This Is What IKEA Looked Like 36 Years Ago
Design ideas from the retailer’s retro catalogs.
Published Feb 24, 2020 12:00 AM
It’s 2002, and you’re flipping through a catalog on your bedroom floor. You fold down the pages that catch your eye and circle your favorites in the hopes that someone will get the hint and surprise you with a gift. Nowadays, catalog browsing is definitely a nostalgic pastime (that’s what Instagram is for!). But if IKEA’s brochures are any indication, we should still be looking to them as a source of style inspo. We recently got our hands on a few of the retailer’s vintage ones, and they’re brimming with design ideas that stand the test of time.
Between living room layout ideas and color palettes that will inspire you to ditch the all-white-everything scheme that is, admittedly, über-prevalent in modern IKEA spreads, there’s a lot to bookmark. Time to start decorating like it’s 1984.
The Mondrian-esque Sofas
It’s drummed into our heads that investment pieces—sofas, rugs, credenzas—should come in classic neutrals. But if this vibrant setup from 1984 has taught us anything, it’s that you can skip peppering in color via smaller accents and go all out with super–eye-catching furniture. As long as you keep the silhouettes sleek, primary hues can be timeless, too. Plus, with all that saturation, who needs throw pillows?
The Unfinished Furniture
After the fact that cane is, and always will be, a good choice, the second thing we learned from this 1977 cover is that it’s okay to embrace the natural look. Here, raw, unvarnished woods, both in the bookshelves and the chair, brighten up all the gray tones.
The Pattern Play
When in doubt, invert your prints. IKEA’s 1972 catalog is convincing us to give stripes on stripes a chance. Match your pillows to either a rug or wallpaper—just flip the colorways to keep it from feeling one-note.
The Mini Centerpiece
Your coffee table doesn’t have to be large or square shaped; in fact, it doesn’t have to be a coffee table at all. This 1990 scene uses a triangular side table to anchor the living room instead. It’s a handy trick for small spaces that require moving things around to accommodate friends or impromptu dance parties. (No one wants to lug a 40-pound piece of furniture.)
The Architectural Detail
Calling all renovators: Take a page from IKEA’s 1987 catalog and add a window arch. The two-tone paint job, the little shelf (ideal for plant parents), and the unusual art placement are further reminders to think outside the quite literal box.