I have recently returned from an exciting trip to Älmhult, Sweden, where I attended IKEA’s Democratic Design Days event. It’s an opportunity for the world’s press and interior influencers to get behind the scenes of IKEA’s product design and development, as well as find out about upcoming ideas and collaborations in the making.
To say I was excited about this was an understatement!!
I travelled to IKEA with other journalists and influencers from the UK and Ireland, staying in the IKEA Hotel in Älmhult for the duration of the event. As you would imagine, the IKEA Hotel is a super relaxed and well designed place, with really simple yet comfortable rooms and lots of cosy areas where guests can sit and relax, enjoy a coffee or catch up on work – and yes, it is kind of like staying in an in-store room set, except you can use all the stuff!!
Here are some pics of my room, the downstairs lobby and outdoor garden area…
So what is democratic design? According to Marcus Engman, Head of Design, the concept is based on IKEA’s belief that everyone has the right to live a better everyday life, therefore every product designed in-house must meet all five dimensions of the democratic design principle… it must have great form, be of good quality, be sustainable, be functional, and of course, remain at a low price point. Product designers and developers must find the right balance of these five things to create good design and keep the company innovative moving forward.
On the morning of the conference, we were invited to view IKEA’s new product ranges for late 2018/2019. It was great to meet the designers behind the products and hear about their inspiration for their designs. These were some of my favourites…
Working with American fashion designer Virgil Abloh, MARKERAD is a collection of furniture aimed at the millennial generation, with edgy, design-led pieces with an affordable price tag, that are similar to traditional IKEA items, however with subtle, pop-art inspired tweaks. The collection, which includes a giant IKEA receipt rug (seen below), statement glass cabinet and modern wood furnishings, is due to launch in stores in 2019.
Set to launch for a limited time pre-Summer 2019, TÄNKVÄRD is a collection of rustic, more sustainably designed products, made from natural materials such as rattan, cotton, linen, jute and seagrass. The range includes beautifully tactile, textured, fabric throws, cushions and baskets, as well as rattan chairs and benches. These products have been carefully designed to be flexible in their use, so they’re perfect for using indoors or out, which I love!
With their carefully handcrafted finish, no two products are the same – I just love the rattan easy chair (below) and the wonderfully fresh blue and white textile designs.
IKEA has been working closely with a team of African designers to create the ÖVERALLT range, which includes tableware, seating and textiles, each showcasing fun and expressive African design. With a central theme of ‘modern urban rituals’ – the things we do everyday across the globe to feel at home – the products include a basket inspired by hair braiding rituals, a woven stool and bags, rugs and cushions made up with metallic thread from recycled crisp packets – so clever!
I really like how the boldness of African design has been combined with cool Scandinavian minimalism. My favourite product has got to be the little stool pictured further below which you could equally use as a side table. ÖVERALLT will be available for a limited time in May 2019.
ART COLLECTION 2019 – RUGS
Continuing their quest to make great art accessible to everyone, IKEA asked eight contemporary artists to create rug designs, the result of which is a collection of eight very different designs that showcase emerging talents and new art disciplines.
I particularly liked the black and white woven design by Polish artist Filip Pagowski, which when laid flat, has an almost three-dimensional quality to it. Other designs include those by Virgil Abloh, British artist Craig Green and the colourful rug seen further below by Chiaozza… its fun design will be perfect for a family room or playroom.
Each one will be handmade in India using wool and other natural materials, allowing every piece to be fully unique. There’s no doubt that these rugs will be a new way to personalise your living space – available in-store in 2019.
IKEA staff travel the world to talk to people about their everyday routines at different times of the year to help them understand our seasonal behaviours. It’s this in-depth understanding of people’s way of life across the world that enables IKEA to effectively plan product launches at the right time.
The four key themes this coming year include Organised Living for autumn, Living with Kids (Winter), Small Space Living (Spring ’19) and Sustainability (Summer ’19).
The collection of products to be launched in August ’18 for autumn is aimed at helping to make our lives easier as we return to the normal routine of back to school and seek ways to improve our storage in the home. Expect Scandinavian muted tones of pink and green, simple lines, new storage solutions and ways to display our treasured possessions and ambient lighting for those darkening evenings.
Moving on to Winter, IKEA will be launching classic products, such as the EKTORP sofa and BILLY bookcase, in modern, rich shades of berry, mustard and deep green from October this year. Also on the horizon is brushed cotton bedding, layered pattern and for the first time, the ever popular STRANDMON armchair in kids’ size! Building on the theme of Living with Kids, customers can also expect new toy designs and lighting and furniture items aimed at the little people in their lives. As you can see below, it’s all very cosy and comfortable-looking!
Heading into 2019 and the Spring season will see us looking to refresh our homes with an injection of colour and pattern. From February ’19, IKEA will be launching new fabric designs in line with the increasing trend for more colour in our homes. Based on a central theme of Small Space Living, IKEA will also be helping us to manage living our everyday lives in smaller spaces with a range of product solutions, such as further development of their PLATSA storage system, which can be easily assembled and disassembled as and when required.
Finally, as we reach Summer next year, the focus will be on Sustainability, showcasing natural materials with a timeless feel, with bedding in tactile, soft materials designed to promote better sleep, as well as woven rattan and bamboo baskets and furnishings to add texture to our living spaces.
In fact, sustainability, and in turn, sustainable living, are at IKEA’s core throughout its product design and development. With increasing urbanisation causing unsustainable consumption, along with climate change happening before our very eyes, there is a more urgent than ever need to create materials from sustainable sources and rethink how we will all be living our everyday lives in the future. The plans IKEA has in this area is enough for a whole other blog piece, however it’s evident in the upcoming products and ranges showcased at the Democratic Design Days event, that sustainable living is at the epicentre of IKEA’s strategy. I only wish that other giant retailers were as forward thinking!
At the end of the event, IKEA announced its upcoming collaborations for 2019 and it certainly makes for a very exciting year or two ahead. Expect to see some big names including Adidas and Lego working with IKEA to create new product lines in the near future!
I hope this has given you a good insight into what lies ahead in 2018/19 for you to discover at IKEA – check out my Instagram highlights for more pics of my time in Älmhult and thank you to IKEA for looking after me on this fantastic press trip!