The Divisive Legacy Of That Wavy Ikea Mirror

In 2021, after 2020’s banana bread and sourdough hysteria had died down, lockdown made everyone and their nan try their hand at redecorating. If you’re going to be stuck at home, might as well make it look good, am I right?
One homeware item in particular caused quite the stir: statement mirrors. From making grid mirrors yourself (classy vibes) to chequerboard framed mirrors (pricey but Instagrammable), expensive (or not so expensive if you know what’s good for you) pieces of shiny glass have become the latest accessory to represent someone's personality. Are you an antique gold frame kind of gal or have you gone rogue with expanding foam (truly demented)?
Advertisement
It strikes me that there is one particular statement mirror missing from the conversation. It deserves some attention for it is the OG accessory mirror. 
Yes, I am indeed talking about the wavy Ikea KRABB mirror, which in 2009 had everyone in a chokehold. It could stand alone or – if you really wanted to feel seasick in your childhood bedroom – it could be stacked. Magic. 
A relic of a bygone era that championed chevron prints and wearing foundation on your lips, the original full-length KRABB sadly no longer exists on Ikea's website. But fear not: you can buy a shorter version that produces the same effect when stacked. And if you simply must have the original? It is literally inescapable on resale sites and at your friends' mams' houses. There are also knockoffs available at other furniture sites across the internet.
In an era full of weird and wonderful mirrors, the KRABB doesn’t particularly stand out. But in the early '00s, she was the moment. Unless, of course, you hated her. 
The KRABB was divisive. This wavy sheet of reflective glass was (and still is) a Marmite piece of home decor. From going viral on Twitter to being the subject of a hate blog on Tumblr, why does this mirror in particular evoke such strong feelings in whoever remembers it?
At this point I feel the need to confess that I am not an innocent bystander in the Ikea squiggly mirror argument. I recently took to Twitter myself to reflect (hehe) on my hatred for said mirror and watched chaos unfold in my replies as people either defended the KRABB or shared a similar distaste for it.
Advertisement
Abi, a 26-year-old social media manager, explains that our perception of this mirror may stem from feelings of insecurity during our youth. "I call it 'the dysphoria creator'," they recall. "The mirror was bought for our first new house after my parents split and it was put up in my tiny box bedroom to make it look bigger but I hated it."
Abi continues: "I was the 'fat kid' and had friends who were a lot thinner and their reflection could fit into just one of the mirror panes. I had to have two to fit my full body. I got this mirror around the same time I went to my first weight-loss class."
Abi is right. The mirror is a notably slim design that isn’t particularly practical for anyone trying to use it as an actual mirror, let alone someone plus-size who may feel upset that their body doesn’t fit within its dimensions. Its main benefit – given that usability is not high on KRABB's priority list – is providing a 'unique' shape at a low price point. Since its inception in 1995, the KRABB (even currently) has never cost more than ten quid.
This is probably why, outside of children’s bedrooms, the KRABB is a firm favourite of everyone’s least favourite interior designer: the private landlord. "In one rental I lived in, the landlord had made a 'feature wall' in my room of four of them interlocked across the chimney breast," recalls 35-year-old social worker Laura. "It wasn’t my style at all and it just got in the way of moving the furniture around."
Advertisement
Laura elaborates: "It’s definitely popular with people trying to do something quirky with design on a minimal budget and maybe that’s why it is so overexposed. Most people are in this situation at some stage and don’t necessarily have the time to trawl for vintage finds. I feel like it’s not so common now as there are more low-budget design options."
Shaun Wadsley, senior designer at Hi-Spec Design, confirms Laura’s theory. "The KRABB is inexpensive, which means it's accessible to a lot of people. It’s also small so it fits in spaces where a wide, chunky mirror might not work or fit. The mirror is versatile, it can be on its own or as a group of mirrors and it can be styled either vertically or horizontally, meaning you can get a variety of different styles from one type of product – making it accessible as well as inexpensive."
Without a doubt, the versatility of the KRABB – a mirror that can be arranged in myriad mind-bending ways – offers value for money that you can’t quite grab with your regular rectangular looking glass. For those who actually like the mirror, its adjustability is an added bonus beyond acquiring a 'quirky' aesthetic on the cheap.
Home and lifestyle blogger Danielle Vanier, who bought a secondhand KRABB last year then decided against using it when actually decorating, warns against purchasing furniture and decor to try and follow trends. She notes: "By the time we actually decorated I’d seen them across social media too much, got bored, they lost their appeal and I changed direction with how I wanted to decorate."
Advertisement
As anyone who has made it past their early 20s can tell you, it is jarring to watch an item that you hated when it was first popular become popular again. I might be a millennial but the day I wear low-rise jeans is the day that a Y2K youth has been left in charge of dressing my corpse at the funeral home and mixed up my outfit with someone else’s. This is also how I feel about the KRABB.
Vanier has a much nicer take on the matter. "Some people, like myself, didn’t get to live out their full groovy chic potential back in the early '00s so they want to relive things now. Everything comes back around." She adds a word of warning: "Any item or trend that randomly surges in popularity will undoubtedly fizzle out at some point though."
Vanier’s final bit of advice – "Stay true to you and your personal style. If it’s ugly but you love it...buy it!" – strikes a chord. It reminds me of a quote from John Waters’ memoir Role Models about fashion and style that definitely applies to liking homeware that others may find foul: "Have faith in your own bad taste. Buy the clothes that are freshly out of style with even the hippest people a few years older than you. Get on the fashion nerves of your peers, not your parents — that is the key to fashion leadership." 
So if even after the mocking tweets and deeper takes on self-esteem you still adore the KRABB, embrace it. If you can gaze at its squiggly frame for hours on end, extremely pleased with your purchase and the vibe it brings to your home, enjoy it. See the fury of internet critics as an added bonus rather than a reason to doubt your own taste. 

More from Living

R29 Original Series

Advertisement