Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Viren toilet brush | Knut Hagberg and Marianne Hagberg | Ikea, Sweden | 2005

Knut and Marianne Hagberg Viren toilet brush
Knut Hagberg and Marianne Hagberg
Ikea, Sweden, 2005

Ikea logo

I think there’s a sweet spot at Ikea that you have to search for during your shopping experience there.  It’s a place where where look, price, durability, and value converge.  Sometimes.  One such convergence happens with the humble Viren (later called Bolmen) toilet brush.

Working as a team with his sister, Marianne Hagberg, Knut Hagberg enjoys designing with plastic and metal in bright colors and cheerful shapes. They first started working for IKEA in 1979 focusing on home office workshops, lighting, and children's furniture. They have received the Excellent Swedish Design award for their work on several occasions. Knut Hagberg was trained in furniture design and interior architecture at the Academy of Interior Design and Fredriksberg's Technical College in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Here is a “dialog with IKEA designers” interview with Knut Hagberg and Lars Engman from November, 2005.

The brush and stand are together 14 3/8” (36.5 cm) tall.  At 99 cents, but only available in Ikea stores, you’d have trouble finding a cheaper brush elsewhere.   It’s sturdy too.  When you need to engage in some heavy duty scrubbing, the bristles last.  The only problem is that hard scrubbing bends some of the bristles and the brush itself starts to lean in the holder.  Once the brush reaches the end of its useful life, the whole assembly can be recycled.  It’s made of polypropylene. 


A bit less clear is why the name “Viren”?  Is it really a play on the name of Finnish runner Lasse Virén?  Is that why it was later changed to Bolmen?  

Viren toilet brush Bolmen toilet brush Two pictures of some toilet brushes in their native Ikea habitat.  Left, billed as Viren brushes (Image source:  Apartment Therapy).  Right, Bolmen brushes, picture taken 11/25/2009.

Screen capture, Viren

Screenshot of the brush when it was called the Viren.

Screen capture, BolmenScreenshot of the brush as the Bolmen.

The stamp on the bottom of the Bolmen brush is different than the Viren brush.  It doesn’t identify the Hagbergs as designers, instead it says “Design IKEA Sweden.”  The Bolmen also only comes in white, red, and black.  The Viren came in all manner of colors:  white, red, green, dark blue, pink, and black, and probably more.  I got three green ones when the getting was good.  I haven’t seen one in green in months.  It’s always a good idea to get what you want at Ikea when you see it, because it might not be there for long.

Viren brush, green The Viren brush in green.  Humble, but it gets the job done.

Just like the Soda cocktail shaker from Ikea, I had to do a “rubbing” to get the imprint because it’s on the bottom and not very accessible. 

Viren imprint

The imprint on the Viren brush.  Note the clocks to left and right, indicating production vintage.  Year “05” Month “11”.  The imprint reads:

Design and Quality
IKEA of Sweden
Made in P. Rep. of China
Design K. Hagberg
           M. Hagberg
VIREN   > PP – H <


Åkesson, L., Anderson, J., and Kinsman, P., (2005, November 5). A Dialog with IKEA designers: Lars Engman and Knut Hagberg. Retrieved December 1, 2009 from http://designinnovationinstitute.org/behindikea_trans.html.

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