7 things we love about the IKEA catalogue

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Ikea’s announcement that its 2021 catalogue released in October would be its last took the world by surprise. (Ikea pic)

SINGAPORE: Swedish flat-pack furniture retailer Ikea is turning the page on printing its annual catalogue, a firm favourite and fixture in the finicky furniture retail scene for nearly 70 years.

Ikea’s announcement on Dec 7 that its 2021 catalogue released in October would be its hard-copy swan song has taken homeowners, design professionals and fans throughout the world by surprise.

In a statement, Ikea said the physical catalogue had suffered from waning interest as shoppers globally migrated to its website, apps and social media to make decisions about buying its furniture and accessories.

The brochure reached a peak in 2016, when more than 200 million copies were distributed to households and Ikea stores in more than 50 markets.

Last year, Ikea Singapore distributed 2.4 million copies of its 2020 catalogues in September, but that number was halved during the company’s latest print run this year for its 2021 catalogues.

In June, during the coronavirus pandemic, The Straits Times reported that more shoppers were turning to augmented reality (AR) apps provided by furniture retailers such as Castlery and Ikea to help them visualise how a product would feature in their homes.

While Ikea says it is planning a smaller printed catalogue focused on providing ideas for home furnishing to be available in stores next year, the final chapter for the 200- to 300-page publication has already been written. Ikea Singapore says its 2021 edition is still available in its two stores in Alexandra and Tampines but only while stocks last.

Here are seven things we love about the Ikea catalogue:

1. One-stop curation

Its comprehensive styling, categorised predictably into essentials for the living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, children’s play area and new designs and accessories is a go-to for any homeowner looking for ideas in a jiffy. Just flick through the pages of any section for the evocative, carefully styled photos of products to fire your imagination.

2. Tactile difference

One of the strongest points in Ikea’s hefty brochure, apart from being free, is that it harnesses intangible, nebulous ideas into a palpable resource. Its low-gloss, light pages do not bend or crinkle easily and allow for easy flipping, with some editions such as the 2018 catalogue going up to more than 320 pages from cover to cover.

3. Handy size

Up until 2018, the catalogue was squarish, measuring about 18cm by 20cm in size. Since last year, the design allowed for a bigger, slightly longer canvas, about 21cm by 27cm. Still, it was light and comfortable enough to be carried around the house or on the go, and just the right size for sharing with other members of the family, without having to squint to look for tiny details.

4. Distinctive typography

Ikea has shown that its stock in trade is more than just selling affordable, flat-pack furniture. What Ikea does really well is inspire design ideas through a well-conceived publication which uses typography to subliminally make one think about the discipline of design.

Its distinctive font has only three variations – heavy block letters, medium type and fine print. This restrained, clean approach to page design helps Ikea promote its photos showing a packed living room or bedroom in a visually pleasing way that seems to work even better in the print medium.

5. Scent of trees

Part of the joy of opening a freshly minted Ikea catalogue is its unmistakable woody fragrance that wafts out from the pages long after the first peek. It reminds one of the first school textbook, or the a crisp novel hot off the press. This sensorial engagement in the physical product will be sorely missed in Ikeas’s future online catalogue or its AR-enhanced iterations.

6. Mailbox event

For almost 46 years in Singapore, Ikea has been mailing its catalogues to Housing Board, condominium and landed property addresses. The once-a-year mass mailing has not only been a highly anticipated mailbox event but also a great leveller of homeowners.

Whether you live in a million-dollar property or a three-room HDB flat, every home gets just one catalogue to gush over, thumb feverishly through and dream about.

7. Looks good on any table top

Probably the most-loved aspect of the catalogue is that it is a design accessory in itself. Throw the squarish, thick Swedish publication on any surface inside the home – whether on a tempered-glass living room coffee table or on an ornate dining table carved out of suar or chengal wood – and it enhances the decor with its clean lines and stunning cover themes.