Where better to start researching my "flatpack future" topic than the creators of the trend and international furniture giants, Ikea.
How are Ikea creating a better world through flatpack?
Last week I sat down to watch episode 8 of the new Netflix series, Abstract. If you are a designer or looking for some inspiration I would highly recommend it! Ep 8 focuses on the Interior Design of Ilse Crawford. Throughout this episode, Ilse gives an inside into her design rational and shows much of her previous work. One of the many collaborations she talked about was her Sinnerling range with Ikea.
"For many people, Ikea is a big bad cheap furniture warehouse. But actually, what's very interesting is strategically, what is in that system that can be used positively."
The idea behind Ilse's collaboration with Ikea was to use "emotional values" to develop "products that are sustainable, but people really love". Cork was chosen as the main material in the range as it is very abundant, "utterly sustainable", has virtually no waste and has interesting tactile qualities. Ilse's Ikea collaboration "Sinnerling" uses a very warm blend of materials and colour throughout.
As beautiful as these objects may be, I'm not sure how comfortable they would be in use. It's difficult to picture myself sitting comfortably on the couch or eating dinner perched on a stool.
Ikea seem to be switched on when it comes to sustainability. In their 2016 sustainability report for the UK, Ikea announced they sent zero waste to landfill! All 25 UK stores and collection points have managed to recycle cardboard, pallets and faulty furnishings. The cardboard collected is mashed into a pulp and reused in some of Ikea's iconic products like the Billy bookcase.
Over 61% of the wood and 100% of the cotton Ikea use is from a sustainable source. By 2020 they aim to have 100% of all wood sourced sustainably. In 2016, 71% of energy consumption by Ikea stores worldwide was generated from a renewable source (327 wind turbines & 730,000 solar panels).
Ikea are truly a strong role model when it comes down to creating a greener future. Surely this can only point to flatpack furniture becoming an ever more increasing trend in future years?
"I want to bring the surprise back to IKEA... We are putting a bigger emphasis on design."
"We could be misinterpreted as a low-price company doing cheap stuff, but we're all about affordability. There's a big difference. And this is one of my crusades."
Marcus Engman, Head of Design at Ikea
Ilse is not the only big name designer Ikea have collaborated with. Recently Ikea has been taking on new independent designers and consultancies to create unique ranges of textiles and furniture. Engman claims the reason they take on such designers as Walter van Beirendonck, Piet Hein Eek and Tom Dixon is to "learn" to make Ikea "better for the future".
Walter van Beirendonck Ikea Range
Walter van Beirendonck Jassa chair for Ikea
Tom Dixon's Delaktig modular bed and sofa for Ikea
Ikea is breaking away from the cheap furniture label and expanding into the world of great design. You may find recent releases such as the Sladda bicycle, Lisabo tables and Janinge chairs (designed in collaboration with "From Us With Love") difficult to associate with the public's poor quality perception of Ikea.
Ikea's sladda Bicycle
Ikea's Lisabo table
Ikea's Janinge chairs
I'm not claiming that all Ikea's products are good design, but Ikea are definitely making the right steps to ensure future products are of high quality and reach a global audience.
Of course, I couldn't talk about how Ikea are changing the world with flatpack without mentioning the temporary refugee shelter.
The Better Shelter was appropriately named the Beazley Design of the Year 2016 for its "outstanding contribution towards the global issue of population displacement". The shelter was launched back in 2013 as an alternative to tents used for housing refugees.
The way in which Ikea are using the tool of flatpack for humanitarian aid is inspiring. Flatpack thinking applied by Ikea in the temporary shelter is truly creating a better world.
I want to point out that I am by no means an "Ikea fanboy". I just feel like they are approaching flatpack design in the right way and it's helping to build a better future.