By Nicole Barley
Strolling along the walkway that winds through IKEA Pittsburgh, I probably point to at least 10 different items and exclaim, “I have that!” Fellow lovers of Scandinavian design are sure to have a similar experience as they peruse the store’s nearly 9,000 products, which are both familiar in style and enticing in their newness. (FYI: If you walk the entire path, guided by the arrows, the distance amounts to about 3/4 of a mile.)
IKEA’s Jennifer Stockdale is my tour guide today, and the visit is not for the purpose of redecorating a room. Instead, we’re chatting about the store’s evolution since its founding 25 years ago. IKEA Pittsburgh was one of the retailer’s first U.S. locations, preceded only by IKEA stores in Philadelphia, Pa., Baltimore, Md., and Woodbridge, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C. Opened on July 19, 1989, the Pittsburgh store will host an anniversary celebration that same day, 25 years later, on July 19, 2014.
In 1989, this IKEA store was the first of its kind within a six-hour radius. It was also one of the first retail spaces to be built in Robinson Township, constructed at the same time as Robinson Towne Center, situated across the street. Prior to these two retail developments, the surrounding region could best be defined as farmland. Says Stockdale, “We were the first thing here, and now, IKEA is located in one of the biggest retail areas in Pittsburgh.”
An established and active shipping infrastructure between IKEA headquarters near Philadelphia, along with proximity to those three existing stores, made Pittsburgh the perfect fit for a fourth location.
Thanks in part to its affordability and attractive design, IKEA products are beloved by college students and young professionals alike, of which there are many in the Pittsburgh area. Matched with a stable economy, IKEA Pittsburgh has thrived. Family life is also a focus of the local store. IKEA consultants pay house calls to nearby customers to ascertain how they live, what they like, what is functional, and what is not. From there, the consultants devise the changing displays that are constructed throughout the store. Their goal is to create fully functional living spaces, specific to the shoppers in the Western Pennsylvania region, that invite them to interact and engage.
Some aspects of the IKEA experience have certainly changed since 1989 — stereo storage has all but become obsolete; styles are a bit brighter and more modern; and the retailer’s art offerings have increased tenfold. Recently redesigned is the store’s downstairs Market Hall; aisles are wider, shelves are easier to navigate, and there are more products than ever. IKEA’s kitchen remodeling options continue to expand with modern consumers’ needs. But what hasn’t changed is a dedication to creating functional, affordable, and aesthetically pleasing design.
I ask Stockdale where she sees IKEA Pittsburgh 25 years from now. “We’re really headed towards increased online services, buying right from your smartphone,” she says. “But you do still need that in-store experience, no matter how integrated the online gets — there’s just no better way to get inspiration.”
IKEA Pittsburgh, 2001 Park Manor Blvd., Robinson. 888.888.4532. ikea.com.
The KLIPPAN Loveseat has been a part of IKEA’s offerings since the company’s start. The modern update? These loveseats, along with many other seating options, are now sold without upholstery. Instead, IKEA offers myriad slipcover options. Two different, fun options are shown here.
“You can choose from a variety of interchangeable fabrics. There are washable slipcovers, for a family with kids. If it gets ruined, you don’t have to replace the entire couch. And, if you want a room update, all you have to do is replace the slipcover,” says Stockdale of the KLIPPAN Loveseat.
The name may have changed, but the style is the same. Known in the early ‘90s at the POEM Armchair, this iconic piece of IKEA furniture is now called the POÄNG Armchair. Versatile, minimalist, and very recognizable, it is now available in a wide variety of finishes and upholsteries. Overall, IKEA has increased its textile offerings, including duvet covers and pillowcases, which are updated on a seasonal basis.
BESTÅ is IKEA’s latest line of sleek, customizable storage, offering solution for home entertainment storage and display. It’s perfect for putting the spotlight on your TV. It also works well in dining and family rooms, suitable for everything from creating a bar with wine racks, to installing a spacious, discreet place to house toys, games, and books.
Redecorating a room with IKEA products? Looking for design inspiration?
Upload it to IKEA Share Space, filled with photos of real-life room redos. IKEA products are tagged, and the ideas are endless. Check it out at theshare-space.com.