Pioneering on the home front

A house on stilts on a lake, a trailer on a blueberry farm, an earth-ship in the forest and a castle. What do they all have in common? Read on find out how IKEA invited 16 Home Pioneers to a workshop in Copenhagen whilst researching 2017 Life at Home Report.

Gathered in the futuristic skyscrapers of the Bella Centre in Copenhagen are eighteen individuals from all over the world gathered for a workshop. IKEA calls them Home Pioneers and they are contributing to the research that will make up the 2017 IKEA Life at Home Report.

IKEA is seeking a deep and true understanding of the emotional aspects of life at home. In a world that is changing faster than ever, it becomes increasingly important to understand the challenges people face, and their real needs, aspirations and dreams today, and tomorrow.

By nature, IKEA is a curious company and research has been part of the working process for decades. The Life at Home Report is a vital part of fulfilling the IKEA mission of creating a better everyday life at home for the many people.

Jennifer, from the United States, talked about how her home can change to suit her family's needs during the workshop.
Jennifer, from the United States, talked about how her home can change to suit her family's needs during the workshop.

IKEA wants to make decisions about product development based on facts. Nanette Weisdal, Sustainability development leader at IKEA of Sweden who also attended the workshop says, “it’s important for us to understand what people in other parts of the world than Sweden do, and how they live and how they see the world and what are their needs, wishes, hopes and behaviours.”

Instead of holding up a mirror to the world reflecting how people live in the 2017 report, IKEA also wants to open up a global conversation about what life feels like at home. By investigating home pioneer thinking IKEA can explore ways to make the home feel better for everyone.

The insights from the Life at Home Report have a direct impact on product development. It was observed in the previous report the importance of flexible and adaptable furniture that can be used for several purposes, for example, working and eating at dining tables. This is why IKEA developed the ANVÄNDBAR dining table, which has a smart box under the surface to stow away homework or computer cords.

Extremes are important as it shows the potential behaviours that will be influential in the future.

Home Pioneers have solved their life at home differently. Anyone can be a home pioneer, it’s a mindset. IKEA believes that we all can learn something from “home pioneer thinking” in order to deal with the many challenges of modern life. In many cases, Home Pioneers are ahead of the majority of the market on a major trend.

You may be wondering: why look at the extremes if IKEA is a home furnishing company for the many? According to Viktor Olivemark, Intelligence Analyst at IKEA: “Extremes are important as it shows the potential behaviours that will be influential in the future.”

VIktor Olivemark (centre) is leading the reserach for the 2017 Life at Home report.
VIktor Olivemark (centre) is leading the reserach for the 2017 Life at Home report.

A day spent in the mind of a Home Pioneer

At 10:00am the Home Pioneers take their place in centre of the conference room. There is a sense of pride in the room and an audible chuckle when the head-facilitator likens them to car enthusiasts that know absolutely everything about how and why their car works, as opposed to most car owners who barely look under the bonnet.

This is the first time the Home Pioneers have met. But the journey did not start and will not end in Copenhagen. The Home Pioneers have been video blogging in the month prior and they will continue to share their real stories for a month afterwards.

And all their stories are out of the ordinary. Amélie Touram called a van her home so she could pursue a life of competitive rock-climbing, Christian Broberg’s home in Copenhagen used to be a military landing craft used in war and Izumi Matsumoto has her home and family spread out over several different houses in Japan.

The IKEA Home Pioneers have one strong common trait, they all take control of their life through their homes, inhabiting something IKEA calls at this stage of the research, “drive”. Some may know where they are aiming to end up with their home, some may not, but what they do know what their next step will be.

This is more uncommon than you might think. The vast majority of us have little or no plans for their homes in the future. Instead, we react to life as it happens. At this stage of the research, this phenomenon goes by the name of “drifting”.

Have they always been like this? Three of the Home Pioneers during one of the discussions answer simultaneously: “Yes.” Nikolaj, who lives in a house on stilts over a lake in Russia continues: “This drive should be inside you. From childhood and it will never finish.” Listening to the stories of the Home Pioneers you realise that the journey to get to where they are today has been a long and often deliberate process.

Natalya lives in a round wooden house in Russia.
Natalya lives in a round wooden house in Russia.

Making decisions based on facts

Over the years, IKEA has gathered extensive knowledge about life at home through surveys and home visits, as well as through research performed by universities and other organisations.

To collect data for the 2017 Life at Home Report, IKEA has engaged with 650 consumers online in Denmark, USA, Russia, China, India, Japan and Germany. So far, that tallies up to more than 870 hours and 5000 interactions in the virtual community. This is accompanied by visiting 36 homes in all countries (except for Russia) in real life.

Interviews from the fields of consumer psychology, design research and future archeology will also add to the knowledge-bank. On the agenda for these discussions are topics such as ownership, prioritisation, the order of objects & spaces and the relationship we have with things.

Capturing stories, gathering insights.
Capturing stories, gathering insights.

So how does this all feedback into product development at IKEA? According to Viktor Olivemark, who is leading research for the 2017 Life at Home Report, his team doesn’t want to just present facts, they want to make connections not seen before. On a practical level, his team, who sits with the design department in Älmhult, lead workshops sharing and working with insights from their research.

As well as what makes people feel at home, IKEA is conducting global research into the issues that play a role in people’s everyday life, and people’s needs around health – starting with clean air.

Play has also been an important area of research. The LATTJO play collection was developed in response to the insight that both parents and children wanted to spend more time together. A collection of games and toys were developed to encourage and enable play across generations.

Can 16 Home Pioneers joined together for one day affect the lives of the many? We’ll just have to wait until October to find out when the new Life at Home Report is published.

Until then, read about three IKEA Home Pioneers: Izumi, Christian and Amélie in more detail here on IKEA Today. Plus, keep an eye out for some “home pioneering hints” being published at the same time as the new IKEA catalogue is released in August.  

Rules for living. Workshop participants wrote their own short manifestos for life at home.
Rules for living. Workshop participants wrote their own short manifestos for life at home.

Previous IKEA Life at Home Reports:
Life at Home Report #1: A world wakes up explored people’s global morning behaviours – from wake up to take off.
Life at Home Report #2: Tasting the moments explored how the moments around food affect their wellbeing.
Life at Home Report #3: Explore life at home asked what actually makes a home a home? And what makes us feel at home somewhere?
Life at Home Report #4: Watch this space!