Cheap, smart uses for IKEA furniture in interior design schemes

In celebration of all things IKEA, here are several instances when designers used the Scandi behemoth in extremely smart interiors – and you probably didn’t even notice

IKEA is something many of us become aware of even before we really show an interest in interior design – a place to run around between cheap beds and disembodied kitchens as children, or somewhere we picked out bargain pieces to furnish our student rooms or perhaps our very first flats. But it’s also a source of wildly useful, practical furniture elements that can enhance a house or flat without breaking the bank.

Ikea is the world's largest furniture retailer and is therefore making a big push to establish itself in the world of sustainable design and consumption. This includes a new service for taking back used Ikea items for recycling and resale. They've also just launched the Nytillverkad collection, which dives back into the most iconic IKEA designs since their conception in 1943. From retro 1970s floral designs to the Skålboda wire-frame armchair and poppy Domsten stool - these classic interior staples never seem to go out of style.

So, in honour of the great, iconic brand itself, here are half a dozen moments that interior designers incorporated IKEA design into their projects with masterful panache.

The storage boxes
Owen Gale

Interior designer Gergei Erdei painted cardboard Ikea storage boxes (above, right) to be more in keeping in his Grecian flat in Holborn. Boasting fine ochre lines on yellow card, the boxes look almost like they’re made out of marble, with “veins” running through them.

The dining table
Jake Curtis

Deputy decoration editor Ruth Sleightholme tackled decorating on a budget in House & Garden’s June 2015 issue. “I used one or two things from Ikea in every shot,” Ruth says. “Their cheap, simple designs lend themselves brilliantly to adaptation. Here, I took the great flatweave IKEA rugs (‘Lappljung’, a mere £20), shoved a bit of wadding in it and turned it in to a bench cushion. The table, (‘Grebbestad’, £150), chair (‘Ivar’, £15) and bench (‘Bjursta’, £70) are all from there too.”

The sofas
Nathalie Krag

This medieval tower in Italy was originally restored by the celebrated architect Bruno Sacchi in the 1970s, but the project had fallen into disrepair following his death. His wife Jane and their children recently resuscitated the original decor.

Nathalie Krag

In the sitting room, the sofas are from – wait for it… IKEA, and they work beautifully with the white Travertine shelves on either side, which hold Bruno’s collection of African figurines, sculptures and art books.

Mark Fox

IKEA sofas pop up with some regularity in the apartments we feature, unsurprisingly especially those with a Scandinavian inflection. In the living room of Alfred Bransen's Hackney flat with quite a Danish sensibility, a sofa from IKEA (the Söderhamn model, if we're not mistaken) mixes with a vintage coffee table and lots of colourful soft furnishings. The cushions are a mix of Hay and The Apartment DK.

Bill Batten

House & Garden’s former decoration editor Wendy Harrop has brought a simple elegance to her thatched cottage in Wiltshire, creating calm, restrained interiors with a pale palette and a stylish mix of furniture and art. Another sectional Ikea sofa takes centre stage in the sitting room, with its fresh loose covers in white cotton. Wendy made the cushions out of calico from Whaleys, which she printed using stiff card dipped in ink.

Dean Hearne

Olympia and Ariadne Irving had the IKEA ‘Farlov’ sofa slipcovers remade in Carolina Irving Textiles ‘Nino’ fabric, with cushions covered in Carolina Irving Textiles ‘Almaty’ and ‘Patmos Stripe’. Some companies offer slipcovers already fit to the IKEA standard, but having custom fabric covers made will add to the uniqueness of the piece, whilst also potentially saving you some money. Sofas are now available second hand from IKEA, so a new coat could breathe life into a pre-loved item.

The rug
Simon Brown

Caroline Holdaway, the owner of this idyllic eighteenth-century cottage in the Cotswolds, frequently commissions handmade rugs from the divine Sinclair Till, including a Scandinavian flatweave in the sitting room. In the dining area she went for Scandi flooring of a different kind, a rather nice IKEA rug.

Michael Sinclair

Ever thought about pinning a rug to the wall for a decorative statement? Wall hangings can certainly be an affordable way to decorate a large space, and interior designer Sarah Delaney has used IKEA's famous ‘Stockholm’ rugs to great effect in this modern country cottage in Oxfordshire. Fixed to the wall and ceiling in a small lobby between the main bedroom and bathroom, they create a striking tunnel effect.

Dean Hearne

This pink scalloped rug in Olympia and Ariadne Irving's characterful rented flat in London was bought in Jaipur. The sisters cleverly layered the special item on top of another sisal IKEA rug to increase the scale, robustness and dynamics in the space. IKEA pieces often act as great bolsterers for other ‘special’ pieces, where sturdy reliability and classic design complements furniture with more interest or intricate designs.

The light
Paul Massey

Emma Burns, senior decorator at Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, transformed her converted barn into a book-lined guest cottage full of surprises. In the bedroom, Emma has used an IKEA reading lamp along with a 1970s abstract painting by W. Nesseiz.

Yuki Sugiura

If Matilda Goad does it, you can bet that the rest of the stylish interiors crowd will be doing it too sooner or later. So we were particularly delighted to see these affordable IKEA wall lights in the bathroom of her London house. The exact design has been discontinued but the ‘Frihult’ design is similar.

The kitchen
Alex James

How’s this for an IKEA hack? Design writer Lucia van der Post asked her builder to create two huge kitchen dressers – “the sort that you might have found in an old pantry” – using cabinets from IKEA. She painted the cupboard doors in ‘Beauvais Grey’ from Papers & Paints, and then she added early Victorian-style moulding and plain white china knobs. She further customised the units with grey marble worktops. The open shelving – also from IKEA – adds storage and a display for dishes and china.

The wardrobe
Simon Brown

Interior designer Beata Heuman transformed her first home, a small west London apartment, in a style she jokingly refers to as “urban safari chic”, making imaginative use of both the compact space and her limited funds. To give the illusion that the dimensions of the room are bigger (and to emphasise the leafy view on to Brompton Cemetery below), Beata used the trusty ‘Pax’ wardrobe with mirrored doors from IKEA on either side of the window.

Simon Brown