It Just Got A Lot Harder To Toss Your Old Ikea Couch

Reduce, reuse, reupholster.

Millions of people around the world own Ikea couches because they’re cheap and relatively well-designed. That also makes them more disposable. When it’s time to move or redecorate, many of us would rather toss our old couches than get them reupholstered.


That’s something the Swedish interior design company Bemz is trying to change. The 12-year-old company makes custom slipcovers for Ikea couches and chairs. The aim? To keep furniture out of landfills while also giving consumers a way to change the look of their living space.

Now, the company has released a set of slipcovers made of recycled cotton cloth for easy reupholstering of Ikea couches, cushion covers, chairs, and daybeds. The Respect collection textiles are produced from the fashion industry’s leftovers. These cuttings are purchased from factories, sorted by color, and then shredded and ground down to their original cotton fibers. The fibers are mixed with a small amount of polyester sourced from recycled PET bottles to make the fabric more durable, and then spun into yarn. Then, scientists at the production facility combine different color fibers and textures to match Bemz’s design specifications, without using any water or new dye.

“We want people to consume less, but we know people aren’t going to stop consuming,” says Lesley Pennington, Bemz’s founder and CEO. “How do we all feel better about the purchases that we make?”

Of course, Ikea furniture isn’t necessarily made to last. And not all couches (ahem, West Elm) deserve to be reupholstered.

But even if low-end couches hold up over time, people don’t feel particularly attached to them. According to a telephone survey by the global research firm Harris Interactive, 40 million Americans move each year, and about 10 million leave behind a couch or another large piece of furniture. These often end up in landfills. Pennington believes that encouraging the reuse of older furniture and adopting sustainable production practices isn’t just good for the environment–it’s also the most responsible way to run her business. Bemz uses a local supply chain and doesn’t actually make any product until there’s a customer for it, keeping the company’s inventory low and reducing waste.

“We’re not overproducing, and we’re not throwing things away,” she says. “I think every retail company, any company that’s producing product, needs to start to think in that way.”


The recycled cotton textile slipcovers are available for online order now. Prices range based on the textile and Ikea model.

[All Photos: via Bemz]

About the author

Katharine Schwab is an associate editor at Co.Design based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture.