Tom Ahlström was raised in Västerås but moved to Stockholm in 1964 to study metal and industrial design at Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design. At Konstfack Ahlström met Hans Ehrich with whom he founded the design studio A&E Design after graduating in 1968. Ahlström's graduation project at Konstfack was a television set and a table lamp, all made of injection-molded and vacuum-formed plastic.
With A&E Design Ahlström and Ehrich aimed to design functional and good-looking products for everyday life. Plastic became the main material for the company and early on, their first commission was to make a paintbrush with an ergonomic handle in polypropylene for the Swedish manufacturer Anza. The brush was well received on the market and became a bestseller. In 1969 the Swedish furniture company Lammhults launched the out-door sofa Dikken by A&E Design.
One year later the Bam Bam chair, produced by Arjo was released as one of the first chairs made of solid urethane plastic. Even though the chair was made to be used in showers, its quirky design gave it recognition on the international interior design market. Bam Bam is since 1990 a part of the collection at Vitra Design Museum in Germany, at the Swedish National Museum and the Museum of Technology in Stockholm.
Beside the design of objects like the dish brush called 1230 for Jordan (sold in 67 million copies) and the queue number machine M80 for Turn-o-Matic (both designed in 1974) A&E Design specialized in design for people with functional variations.
In that context, the duo is well-known for pieces like the bathing board Fresh (1998), the shower and toilet chair Clean (1998) and Museum II (1995) a folding stool used in 1 600 museums all over the world and since 2011, a part of the collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The A&E Design studio has been awarded a plethora of design awards such as Utmärkt Svensk Form (Excellent Swedish Design) 14 times (until 2002) and The Red Dot Award five times (three times with the addition “best of the best”).