The History of Ekornes Stressless Furniture
The Beginning: 1934
J.E. Ekornes Fjærfabrikk started production in 1934 with three employees and German-made machines. Furniture manufacturing was new to Sunnmøre which gave the founder, Jens Ekornes, his first customers. Soon after, springs were used in furniture and mattresses throughout Norway.
Jens Ekornes developed an interest in springs and mattresses, but he wanted them to differ from the heavy steel-spring mattresses on wooden frames. Once he understood how the springs worked, he went back to his factory and built the first Svane mattress. New products and factories followed with a steadily increasing workforce.
Jens Ekornes presented his idea for internal springs at a major furniture exhibition in Ålesund. His springs linked together by steel coils and could be used in mattresses and furniture cushions. Three versions of Svane mattresses launched on the market.
Jens Ekornes traveled to the USA and worked in a mattress factory to learn about the trade. His brothers, Martin and Leif, looked after the business while he was away. Jens Ekornes bought American machinery to produce upholstered spring mattresses at a more reasonable price. The factory also started manufacturing wooden components for sofa beds and mattress bases.
Mattress production began. They also produced foamed plastic which became an important element in the manufacturing process of Ekornes’ mattresses and furniture, including on the open market.
Ekornes launches their first collection of lounge furniture. They began marketing their brand and products with newsletters to every household in the country followed by an Ekornes catalog every year. At the end of the 1960s, mattress production moved from Ikornnes to Fetsund and they launched their first leather lounge furniture.
Ekornes applied for a patent and launched Stressless chairs in the Norwegian market. In 1975, revenue of the Ekornes Group exceeded NOK 100 million. The following year, the Fetsund plant was destroyed by a fire. A new factory was built 1976-78. During this time, Ekornes group became the largest furniture manufacturer in Scandinavia. In 1978, Ekornes entered the computer age with an online computer system for order processing, invoicing, statistics, and production control.
Marketing to the USA began which became the largest export market for Ekornes. Various companies under the Ekornes umbrella and ownership structure were reorganized to enable one generation to pass on to the next. In 1984, the company turned 50 years old. By 1985, eight Ekornes factories existed in Norway and they acquired a company in West Germany.
In 1994, the company turned 60 years old and manufacturing plants were reduced to four locations in Norway. Ekornes launched a new child chair concept called KIDDO and a new mattress series called Svane Goldline in 1998. The following year, the Stressless Senator was chosen by the Consumer Digest as the “Best Buy” in the US.
In 2002, the Stressless factory became Norway’s most robotized and automated production business. Sofas and chairs were presented as product families. The new Stressless factory opened in 2004 with the most advanced furniture equipment making 2,000 chairs per day. Ekornes expands by opening showrooms in Las Vegas and Paris and markets to Russia, Spain, Indonesia, Taiwan, China, Brazil, and more.
In 2010, Ekornes was the first company to win two categories of the British interior design awards for “Best Overseas Furniture Manufacturer” and “Best Marketing Support”. Stressless turned 40 in 2011 with over 6.5 million seat units sold since 1971. Ekornes won more awards in Britain, Japan, and Hong Kong. The Svane mattress brand celebrated 75 years in 2012, the same year the new Stressless Office line launched. In 2014, the Stressless City and Stressless Metro launched with new designs and steel/aluminum bases.
Presently, Ekornes continues to automate production, innovate products and deliver high-quality furniture pieces all over the world! Check out Ekornes’ latest Stressless models at European Leather Gallery.
For a detailed Ekornes’ history, click here.