5 Things We Learned From the IKEA Digital Museum

The outside of the IKEA Museum

Courtesy of IKEA

IKEA is one of the most popular furniture retail companies, selling everything from ready-to-assemble furniture to home and kitchen goods/appliances. But if selling anything and everything related to the home wasn’t enough, IKEA launched its digital museum on September 16, 2021. This is a highly visual online platform for people to learn about IKEA, find design trends (new and old), and experience stories told through historical documents and artefacts from different perspectives.

“In addition to stories about life at home and IKEA products, a multitude of stories reveal the inner workings of IKEA,” shared a spokesperson for IKEA. “And whether it’s about a triumph or a great mistake, a dangerous adventure or a revolutionary collapse, we do our best to tell it like it was.”  

What Is the IKEA Digital Museum?

Whether you’re an expert designer or just starting to explore how you can create the home of your dreams, there’s something for everyone to love in the IKEA Digital Museum.

One of the coolest things about home designis that we’ve been making houses into homes thousands of years, and this will only continue. That’s why connecting, learning history, and diving into our past, in order to connect it to the future, is so important.  

“Sharing our history and roots is a way of telling where we come from and who we are,” says IKEA's spokesperson. “It is also a great opportunity to invite the many people, who don’t have the opportunity to visit the IKEA Museum and the heart of IKEA in person, to learn more about our vast and vibrant history.” 

As IKEA has grown to over 210,000 employees, 456 stores, and 61 markets across the world, the company’s hope is to offer an extensive space of knowledge, facts, and history to engage others in the exciting world of design.

Browsing the interface is pretty exciting, and for designers and home DIYers alike, there is much to love about the information, stories, and visuals. Here are some of the design tricks we’ve learned so far.

  • 01 of 05

    There Is Always Something to Learn (Or to Learn From)

    The 1962 cover of IKEA's catalog

    Courtesy of IKEA

    When we dig into our past, it so often creates a reflection of our future. While this rings true in every industry, it applies particularly to design because how we used to do things helps us learn what to repeat (or not repeat) as we move forward.

    For example, the IKEA 1960’s catalogues look oddly reminiscent of our current vintage preferences. From faded florals to burnt orange/rust/brown patterns for a ‘natural’ style, certain trends have come full circle.

    Others, like the 1974 design outdoor-looking-chair-turned-indoor-lounger has, thankfully, come and gone. While comfort, in this case, was clearly the priority, we’ve now elevated our spaces to be a bit more refined while not sacrificing too much of the lounge.

    In this sense, we can always learn from what was—good, bad, or ugly—to inform what is. We can learn from what we did before in order to create more inclusive, comfortable, and conducive-to-work or play spaces.

  • 02 of 05

    History Does, in Fact, Repeat Itself

    Color pop chairs from IKEA

    Courtesy of IKEA

    There’s no denying the full circle of crop-tops and bell-bottoms from the 1970s making a comeback in the late 2000s. And just like clothing, our home design has come full circle, too. From the color ‘pop’ chairs of the 1960s with today’s bold accents, to the monochromatic colors of the 1980s making their way into present-day living rooms, we’d be lying if we said that trends of yesterday aren’t relevant right now. 

    In the world of design, it’s can be fun to recycle different items, styles, and ideas. And what’s exciting about IKEA’s Digital Museum is that we can easily browse through the different decades to see what we loved, what we hated, and what looks oddly similar to today.

  • 03 of 05

    A Color ‘Pop’ Really Does Make (or Break) the Space

    An IKEA sofa from the 1980s

    Courtesy of IKEA

    If you take a peek at the 1969 catalogue, you’ll notice the complementary colors—yellow and blue—juxtaposed to create deep contrast in this room. Whether you love it or hate it, the idea is still applicable today: find a way to make your colors pop.  

    While contemporary styles perhaps aren’t as striking, we still incorporate colors that don’t match in order to make our spaces bright, engaging, or more fun. Take a contemporary kitchen, for example. If we have white cabinets and walls, you’ll often see a neutral floor and bright-colored window frames. Or the reverse, a difference floor color to create contrast between the top and bottom.  

    While adding bold or accent colors was—and is—still something you have to be careful with, it’s also a great way to spice up a room without having to break the bank on expensive furniture.

  • 04 of 05

    Focus on Function First

    Ingvar Kampard with some early IKEA products

    Courtesy of IKEA

    Dating back to one of the earliest IKEA catalogues, a central theme runs through—people are looking for what makes sense and what makes their lives easier. And although this sometimes gets overshadowed by trends, the sentiment still applies.

    When it comes to designing our homes, while it’s exciting to follow trends and be a bit flashy here and there, there’s something to be said for prioritizing function first. Just as IKEA’s 1950 catalogue reflects, it’s important to have the essentials in order for our homes to work for us.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Homes Can Be Both Beautiful and Unassuming

    IKEA's amiral chair from the 1970s

    Courtesy of IKEA

    The 1981 catalogue showcases this sentiment the best: you don’t have to be flashy to be well-designed. You can have an expertly designed space that looks simple and minimalist, and still brings joy. You can prioritize what happens in the space rather than what it looks like and still have a great time.

    If there’s one thing to be learned from the IKEA Digital Museum and its catalogues, it’s this: your home can be unassuming and beautiful, and that’s because the truly beautiful part of the design comes from the people and relationships that happen within the space.