Designing for the holidays when there is no space left

When Friso left the countryside for a 22 square meter apartment in Amsterdam, creating solutions for a limited space became almost like a sport. Today he lives in the middle of a Swedish forest, and the spruce trees around him have inspired the trees in this year’s winter collection that will literally take up zero floor space.

Friso Wiersma, designer at IKEA, grew up in a big country home in the northern part of the Netherlands. Every December, the family brought in a huge Christmas tree. When Friso left his hometown for a 22 square meter apartment in Amsterdam, he also left a lot of floor space behind. There was no room for any bulky decorations. 

“There was no way we could have brought a tree into the house. Every square meter of the floor was already taken. Only the walls would be an option for us,” says Friso. 

When cities grow, spaces shrink, and people have to make compromises. Is it possible to create a functional home, and also create a homey and personal feeling? IKEA has been developing small space living solutions for a long time, and this is something Friso can relate to. Those years in that small Amsterdam apartment was the starting point for many creative solutions. 

“As a cabinet maker myself, it became like a sport. We had high ceilings, so of course, we used the height.” 

Did you come up with an alternative Christmas tree then, in Amsterdam? 

“No, no! We decorated our home with a few ornaments we would hang randomly.”

Friso left his hometown for a 22 square meter apartment in Amsterdam, with no space left for a tree.

For the coming winter collection, Friso has been working on a couple of alternative trees that all will literally take up zero floor space. Today he lives with his family in the middle of a forest in Sweden and the work with the space-saving trees started when he went out to take pictures of spruce branches. 

“I thought a lot about the archetype of a Christmas tree, there is something so beautiful with the silhouette. I traced the silhouette and cut it out with the laser cutter. With the branches, you can shape your own full-size tree on a wall or a window. Even the ceiling.”  

The branches for the wall decoration are made out of paper. Another tree Friso made for the collection is made out of recycled wood. The initial idea was to use old Christmas trees to make a new one where you could display greeting cards and photos. After some testing in the prototype lab he found out that the leftover slats from the production of the KNAGGLIG storage boxes were exactly what he was looking for. 

Do you usually work with wood? 

“I primarily work with furniture at IKEA, and I have a background as a cabinet maker. I come from a family of carpenters. Before I attended design school, I worked as an apprentice for a master cabinet maker in Amsterdam. There I got a thorough education in how to build solid wood construction. At IKEA I have had the chance to work with other materials too, like metal and textiles.” 

What kind of small space living solutions do you think we will need more of in the future?  

“At IKEA we talk a lot about on-off situations. We are working on a kitchenette for a small space right now. What could a kitchen look like when it is switched off when you don’t use it? When we lived in the city, we didn’t cook every evening, but kitchens are always “switched on” and busy. But what if you don’t want to see the kitchen when you don’t use it.” 

“Another challenge is privacy. When my wife and I lived in Amsterdam, sharing a small space, we used a curtain, because sometimes you just wanted to be alone. At IKEA, we already have some furniture that could work as room dividers. We have some really good systems, like PLATSA.”  

What are you working on right now?

“Together with IKEA designer Johanna Jelinek I have been designing versatile stools for small space living. We call it a stool box, because it is a stool, but also storage. We use raw pine wood. I am also working with next year’s winter collection!”

VINTER 2020 will be in stores in October.