Moving into cities

The IKEA approach has always been to create home furnishing solutions based on the needs of individual people and the way we live today. It’s the inspiration and driving force behind the IKEA range. So, what does the rise in urban dwelling mean for life at home?

The big move to the city

For the first time in history, a larger percentage of the world’s population lives in cities rather than rural communities. And in less than 20 years a staggering 70% of us will live in urban areas. Younger people are escalating this shift, but so are families and older generations who are either migrating to the city or simply staying put for employment opportunities.

Always building a better everyday

Life at home is at the heart of the IKEA Concept. And life at home is changing. The IKEA approach has always been to create home furnishing solutions based on the needs of individual people and the way we live today. It’s the inspiration and driving force behind the IKEA range. So, what does the rise in urban dwelling mean for life at home?

Real home image
Every year we carry out hundreds of home visit interviews and conduct research to build insights into what “home” in the city means for different people across the globe. Families who need to sleep, play and eat all in one room. Children who share a bedroom, but want to be individuals. Friends who share large open-plan spaces. Professionals who work and live in the same space. City life sometimes means living smaller, but it also offers non-traditional ways of sharing a home and different types of living spaces (warehouses, lofts, studios). And these spaces often have to fit in more people and accommodate more activities.

Real home image

Whatever the space, our research shows common needs for urban dwellers – smart, multifunctional, space-saving furnishing solutions, and different ways to shop anytime of day and wherever a customer might be.

A collection about how we live

Sofa beds, extendable tables, stackable chairs, smart storage and multifunctional products. These are just some of the IKEA products and solutions that have been enabling people to make the most of small spaces over the years.
This year more than ever, IKEA products have responded to the shift towards urban living. Knowledge and insights about life at home helped shape one of the biggest and most ambitious collections of this year – IKEA PS 2014.

In anticipation of the IKEA PS 2014 collection, IKEA of Sweden AB commissioned a survey of 18-60 year olds living in cities across the globe. The results gave some fascinating insights into modern living. Henrik Most Nielsen, Creative Leader of IKEA PS 2014, mentions that “this collection builds on the insight we have that more and more people are living in big cities, and ‘young-minded’ people live in small apartments”. In the age group 18-29 for example, almost 50% rent their homes, nearly 20% live in 30m2 or less and around 30% have moved two or more times in the last three years.

20 designers were hand-picked from cities around the world to work with the in-house IKEA of Sweden design team. The theme of the collection was ‘On the move’ and the brief was to create a collection that could always be ready to pack up and go at a moment’s notice. The pieces had to be adaptable to multiple purposes and any size of space, all at a low price. Henrik describes how the collection, like all IKEA products, fits the IKEA Concept. “We should design products that are meaningful and that make a difference to people’s lives – that’s the purpose of the PS collection.”

What Henrik refers to is for example a product like the IKEA PS 2014 bureau, that is designed to bring order and intimacy into an environment. A product whose form is driven by function and that merges into the room making living and working in a small space more enjoyable.

PS 2014 bureau

Other examples are the IKEA PS 2014 folding table and bench, designed by Mathias Hahn that can be used for dinner or work and then carried onto the balcony to pot some plants.

The need for urban gardening is also evident in many of the IKEA PS 2014 products. For instance the plant stand allows people to grow plants in a vertical space or the small greenhouse that creates perfect growing conditions in a miniature sizes that can both be hanged on a wall or placed in a window.

Plants indoor and outdoor small living

Helping make spaces smarter 

Of course, IKEA PS 2014 is just one of the ways the IKEA offer has adapted to the urban shift this year, and for many years previously.

As well as being integrated into the IKEA product range (see examples from 2014 below), insights into the shift towards housing in the city are used to help IKEA customers make the most of their spaces. The ‘Make room for your life’ campaign, for example, was a series of short films shot in real homes across the UK. Each video featured someone who needed a smart storage solution. Like Jess with her collection of 300 trainers, which needed to be stored in her tiny bedroom. Or Harry, who needed a practical solution to keep his 4500 records safe in his family home.

The IKEA catalogue and website are also sprinkled with ideas for small-space living. Like maximising storage in a small bathroom, or finding clever ways to store clothes.

One of our biggest launches this year was the new kitchen range METOD/SEKTION (which replaces FAKTUM/AKURUM). Using a building-block system, infinite solutions can be created depending on the size of the kitchen.

The LILLÅNGEN bathroom series offers different size options so even the smallest of bathrooms can be maximised.

The unassuming stackable FROSTA stool is versatile enough to be used as a seat or equally as a bedside or coffee table.

Table lamps

IKEA stores and urbanisation 

When the first IKEA stores opened in the 50s and 60s, they were located outside city centers. With car ownership on the rise this was a conscious decision. However, with more people now living in cities car ownership is dwindling and there’s a common desire for everything to be within easy reach. IKEA of Sweden is responding to this by offering, among other things, different shopping opportunities and home transportation options.

If people can’t come to us, we come to them!

In 2009, after several years looking for a location for a new IKEA store in Hamburg, Germany, a unique and unusual opportunity arose. A site became available in the inner-city area of Altona, on one of its main shopping streets.

Outside Altona Store

Five years later, in 2014, the inner-city IKEA Altona store opened. Sabine Nold of IKEA Altona describes the store: “The common layout and range structure of an IKEA store was adapted for the city location. Unlike other IKEA stores we have windows at street level, so passers-by can see in. We also mixed up the Market hall and the Showroom areas and shops across three floors.” Sabine continues, “Most customers use public transport to get to the store, stopping in on their way home from work.” One visitor at the Altona store mentioned how easy it was to get to the store despite not having a car. Another commented that they often just “pop in to the café for a hotdog”, as the store is so easily accessible. The store also offers extended transport options for getting purchases home whether customers live nearby or far away. These include the lending of cargo bikes and trolleys, same-day delivery of many items as well as traditional home delivery options.

A big city future

As urban areas swell and life at home changes, the need for clever, multifunction home furnishing solutions becomes more and more important and is an area IKEA of Sweden must continue to develop. And it’s not only the products themselves that need to be smarter and more in-tune with city life. It’s also the way people access the IKEA range, get inspiration, shop and transport products home.