.