This week, the 2011 Ikea catalogue hits shelves at the retail giant’s stores worldwide. The furniture catalogue celebrates its 60th anniversary in Sweden, and Ikea is also launching a social network for interior design and an application for the iPhone.

“This year’s catalogue has a glass-door cabinet on the cover. It is interesting, because nowadays we share everything about ourselves on Facebook and on blogs. So, it is a natural thing that we also display some of our most personal things in our homes,” said Maria Perers, curator at Nordiska museet (Sweden’s main museum for cultural history).

A look back at old Ikea catalogues is not only a history of interior trends, but also a mirror of society. In the early ’60s the first TV furniture appears, in 1989, the first home computer and in the ’90s recycling became a big issue.

“It’s not just about design, it really says something about how society has developed, about technology, and the attitude to the environment," Perers, added:.


“It's interesting because the catalogue is used as historical inspiration for people who work in movie design. That is why Ikea’s version about how life used to be lived easily lives on.”

Evolution of a shopping icon

1951: “This is the first furniture catalogue from Ikea. Earlier they had been selling everything from nylon stockings to pens. The cover is very modern, and they use the word ultramodern. But even though their thing was cheap furniture, they sold copies of more exclusive furniture.”

1960: “Here the TV is shown as a pair of glasses. TV came to Sweden in 1956 but now it has broken through on a wide scale. Here, Ikea is for the first time teaching us how to arrange our furniture around the TV — and we started doing it. This is how the living room will look for decades to come.”

1970: “The first cover showing a person, sitting on a sofa. Inside the catalogue there are pictures of young girls lounging on some kind of laidback sofa. The teenagers are slouching and the parents are appalled and it is clear that there is a more free, post-’60s lifestyle that is shown, where you don’t sit up straight.”

1985: “Here it is clear that the catalogue is meant to be more luxurious and more exclusive. The white frame has been borrowed from international fashion magazines and the ’80s is displayed as the ‘yuppie’ era. All books have white covers and there is a focus on storage and everything is perfectly arranged. But nothing happens in the homes.”

1989: “This year is very interesting because the first home computer appears in the catalogue. Furniture for home offices appear soon afterwards. But this shows what an excellent mirror to society the Ikea catalogue is. You can see exactly when things like the computer and the microwave came into our homes.”

2000: “Now it becomes clear how important it is for Ikea to appeal to different lifestyles. On one page in the catalogue there is a gay couple in a kitchen, and the year before there is a page devoted to how a single dad can arrange his bachelor pad so his daughter could stay every other week. It is very in tune with the times.”

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