Making a military boat into a home

Christian Broberg lives in an extreme dwelling, a former WWII military landing craft in central Copenhagen. His dedication to restoring his home is a life-long project. To find out more about the way Christian thinks about his home, IKEA invited him to a one-day Home Pioneers workshop in Copenhagen.

IKEA is setting out on a journey over the coming years to connect to peoples emotional and personal relations to their homes and how this changes over time.

At the moment, IKEA is undertaking the largest ever research about how people live. This work culminates in the fourth IKEA Life at Home Report and will lay the groundwork for future products, solutions and collaborations.

IKEA defines Home Pioneers as people who think and make their homes in unusual and interesting ways. Their attitude to their homes is a mind-set that IKEA believes the many people can learn a lot from and makes up part of the research for the coming Life at Home Report.

We asked Lydia Choi-Johansson, Intelligence Specialist, at Inter IKEA Systems why Christian Broberg was asked to be part of the research: “He is interesting due to his drive and passion to constantly work on the home. This is unusual for the many. People often see homes as finished project and don’t bother to change so much until big life changes occur but Christian is different as he sees it as a fun life-long project.”

Svanen. The military landing craft Christian Broberg has restored and calls his home.
Svanen. The military landing craft Christian Broberg has restored and calls his home.

Living on a boat is unusual, but not that unusual. What is unusual about the boat that Christian Broberg lives in is that it used to be a military landing craft actually used during the war, and this was one of the reasons why Christian chose the boat. He has also done all the renovations on the boat himself. These create a very different dynamic between him and his home.

If you asked me to build a box, that’s not fun. It has to be difficult and different. That is the motivation.

It’s the challenge of restoring his boat that makes it fun. By trade, Christian has worked with professional sheet metal construction where they were always working towards the lowest and fastest outcome. He wanted to do something “as perfect as it could be,” he said, and that project became his home. “If you asked me to build a box, that’s not fun. It has to be difficult and different. That is the motivation,” he says.

When Christian bought his boat, which he found rusting in a scrapyard, it had no radiator, only a wooden stove, and no running water. The closest bathroom was 200m away. “It toughens you up,” he says.

After restoring his home around ten times, (and this includes an attempt at making a round kitchen) he and his wife can be nostalgic for the primitive days of when they first moved on to the boat: “When it’s cold and you turn on the heat and it gets warmer, you get happy. When you turn on the tap, and water comes out, you get happy,” he says. He appreciates the small things that we normally take for granted.

A personality trait that Christian recognises in himself is that he has always been good at finishing things. His tips or advice for others is that if you cannot, don’t. If you don’t have enough money, don’t. If you aren’t motivated, you guess it, don’t. A contradiction to his own motivation perhaps, where the harder the project the better, but words that ring true for many people who are living in half-finished home and apartments around the world.

Christian talks about his boat as being a kind of ugly duckling and turning it into a beautiful swan. His home is a real care and passion for him. Lydia from IKEA continues to talk about what IKEA can learn from someone like Christian: “It was the mundane small things that he really enjoyed rather than the final result which is interesting, because if we can understand such motivations we can empower the many to cherish everyday life and be more driven to make homes better.

The full Life at Home Report will be released in October, but keep your eyes peeled during August, when the next IKEA catalogue will be launched, for some “home pioneering hints”. Also, read about the workshop in Copenhagen when 16 Home Pioneers spent the day with the IKEA research team.