interview: sabine marcelis unveils collection of sculptural design objects for IKEA

interview: sabine marcelis unveils collection of sculptural design objects for IKEA

the ‘varmblixt collection’ by sabine marcelis


IKEA teams with Rotterdam-based designer Sabine Marcelis to develop this newest line of sculptural design objects. Dubbed VARMBLIXT, the collection will introduce twenty new, thoughtfully crafted products — from lighting, serve ware, rugs and more — to the iconic Swedish furniture brand which hopes to inspire curiosity connected to lighting in the home. 


The team at IKEA embarks on the collaboration as part of a larger goal to shift the perception of lighting. Rather than simply functional objects, these lighting pieces hope to transform the atmosphere of a home and inspire an emotional response. The VARMBLIXT Collection launches in all IKEA markets from February 2023, debuting in-person in Paris during Maison et Objet 2023.

ikea sabine marcelisimages courtesy IKEA



stripped-back and luminous objects for ikea


For the VARMBLIXT collection at IKEA, Sabine Marcelis has designed four lighting pieces which will be kept long-term in the IKEA range. These take inspiration from the designer‘s longtime explorations with unique geometries, especially a signature motif seen in her work — the perfectly infinite doughnut. This familiar shape is translated into three new objects for IKEA, including two serve-ware pieces and one signature lamp.


The collection further includes the VARMBLIXT LED pendant lamp, which features curved pipes made from frosted white glass, and the VARMBLIXT LED wall mirror designed with a semi-transparent glass panel and light strip. Each is a sculptural object when turned off, and transforms into a stunning display of light when illuminated. With the exception of the five long-term additions, all other objects will be available for limited time in stores. 


designboom speaks with designer Sabine Marcelis and IKEA Product + Design Manager Henrik Most to learn more about the collection and collaborative process.

ikea sabine marcelis



designboom (DB): Can you describe this latest collection? What inspired the shapes and color palette?


Sabine Marcelis (SM): I was first contacted by Henrik a few years back to create something for the IKEA art event in 2021, which became a light. And then from there, he asked me to create a larger collection focused around lighting, and VARMBLIXT was born.


The collection is very much centered around bringing warmth into the home, through lighting, and really celebrating that light has such a powerful way of transforming how we experience space. Then other objects either bring warmth through their tactility, or by encouraging warm interactions with each other.

ikea sabine marcelis



DB: While the recurring infinite doughnut appears, the collection includes a number of new geometries. What is your process for developing these forms?


SM: IKEA customers each have their own unique homes. I wanted to create design pieces that work within many different types of architecture and aesthetics. So I stripped these designs back to a very minimal shape that would have a single gesture. They’re all stripped back to basics. We also try to use the minimal amount of material and resources as possible, but with a maximum effect. For example, the light behind me is just a single line that’s been pulled slightly off a wall, which allows for the light to flow on the wall.


There is also a mirror in the collection which is a single sheet of glass, which, because of its manipulation, is being partially mirrored and tinted. With a light behind it, many layers of depth are created within this singular sheet of glass. So the collection has my signature to it, but there is a sense of anonymity to the objects as well.

ikea sabine marcelis



DB: How has the collaboration with IKEA influenced the design process?


SM: I’ve learned a lot from the process. When things get shipped around the world, you don’t want to be sending out any air. So with the whole collection — even the chandelier which takes up the most space —  is packaged within this very slim, flat cardboard box. It’s really amazing that the IKEA team has been able to optimize the whole logistics side of it.

ikea sabine marcelis




Henrik Most (HM): The formal language and geometrical shapes also tie very well into the designs at IKEA. Obviously we are a Scandinavian company and a lot of Scandinavian design is quite minimal in many ways. There is a consciousness of how we use materials and we create an effect with small means — it’s not overwhelmingly decorative. Sabine’s formal language ties together with what we appreciate at IKEA when it comes to that certain way of working with form language.


What makes Sabine stand out as a designer or creator is not that she’s just replicating simple shapes. There’s always something happening — a twist or a turn that moves it into something in an unexpected result. That’s what makes Sabine a unique designer.




HM: It is a collaborative effort. We need all components to make sure that we can deliver this at affordable prices. With the packaging technicians and product developers and Sabine, you have all these smart people coming together to find the best possible solution.


It doesn’t matter what you design, you need to have a perfectionist attitude. Then you can always go one step down if it’s needed. And I appreciate that because we should challenge the perception of what is good design.

ikea sabine marcelis



DB: Are sketching and model-making still a part of your process?


SM: I have to admit that sketching isn’t so much. I’m much more of a hands-on person. I try to think from a production process and materiality point of view. But for sure, model-making and, and making things one on one. Very often we use the computer a lot to create visuals and to make iterations — it’s a very fast tool to do that — but it’s never the same as having a piece in front of you, and you realize that the scale is wrong. No, you always need to make a couple of models in a one-to-one scale.


We 3D printed a lot as well, to understand exactly how, for example, that nozzle of the carafe should work so then it actually pours in a really nice way and it sits well in the hand. It’s important to respect ergonomics and the actual use of these objects beyond what looks good.



DB: How do you ensure that your designs are timeless and not trendy?


SM: It’s my job to be way ahead of any kind of trends, I need to stay far away from that. I stay away from anything decorative, so I think by stripping it back to the essence. There’s a reason why the shapes are the way they are. 




project info:


project title: VARMBLIXT Collection

designer: Sabine Marcelis for IKEA

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