Remembering the Best Parts of the IKEA Catalog, Gone at 70
The iconic annual now goes to the big Hållbar in the sky.
Published Dec 18, 2020 1:07 PM
The IKEA catalog—the yearly archive of all things Swedish design, the printed testament to cozy minimalism, and the buying guide to affordable furniture in a pre-Internet world—announced last week it will cease publication. It was 70 years old.
The catalog was the beloved tome of both recently graduated college students looking to decorate their first apartment on a dime, as well as longtime design-world insiders, who turned to editions from generations past for ideas. While a visit to an IKEA store as a couple would almost always end in disaster, perusing the pages of the catalog at home had the opposite effect—cementing love in the endless possibilities of a Klippan sofa or a Malm bed.
“Growing up in Indiana, obsessed with interior design, the IKEA catalog was one of my only resources for modern inspiration,” says designer Rayman Boozer of Apartment 48. “The kitchens, in particular, always drew my eye. It was the first time I ever saw a white flat-panel door or a cabinet with doors that open vertically.” To his point, IKEA’s cabinetry is almost endlessly hackable and able to custom-fit most projects.
Fresh off the release of the 2021 issue and going into the holiday season—its favorite time of year—the catalog was enjoying being leafed through by adoring readers. It paid no attention to the reality that people would go and order their choices online anyway. At its peak performance, in 2016, 200 million copies were printed, across 50 markets and in 32 languages.
“The memories live on,” says designer Alison Rose, who often posts vintage spreads from the ’80s catalogs to her mood boards to highlight the modern, angular furniture designs that still resonate with her today. “This innovative brand has brought incredible exposure and dreamlike vignettes to the greater public.”
The IKEA catalog is survived by the greater company, which seems to be in fantastic health, with sales reported to have increased by 45 percent amid the pandemic. (The company noted that the decision to cease printing was made based on the shift to digital browsing rather than the decline of quality in the encyclopedia-size books.)
While we mourn the loss, a bright light in the dark world of studio apartment decoration, so must we celebrate the life of our friend by looking through its archives. In these troubling times, the catalog would want us to remember one thing: No matter how dim the room may get, it’s nothing a Nyfors floor lamp can’t fix.
Our Winter Renovation issue is here! Subscribe now to step inside Leanne Ford’s latest project—her own historic Pennsylvania home. Plus discover our new rules of reno.