Dyslexic 17-year-old Ingvar Kamprad, who grew up in rural Smaland in southern Sweden, decided upon a unique name for his new enterprise. His catalogue of products included fountain pens, encyclopedias and reinforced socks before progressing to furniture in 1948.
The company employees comprehend a basic pamphlet written by Kamprad in 1976, "The Testament of a Furniture Dealer", which states that "wasting resources is a mortal sin", and stipulates Ikea's "duty to expand". The company called him "One of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 20th century". According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Kamprad's net worth was $58.7 billion.
The magnate is estimated to have an accumulated fortune of about 610 billion kroner (£51billion), according to Swedish media reports.
As much of a national symbol as pop group ABBA and tennis ace Bjorn Borg, IKEA helped to cement the image of Swedes as practical, egalitarian and unsnobbish.
He was known for his thrifty ways. A letter was discovered as late as 1950 in which Kamprad wrote to Engdahl to say he was proud of what they had done.
It started in 1943; a mail-order business founded by a teenager.
"If you look at me now, I don't think I'm wearing anything that wasn't bought at a flea market", he said.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom tweeted her condolences, saying that Mr Kamprad had "put Sweden on the world map".
While he eventually returned to Sweden, Kamprad fled his homeland's high-tax structure for Denmark in 1973 and later moved to Switzerland in search of even lower taxes. By 1985, Kamprad established his first American store in Philadelphia.
The company's trademark item is traditional Swedish meatballs, but it also serves 100 million cups of coffee each year.
Its far-reaching success often saw Mr Kamprad appear on lists of the world's richest men, although he was said to have never assumed the aura of a tycoon, continuing to dress unassumingly and choosing to drive a modest Volvo.
Survivors include an adopted daughter from his first marriage, Annika Kihlbom; and three sons from his second marriage, Peter, Jonas and Mathias Kamprad, who hold top positions within the Ikea empire.