As IKEA’s head of research, Mikael Ydholm’s job is to figure out how global trends are going to shape the way regular people live. From what he sees, the walls we live between are going to have to get a lot more flexible.
There are two big macro trends that explain why:
• Urbanisation will lead to a massive shrinking of spaces. like in China, where over 250 million people are slated to move from the country to cities in the next 11 years. Ydholm’s says that IKEA, which aims to “design for the many people,” wants to create products for people who don’t have the high incomes required to buy huge apartments in Shanghai, Mumbai, or New York.
• People are using their homes in increasingly flexible ways. “You have a fluidity in your home,” Ydholm says. “Compared to 20 years ago, you do more activities in differnet parts of the home. Eat in the bedroom, work in the bathroom, use the sofa for the Internet — we call that habit fluidity.”
So IKEA started to wonder — could you use the floor, ceilings, or walls to create a flexible, open space in a tiny apartment?
That’s the idea behind the moveable wall, which won the Danish Index: Design to Improve Life award earlier this year.
Like a murphy bed, the moveable wall can be pulled out to create a bedroom space. It’s a modular system; beyond the foldout bed, Ydholm says that you could add on a desk or a dinner table, also to be pulled out.
To test the prototype, IKEA invited families of different backgrounds to spend two weeks in their “Home Living Lab” (a rented apartment) in a suburb outside of Malmo, Sweden.
IKEA asked the families to record the way they felt about staying in the fold-up room.
Ydholm says that the response were varied, but mostly positive. An older Arab couple said that they didn’t feel like they had a lot of “dignity” in staying in the room; they wanted a proper master bedroom. A single mother said that she loved it, because the moveable wall gave her space to have friends over. A petite woman living with her husband said that the wall was too heavy to move — give Ydholm the idea that the final version will have to be motorised.
“It probably doesn’t suit everyone,” Ydholm says, “but we’re confident it will suit some people very well.”
The same question kept coming up from the people who tested the moveable wall and their houseguests — when can we buy it?
It will be at least three years, Ydholm says. It’s out of the research phase — now the design and commercialization teams need to make it reality.
Watch a video of the moveable wall below.
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