Having worked in furniture for almost 20 years one begins to get a sense of how certain furniture lines seem to improve greatly upon what they've already established. Others see a profound decline in quality and materials while doing little to nothing to turn things around. It can be quite difficult for manufacturers to maintain a high level of craftsmanship in their products through the years even more so over decades. However there are always a certain few who seem to have no trouble, one such company is Ekornes Stressless.
Ekornes was founded by Jens Ekornes in the small village of Sykkylven Norway in the late 1940's. Jens Ekornes specialized in manufacturing Norwegian furniture components such as steel spring units for mattresses and ran a small shop with himself and a couple of workers by his side. He worked with several top Norwegian manufacturers supplying them with needed mattress components and soon expanded into building components for furniture as well.
Not satisfied with simply building mattress components Jens Ekornes would make the decision to begin building his own mattresses and furniture lines. He purchased a larger facility, hired on more workers and began the task of creating something new. He would start with mattresses by creating Svane which would go on to become a popular European mattress brand in its own right. Building on the success of the Svane mattress line, Jens Ekornes would begin focusing on building furniture and started with a club line of sofas, loveseats and tables simply called Ekornes.
The Ekornes Norwegian furniture line was introduced nationally in Norway in the 1960's through a flyer mailed to every home. Dealers who first carried Ekornes were provided a minimum price that the product could be sold at as a way for Ekornes to balance sales between stores and retain the value of the line no matter where the product was purchased. This also gave retailers an incentive to carry the line knowing that other dealers were also required to observe the same pricing. Ekornes however was selective in how many stores in an area could carry the line and this made the line more exclusive only being offered in higher-end furniture stores. This strategy continues to be used today in other markets such as North America, Europe and Asia.
In 1971 Ekornes unveiled what would become their top selling line for decades to come called Stressless to the Norwegian market. The Stressless recliner and ottoman featured a leather seat, backrest and armrests. The bases of the chair and ottoman were designed with rounded circular steel chrome. In a 1971 television ad the chair is shown with a 360 degree swivel mechanism and featured rounded nylon rollers below the arms that allowed the chair to move and recline. These would soon find markets in other countries such as England, the United States and others who took notice of the functional, elegant yet simple design of Stressless recliners.
In 1981 Stressless recliners would begin featuring beautiful wood bases that would quickly replace the chrome base designs from the last decade as the more popular choice among consumers. However the most impressive new patented feature would be called the Plus System. This system featured a lumbar steel support in the chair that would bow outward to support the lower back. Included with this was a new headrest feature that would tilt the headrest forward as one reclined back keeping someone eye level with a television, reading a book or being able to carry a conversation with others around them while reclined.
In the 1990's retailers were surprised and pleased to discover Ekornes was now offering a line of Stressless Sofas and Loveseats. These would be designed with the same components as Stressless recliners meaning that each seat offered individual reclining; lumbar support and head tilt features. The unique features of these sofas and loveseats would make them popular among individuals who enjoyed the comfort of Stressless recliners and wanted the same support and look in their other furniture.
While some have tried to impersonate Ekornes Stressless furniture they've never been able to duplicate it. Of course that's because Ekornes holds many international patents on their designs such as their lumbar support, plus system along with many others and have defended them in court against companies such as Lane and others who have tried unsuccessfully to copy the vision and success of Stressless furniture. Jens Ekornes would most definitely be proud today of the innovative designs and product offerings in his line of original Norwegian designed and built recliners, sofas and sectionals.