Visiting a typical Swedish home in the city of Almhult, where Maja who planned and decorated her own home.
Taking a first-hand look at IKEA’s sprawling, campus-like facilities in Almhult, Sweden, there was so much to take in.There’s the IKEA museum, the IKEA hotel, IKEA’s original store in 1958 and, unveiled to the media, a design facility in a building dubbed IKEA2 that included future “prototype apartment” modelling how people will live one day.
At the IKEA hotel, where IKEA recently hosted a gathering of international journalists for its Democratic Design Days held June 3 to 5 in Sweden.
While all very fascinating, my ‘Aha Moment’ came while on a ‘home visit’ to a typical Swedish home in the town of Almhult — in a smallish, two-storey detached home where I met with Maja.The Swedish decorating style, judging by my visit to this home, is with a fondness for white and bright, airy and light, complemented by light earth tones in flooring and in furniture.As for Maja, a civil engineer by trade, she tells me she did her own decorating, and top of mind were careful attention to play areas and storage.She describes her style as mix-and-match — some products predictably came from Ikea but she likes to add hand-woven accessories elsewhere. Safe to say, in Sweden, as in Canada, people love to renovate and to decorate.As fascinating as this ‘home visit’ was to me, I find out from our hosts that IKEA is a big proponent of the “home visit” idea, having corporately visited 10,000 homes worldwide in the last two years, including 400 in Canada.These “home visits,” I will also learn, are part of a massive information-gathering effort aimed at re-thinking how home products are designed and manufactured, and is so big that IKEA has enlisted other corporate partners including Lego and Adidas in the effort.The iconic footwear brand has no problem coming up with flashy new designs it can sell but it, too, wants to change its approach to design by examining first how people live.So, for example, if people are eschewing expensive memberships at gyms and fitness clubs for “working out” at home, then how does it affect the home and home décor?The challenge is how to exercise with limited space at home with first products from the joint Adidas/IKEA that are expected to be presented in 2021.
Sarah Fager, IKEA designer and Michael Bui, senior design director at Adidas talk about a collaborative effort to develop new home products.
A strong feeling I get from IKEA is that wants to turn the art of product design on its head, and what better place to start than IKEA HQ in Almult, Sweden.More confirmation of this new approach to design came when I interviewed Evamaria Ronnegard, a development leader with IKEA and head of a project that is studying future living.We are first led on a tour of this design centre including a prototype apartment. It’s all very futuristic, with its use of robotics and moving walls to change the room’s design and functionality, to transform it from bedroom to walk-in closet, to work space, to living room, an all-in-one room activated through a simple interface touchpad.“A lot of what you see here is not science fiction. This is actually happening; new ways of living and sharing our homes, we can design for a better quality of life,” says Ronnegard.Says Ronnegard about this new type of thinking, which will also have implications for the way urban centres and neighbourhoods are built: “The typical way of going into architecture is to look at the land and see what type of building we put there. And then we go down from there to a certain size apartment, we put in certain furniture, and sometimes those furnishings fit.”As for the prototype apartment, she says: “Here, we have done it the other way around. We have started with ‘How do people want to live,’ and not going from conventions on ‘How you should live.’ That’s why you will see some unconventional solutions in this apartment.”Ronnegad says it is early and no decision on products have yet been made. In the short term, expect lots of new thinking around storage. Think also about a bed frame or a table top that “becomes or sits inside” a wall, perfect for space-starved cities like Tokyo and Hong Kong, where these products are becoming available.The purpose of the prototype apartment will be inviting people to visit and critique it, to offer feedback and get involved in the design process,Whatever the future holds, safe to say, a lot of it begins here in Almhult.