The Future of Homes Is… Living in A Giant Disco Ball?

The Future of Homes Is… Living in A  Giant Disco Ball?
Welcome to IKEA's future of homes. (Image: Melissa Matheson)

What did your first home look like? Or what do you think it will look like in the future? Because IKEA reckons it’s something like a giant disco ball filled with cushions. Welcome to the future of homes.

At the H22 City Expo in Helsingborg, Sweden — a festival dedicated to the future of homes and how we can make housing more sustainable — IKEA presented Magasin 405, a conceptual look at the “feeling” of your first home — and beyond.

The three-level exhibit on future homes was inspired by the thousands of home visits IKEA conducts around the world every year. Yes, the designers will come to your house to see how you live before they design new products.

The top level begins with a huge mirrored disco ball filled with cushions, to represent the shiny new beginnings of living on your own for the first time. It moves into a cuby-like contraction made of cardboard boxes to represent coupling up; a giant chair in the middle of a ball pit to signal the introduction of kids, and the longest table I’ve ever seen that celebrates multi-generational living.

There’s even a pattern room where you can don a poncho covered in a baroque-style wildlife print and literally blend in with the walls, couch and even light fittings.

IKEA's future homes exhibit at H22
In case you want to hide out in your future home. (Image: Melissa Matheson)

The second level of the future homes exhibit looks at how ideas are transformed into product design, and the final level is an IKEA concept store, including a food court with robots that deliver hotdogs.

It might all seem a bit out there, but IKEA’s Chief Creative Officer, Marcus Engman, noted at the launch that the H55 festival — held 67 years ago — was where the idea for the modern-day living room originated from.

Now, the future calls for more sustainable solutions when it comes to homes, hence the focus of H22. And that starts with people, Engman said.

“The products that people love from out of IKEA is coming from out of people’s needs and dreams and aspirations because we were involved with them when they did it; it was not something a designer dreamed up,” he told me at the launch of Magasin 405.

“If we get the same kind of involvement in our efforts that we do right now when it comes to sustainability that will also change. So it’s more like investing in yourself. For a company it’s mostly about hard work — hard work and great communication.”

The challenge around sustainability is more about communication rather than technology, Engman added. It makes good business sense to be sustainable, and it’s getting that message across that’s vital.

“We sit on a communicative problem and that’s… the majority of people have not connected economy with sustainability,” he said. “It’s good economics to be sustainable, and if people understand that to a larger extent then we will have far more sustainable behaviours out there.

“Because it is a good way of saving money, it’s a good way of doing great stuff for people, it’s far more economic to work that way if you put your mind to it.

“You don’t hear that discussion going on. It’s far more about materials and big politics, but it’s pretty simple: just less waste, better economy; less waste, better sustainability. So if you just do those simple things and train yourself instead of trying to do something bigger than it is.”

In order for us to really enjoy these future homes (whether the concepts turn out to be accurate or far-fetched) will come down to not just consumers, but also businesses thinking more sustainably. For IKEA, that now looks like thinking more about the circularity of products, Engman said — not just using recyclable materials, but considering if existing components could be used in new products, rather than just manufacturing more.

“For most people changing behaviours is very much about affording to change behaviours, not just for sustainability and but a lot of things,” he said.

“So how can we help people to afford it? I think that’s where we could come in as a company. We’re pretty good at doing those things, to solve those, so we could be even more aggressive on that agenda.”

H22 City Expo runs until July 3, 2022.