Five slimline, black standard lamps placed in front of a yellow sofa wrapped in plastic.

Future living rooms

IKEA asked three creatives Faye Toogood, OPENHOUSE and Swedish stylists Anna Lenskog Belfrage and Pella Hedeby to make installations during the IKEA Festival in Milan. They responded with characteristic spaces that examine how the world is finding its way inside our homes. And of course, the centrepiece is the sofa.

Shifts and megatrends

The designers are addressing the big question: “What do we really want from our living rooms?” They were asked this question because we are seeing shifts in behaviour taking place right now. We asked Business Leader at IKEA Eja Tuominen, to explain a little more: “We realised that two trends had a special effect on how people lived at home.”

These two mega-trends are urbanisation and technology. The role of the living room is changing dramatically. As cities become overpopulated, homes become smaller and the presence of technology becomes greater, we need our living spaces to be multifunctional.

The living room is an important room, the face of the home.

Technology is seeping into our daily lives more and more, by the minute. It’s changing how and where we work, it’s changing how we communicate, how we consume, how we create, how we study, how we experience — it’s changing our life and existence in ways we are only beginning to understand.

And urbanisation, more and more people are moving towards the cities. In 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities according to the UN. More people in the same space challenges our lifestyles and calls for new living conditions.

“It’s not about designing new products but thinking about how you put them together in an environment,“ continues Eja. If you look at the “living rooms” created by the designers at the IKEA Festival, you see needs, a shift in behaviour and the response is exaggerated, twisted, blown up.

A home-styled exhibition space housed in a large, rough, industrial hall.
Limited space does not mean limited possibility. Compact living by Pella Hedeby.

Each of the designers come from a different corner of the design world, Anna Lenskog Belfrage and Pella Hedeby are closely related to the IKEA design world. “We find it very interesting to work side by side with IKEA, developing new ways of communicating their vision,” they explain.

Together, with their Swedish blog titled Life at Home they find ways to make IKEA feel personal, with a one-to-one more closer communication. You can feel the Pinterest button hovering over the details in their rooms they have created for the festival.

They have created four rooms, based around the themes of growing, creation, harmony and compact living. All rooms have calm spaces where you can relax and get what they describe as “home energy”.

“People want to slow down and live more sustainably in homes where they are able to relax and feel calm,” explain the designers. “That’s what we feel too, and have strived to visualise in our living rooms.”

An easel standing near a sofa. Paint-stained fabric is spread across the floor.
Paint your days away. Room for creativity by Anna Lenskog Belfrage.

Their creation room was first inspired IKEA designer Hanna Dalrot’s modern blue fluid textile patterns for the STOCKHOLM collection. Anna describes It is a studio space where you can both create and recreate yourself.

In Pella’s room for harmony, the TV has been replaced by the fireplace and the colours exude calm and tranquility with a feeling close to nature. This is where you come home.

Their mix of vintage, simple but personal DIY’s, IKEA classics and new quality products makes for spaces that filled with curiosity. At the festival, you walk through rooms that feel like they are in a state of transition, there are canvases leaning against walls, photographs pinned and clipped up on the walls and cupboards filled with curiosities. You always have the feeling that someone lives here.

A simple black-and-white sketch of a building with roof arches.
Sketch of the space at IKEA Festival by OPENHOUSE.

New friends in old rooms

OPENHOUSE is a twice-yearly magazine that invites us into creative people’s homes and private spaces from around the globe. It’s founded and run by husband and wife duo Andrew Trotter and Mari Luz Vidal. Highlighted with clean and warm photography, they interview and explore areas of art, design and gastronomy – inspiring, intriguing and telling their stories.

The space they have built at the IKEA Festival acts like a guide for wanderers, showing us how a homey space can make way for social events and meeting new people. Rooms are spread out wide, with long sofas and cozy armchairs, but with nooks to sneak around to have more private chats as well.

A lawn where people sit along a long, low table formed by wooden pallets.
Inspiration for OPENHOUSE. La Ricarda in Barcelona.

Andrew Trotter, Editor of OPENHOUSE explains, “we took inspiration from House La Ricarda in Barcelona, a house that in the 1950’s was a cultural meeting point in a time where culture was banned in Spain. We wanted to build an inviting social space that brings people together, people you may not otherwise meet.”

The living room is without TV, a Room for Life, and a place to share experiences. The atmosphere of the rooms is complemented with musicians playing jazz and classical. “They’ll be playing and hanging out like just like at home – so it’s not just about a musical performance but creating a warm and social atmosphere, where people get the opportunity to connect with the musicians on a more personable and open plain.”

A cardboard-and-textile prototype arranged in a shallow paper box.
Sketch by Faye Toogood.

Spaces to play in

Faye Toogood has created a space that ties in with the IKEA Festival’s underlying themes of play and creativity. It’s an experimental bricolage, that re-purposes flatpack furniture in unexpected ways.

The whole space is covered with openings and flaps; just large enough for an adult to squeeze in. The small doors are eco-friendly and made from wood wool, cement and water. It’s an open space, but a little bit deceptive. From the exterior, you can’t see the giant chair, but if you walk the maze, you will find it!

One room is filled with recognisable IKEA furniture, such as IVAR, NORSBORG and BILLY. The furniture is all white and has a deflated look. It’s pinned to the walls, yet, hangs heavy, lacking internal construction. What is this you wonder? A dystopian future, a warning, advice to slow down before we are too tired? The smell of paint still hangs in the air.

An exhibition space with a bulky, white, oversize armchair in the centre.
New POÄNG. Enlarged, stuffed with 150 duvets and covered in rubber. By Faye Toogood.

Next to this they have recreated the POÄNG armchair, an IKEA classic, forty years old. They took four of the armchairs and cut them up, then elongated them in every direction and filled them with fifty IKEA duvets. Next, they wrapped them up and re-covered the new, enlarged chair in pinkish industrial rubber. It’s a chair for a giant, “kids will gravitate towards it” says Jan Rose, who works in Faye Toogood’s studio.

The space is also covered with one-hundred and fifty rugs with unique paintings. A representation of the different feelings you get when assembling IKEA furniture. You walk through their maze, like a big kid, escaping through the shanty style structure. Sometimes through standard entries, or swinging doors but other times through a tiny gap or even a giant carpet slide.

Face of the home

The living room is an important room, “the face of the home,” says Eja Tuominen. “It’s where people invest the most money, and where they take their guests. They spend most of their waking time in this room and it is part of the branding of who you are. Showing your personality, what style you want to show and what items you want to show.”

“We can’t keep doing the same things as before,” says Eja, “we want to show the many people that you don’t have to have a TV or sofa in front of you. You can furnish your room in other ways too. If that’s more important to you.” With these installations at the IKEA Festival, you can find a lot of inspiration. “We want to encourage people to really look into what is important in their lives and make room for that in the living room.”

About the designers:
Faye Toogood is a London-based British designer. Her furniture and objects demonstrate a preoccupation with materiality and experimentation. All of her pieces are handmade by small-scale fabricators and traditional artisans, with an honesty to the rawness and irregularity of the chosen material. With an academic training in the theory and practise of fine art and a vocational background at the forefront of the magazine industry, Toogood approaches product design with a singular and acutely honed eye. Her highly sculptural work, while showing an astute respect for the past, is derived from pure self-expression and instinct.

Anna & Pella are Swedish creatives and bloggers. Anna Lenskog Belfrage and Pella Hedeby are the longtime editors of IKEA’s Life At Home blog on its Swedish website. While Pella runs her own renowned interiors blog and is one of Sweden’s most sought after interior stylists, Anna is also art director and co-founder of communications agency Futurniture.

Openhouse is a twice-yearly magazine, based in Barcelona, that meets creative people from around the world, who open their homes and private spaces to the public for regular cultural activities revolving around art, design, literature, dance music and gastronomy.