The past few weeks have been really busy. Like crazy-cray-cray busy. So far, the month of June has even included a trip to Sweden and Denmark. More specifically, a small Swedish town called Almhult, the very birthplace of one of the world’s most iconic furniture & lifestyle brands, IKEA. I was invited to attend their Democratic Design Days – an international media event for journalists and bloggers – and what a fabulous privilege and adventure it was. It’s quite surreal to think that I have now actually seen and explored the ‘mothership’. As far as events go, Democratic Design Days is pretty awesome. You get to access all sorts of areas that are usually off limits. Some of the highlights were a full tour of ICOM – IKEA’s enormous photography studio (where all the magic happens) as well as their increadible Test Lab. And let me just say that having seen exactly what those products are put through before reaching the market, I have a newfound respect for the quality of their wares.
On the first day of the two-day event, we were briefed on two upcoming and seriously exciting design collaborations with Danish brand, HAY and British designer, Tom Dixon. Both collaborations will explore the future of Scandinavian design with collections that conform to the changing needs of today’s urban generation that is frequently on the move.
Hay Design’s collection (expected to launch September 2017) will include furniture, lighting, accessories and textile designs, made by IKEA using their advanced manufacturing techniques. Mette Hay, co-founder of HAY Design has made some fabulous amendments to the iconic blue IKEA shopping bag – her version has a new, more demure colour scheme and woven pattern. It’s a beauty!
We got a look at a few of the prototype products for this collab and from what I have seen, the collection will feature all the design principals one would expect from the Scandinavians – light colours, clean lines, simplicity and high quality. Rolf Hay spoke very highly of the IKEA team, saying that they have learned so much from the transparent relationship. I can’t wait to see the full collection.
The Tom Dixon collaboration is slightly further down the line (Spring 2018), but no less exciting. This alliance seems to have a slightly more technical agenda that will challenge traditional solutions for comfort in the home through the development of new products for modern living, particularly in smaller spaces. They’re in the process of finalizing a structural design that will form a base for future seating solutions – a system that will allow for versatility in the way furniture is used.
They had an aluminum part with them on the stage, which didn’t look like much for now, but I have no doubt it will amaze us when we see it’s practical application in due course. Marcus Engman, Design Manager at IKEA, and Dixon believe that this particular design will have far-reaching implications for the way such products and made in the future. An exciting one to watch.
We also got an insightful look at a series of new collections, which will be seen in stores within the next year. My favourites of these are additions to the STOCKHOLM collection and the new JASSA collection (pictured above). The latter is collaboration with Dutch designer, Piet Hein Eek, for an Indonesian inspired limited edition range of furniture and baskets made from rattan, bamboo, seagrass and water hyacinth. The collection will also include some ceramics and textiles.
I test-drove new chairs, still in their prototype phase – some made from state of the art 3D knitting technology that produces a mesh type of fabric (the kind you’d recognise on a pair of running shoes), and others made almost entirely from recycled materials. It was a fun and fascinating experience to say the least.
On the second day of the event, I had the absolute privilege of sitting down and chatting to one of IKEA’s in-house designers, Hanna Dalrot. She had recently been to Cape Town on an inspirational trip with fellow designers so we had lots to chat about. Hanna loves to make patterns and she is the mastermind behind a new range of watercolour prints that will be incorporated as textiles in the STOCKHOLM collection. These particular patterns were inspired by the sea and it’s many states of being. Take a look at Hanna’s full portfolio here.
Another one of the highlights of my visit to IKEA of Sweden was getting a first look at the new IKEA Museum three weeks prior to it’s official opening date. The museum has been established in the original IKEA store and is packed full of fascinating insights into the company’s history. It will also feature a gift shop, which sadly wasn’t yet open for business when I was there. But then, that was probably for the best because it has some gorgeous bits and pieces on offer.
In summary, I had an awesome trip. It was wonderful to finally visit Scandinavia and be immersed in a culture so vastly different from life in the desert, where the majority of people ride their bikes to work and the greenery outweighs just about everything else. And whilst I love living in the UAE, a change is as good as a holiday. I loved it so much that I plan to drag the whole family back there for a holiday as soon as possible.
Many thanks to the team at IKEA UAE for taking me on this hugely inspirational journey.