ATLANTA—IKEA, the rapidly growing Swedish retailer of inexpensive home furnishings, claimed another 10,000 American lifestyles in 2003, according to a report released Tuesday by the Center for Interior Design Control.
“This epidemic of self-assembled, clean-lined modernist furniture is still largely contained to densely populated urban areas, but the danger exists that it will spread to other regions throughout America,” CIDC spokesman Chris Greeves said Tuesday. “At the rate it’s moving, our nation could suffer European levels of Scandinavian design within a decade.”
Greeves said IKEA is not easily controlled, as it spreads largely through word of mouth.
“It passes between rooms until it has infested not only your living room, but also your 1.5 bathrooms, your cleanly appointed kitchen, and then your entire sun-drenched, open-plan loft apartment. In the most extreme cases, it will even spread to the string-light-decorated rooftop patio overlooking your recently gentrified neighborhood.”
The IKEA encroachment began attracting attention in 1985, when the first American IKEA store was diagnosed in Philadelphia, infecting an estimated 2,500 homes with Stenkulla tables, Blankhult chairs, and Ingebo sofas almost overnight.
“My friend Kyle was the first person I knew who got IKEA,” said Adam Goldman, a Manhattan web designer who said he now knows “20 or 30 people” who have the furniture. “I was at his place on a Friday night, and everything was normal. He mentioned that he was going out to shop for a little bookcase the next day. A week later, his whole place was so thick with blond birch veneer and chrome wire shelving that he could barely stand up.”
Goldman’s friend lost the apartment later that year, but Goldman could not confirm IKEA as the cause.
CIDC officials say they are unsure exactly how many U.S. rooms have been claimed by the furniture and décor line, but they fear that the number of homes in which one or more residents have been exposed to IKEA could increase as much as 80 percent by 2008.
Karl Westin is an actor who came down with a truckload of IKEA when he moved from Seattle to Burbank, CA, in 1996. In recent years, he has spent thousands of dollars eradicating it from his house.
“For me, it started slowly,” Westin said. “I had a Poang—it’s a form of chair—and I just couldn’t seem to get rid of it. That led to a lot of other things I’m not particularly proud of. I indulged in Leksvik, Branas, even a Svingen. If you don’t know what those are, consider yourself lucky.”
Although Westin said he has been IKEA-free for more than a year, saving his lifestyle was neither easy nor cheap.
“It took a lot of expensive Restoration Hardware sessions before the IKEA was totally wiped out,” Westin said. “And I’m one of the lucky ones. I hate to think what happens to people who can’t afford to go out and get the new window treatments they so desperately need.”