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The IKEA catalogue through the ages

For over 70 years, the IKEA catalogue was produced in Älmhult, constantly growing in number, scope and distribution. From the 1950s when Ingvar Kamprad wrote most of the texts himself, via the poppy, somewhat radical 1970s and all the way into the scaled-down 2000s – the IKEA catalogue always captured the spirit of the time. The 2021 IKEA catalogue was the very last one printed on paper.

Why are all the Swedish IKEA catalogues now available digitally?

Good question! We know that a lot of people are curious about what the IKEA catalogue has looked like through the ages. The catalogue has always reflected the age and its views on interior design and everyday living, especially in Sweden, but in recent decades also internationally. The catalogue was in print for 70 years, and by digitising all the catalogues we could make them available to everybody. Making the story of IKEA available to as many people as possible is our main task at IKEA Museum. So we hope that the catalogues will bring some joy and nostalgia, and maybe even a few surprises.

Is there much difference between the earlier and more recent catalogues?

Just like the perception of the home, the catalogue has changed dramatically since 1951, when it was first published. Look in the older catalogues and you’ll be amazed at what you find. In fact, you’ll probably even have a giggle or two. In the 1950s and 1960s, there are rarely any people in the pictures, and never any children. But in the 1970s there are children playing all over the home, you can see adults smoking and even the occasional political poster on the wall. Browse on to the 1980s IKEA catalogues and the trends have changed again, with shiny fabrics and other fancy materials. In the 1990s homes become more scaled-down and clearly inspired by a Scandinavian tradition. In this way, the IKEA catalogues are a kind of time capsule for you to travel in. And who knows? When we look back at the most recent catalogues in 10 or 20 years’ time, we’ll probably shake our heads and give a sigh.

Why are only the Swedish IKEA catalogues available?

IKEA Museum decided to start with the Swedish catalogue as it has been around the longest. In the future, we hope to be able to digitise catalogues from more countries in more languages.

Are all IKEA products shown in the catalogues?

No. The IKEA catalogue has always only shown a selection of what’s available in the stores. The catalogues from the 1970s and onwards show around 30–50 per cent of the entire range. The products that are not featured are generally smaller ones in textiles, decorations and lighting. Temporary collections are rarely included either. But the farther back you go, the higher a percentage of the range can be found in the catalogue.

Can I find more information about the IKEA products in the catalogues?

Yes, but the older a product is, the harder it may be to find information about it. If you have a specific question about a product, we’re happy to help you out if we can. But 70 years is a long time, so we can’t promise anything. While you’re waiting for our response you can always browse through the catalogues – the product texts that are there are quite detailed. You can search in the catalogues by product name and product type. There are also various stories about different products on IKEA Museum Digital, and more are constantly being added.

IKEA was founded in the 1940s, so why are you showing no catalogues from before 1951?

The first catalogue came 1950. Before that, IKEA was a mail order company that didn’t sell furniture, but pens, clocks, electric razors, wallets and bags. At that time, the range was only presented in a small mail order brochure called ikéa-nytt (literally ikéa news). Sometimes it was distributed as a supplement in farming paper Jordbrukarnas Föreningsblad, which reached hundreds of thousands of people in the Swedish countryside. From autumn 1948 Ingvar Kamprad started including furniture in the range, and things quickly grew from there. In the 1950 ikéa-nytt, as many as six of the 18 pages featured furniture. And when you look at the 1951 catalogue, you’ll see that there are no more pens and wallets. Ingvar Kamprad was now truly focusing on home furnishing, and shelving the rest.

Does IKEA Museum have any physical copies of the IKEA catalogue for people to browse through?

Not really. We do have a few copies of each year’s IKEA catalogue in our archives, which we’re saving for posterity. They should be handled as little as possible to keep them in good condition, so we’ve made the catalogues available digitally, both online and on monitors at IKEA Museum. You can browse through those as much as you like!

Can I download the catalogues as PDFs and share them?

Yes you can. The easiest way to share the catalogues is to click on the arrow at the bottom left corner for each catalogue, or in the left-hand menu once you’ve started browsing through. This will copy a link which you can share on a website or social media. If you would like to download and publish on your own digital platform, you can share a maximum of three complete digital catalogues. Don’t forget to state the copyright details, ©Inter IKEA Systems B.V, the catalogue year, and the link https://ikeamuseum.com/en/catalogues/ikea-catalogues-through-the-ages/ so that anyone interested can find out more. You may not publish the digital catalogues for commercial purposes.

Can I share the pictures in the catalogues?

Absolutely! You can share up to 30 images from the catalogues on your own digital platform, such as a blog, on Instagram or similar (as long as it’s not for commercial purposes). Don’t forget to state the copyright details, ©Inter IKEA Systems B.V, the catalogue year, and the link https://ikeamuseum.com/en/catalogues/ikea-catalogues-through-the-ages/ so that anyone interested can find out more.

Do you have press releases and press images?

Yes! You can find all press material, including images, information about current exhibitions and much more, in the IKEA Museum press room.

IKEA press room

Is IKEA Museum interested in getting hold of more copies of the IKEA catalogue?

At the moment we have a good amount of catalogues in all languages at the museum, and do not need any more. Having said that, please contact us anyway if you’ve been collecting catalogues for several decades, or if you have any other material you think might be of interest to IKEA Museum.

Does IKEA Museum have all the old assembly instructions?

Unfortunately not. We sometimes wish we did, as we handle quite a lot of old products that may need putting together and taking apart.

When is the next IKEA catalogue coming out?

The 2021 IKEA catalogue, published in autumn 2020, was the very last catalogue to be published in print. The decision was not taken lightly, and everything from environmental factors to people’s altered behaviour in a digital world was considered. Instead you can access the many other ways IKEA uses to tell people about its products, provide inspiration for life at home, and tips and tricks that create a better everyday life for the many people. And of course, there are 70 years of digital catalogues that are just a click away.

We hope this has answered most of your questions! You can reach us at IKEA Museum via Archive.Collection@inter.ikea.com