I’ve wanted to include design—interior and industrial/product—in this blog since its inception. That’s actually the main reason I included the “Beauty” category you see in the top menu. It’s taken me this long to get to it, but I’m glad to be here finally.
So this is the first in what *should* become a weekly series on design. And for my first post on design, I thought it only appropriate to start close to home: Ikea.
Yes, it’s time to talk about Ikea.
I’m fairly certain everyone knows this by now, but Ikea is a Swedish company. It’s not only where college kids and up-and-coming newlyweds in the US go to outfit their first apartments, but its beds are also where (reportedly) one in ten Europeans are conceived. And it’s ubiquitous in Sweden: pretty much everyone has at least something in their home from Ikea. At the very least, they’re hauling around dirty laundry or beach gear in the big blue bags (which betrays that they’ve been shopping at Ikea for something else), or filling their lanterns with Ikea candles (Swedes LOVE their candles in the winter).
Visiting Ikea in Sweden is exactly like visiting Ikea in the US (or anywhere else, I imagine): same giant blue box-shaped building, same (confusing) layout, same food at the cafe, same unflattering vertically-striped yellow shirts on the employees. I’ve you’ve been to one Ikea, you’ve been to them all.
And those crazy product names? They are, in fact, real Swedish words. I remember, before ever having visited Sweden or learning Swedish, thinking some of the product names were made up (Hederlig, anyone? Färlöv? Magnarp?). Having learned a bit of Swedish, I see now that the names aren’t just nonsense syllables, but actual words and place names in Swedish. In fact, product groups are generally named within a theme: traditionally, the names of IKEA’s bookcases derive from different occupations; curtains are given names from mathematics; and bathroom products are named for lakes and rivers. (I got that fascinating bit from this story in the New Yorker.)
Most people in Sweden have more Ikea swag than just a blue bag and some candles. As I’ve noticed, most homes have a couple pieces of furniture, a rug or two, and some lights (if not also dishware, accessories, etc.) from Ikea. It seems to me that Ikea has some cheaper things (in terms of both quality and cost), and some nicer, longer-lasting items. Similarly, some designs are incredibly basic and some are incredibly stylish. In recent years I’ve become more familiar with both the Ikea product line (via frequent visits to stores) and with design blogs, and I’ve noticed certain items that pop up in the design blogs again and again, in some very nice homes.
(It’s not just Sweden and the US—I love this quote from a BBC piece: “Indeed, if you bump into a Briton under the age of 50 who has never visited Ikea, it is not unlikely that they are either from the Hebrides, or a member of the aristocracy.”) 🙂
Here are some of the products that I tend to see over and over. It’s worth noting that it only took me about 15 minutes of searching design blogs and real estate websites to find these examples.
This cork bench was part of a temporary line created by Ilse Crawford in 2015. I’ve seen pieces from this collection everywhere since then, though Ikea continues to sell only a few pieces from the collection. Photo from Fantastic Frank.
This pitcher (also featured in the headline photo above) shows up everywhere, including on my own kitchen table. I had to have it from the moment I saw it. It’s also part of the Sinnerlig collection at Ikea, but unfortunately, isn’t available anymore. Photo from Fantastic Frank.
I’ve seen these black Ikea PS 2012 armchairs used as indoor dining chairs, outdoor dining chairs, and even as a bedside table! We bought one just to use as a kitchen stool, when Leif wanted to help in the kitchen but we couldn’t quite trust his balance. Image by Daniella Witte via My Scandinavian Home.
The bedside table/drawers in this bedroom are from the Alex collection. Need I confess that we also have a piece from this series? It’s perfect for storing children’s clothes! Photo from My Scandinavian Home.
This rug is an absolute mainstay of design blogs and professionals. I saw it so many times online that I thought I had to have it. Then we got it, and I realized it just didn’t fit our decor at all and now it’s folded up on the floor next to me, waiting to find its next home. Photo by Nate Berkus via My Domaine.
Are there any Ikea pieces that you love—or hate? Do you follow any design blogs or designers? If so, I’d love to know who. Please share links in the comments below!
Note: My main stumbling block has been figuring out how to appropriately acquire and use images; I’ve asked all of my favorite design bloggers what the process is for finding and getting permission to use images online, but none of them have responded. I finally decided to just go ahead anyway, attributing everything to its source, and being willing to take down anything should anyone ask. And if anyone has any info on how design bloggers get permission to use images, please let me know!
Main image by Jonas Tana.