IKEA Home Of Tomorrow is the brand’s new urban concept which emerged in downtown Szczecin, Poland. The company has used an old tenement building to create a space where guests can tap into light therapy and learn how to run an urban farm, repair household appliances and process waste more efficiently.
IKEA is about to open its new store in Szczecin soon. However, before that, the company decided to do something special by opening the Home Of Tomorrow at Rebirth Place in the downtown. This is the brand’s first venue, where everyone can learn how to introduce environment-friendly solutions in their interiors.
They are supposed to address the challenges that we will need to face in the upcoming future, such as the excessive amount of waste, exhaustion of natural resources, droughts and the corresponding rise in food prices, as well as the need to stay in healthier and greener spaces. It’s no accident that Szczecin was chosen as the location for this project. It turns out that this is Poland’s greenest city whose residents like being close to nature.
Additionally, they are more open to innovations. Like an increasing number of us, they are also getting concerned about waste-related issues. Justyna Puchalska, Paulina Grabowska and Joanna Jurga – the designers of the Home of Tomorrow – tapped into all the knowledge we managed to get through a range of meetings and workshops with local activists.
IKEA’s new project is based in abandoned interiors of a tenement building that is over 120 years old. The company picked this spot to show how to use what we already have, at the same time saving valuable resources. For the exact same reason, the authors opted for an austere design that combines new equipment with second-hand items and original elements, such as old wooden floors and unique walls.
“We tried to showcase the beauty of this building whose history should not be hidden. This way, we also wanted to be more relatable – after all, there are not many people who live in a place where everything is perfect,” says Justyna Puchalska.
The renovation process for the Home of Tomorrow involved only 100% ecological fit-out materials. Walls were partly covered with breaching paints usually used for building maintenance purposes. When selecting the interior arrangement elements, the designers opted for solid wood, plywood that is free of toxic formaldehyde, glass and recycled plastic. They also decided against unnecessary decorative items, replacing them with omnipresent plants that local residents love so much. It shows how to create the healthiest interiors possible. These days we spend most of our time indoors, which has become even more apparent during the coronavirus pandemic.
The inclination towards well-being is also evident in the relax zone of IKEA’s new venue. One of the Home Of Tomorrow’s walls has been turned into a light therapy installation that resembles an artificial sun. When participating in light exposure sessions, you can boost your mood or concentration during the day, or get a nice cooling feeling in the evening. Except for the visible part of the sunlight spectrum, there is also UVB and infrared radiation. The former favourably influences vitamin D3 synthesis, while the latter provides a gentle heat that is released from the panel located in the ceiling. Thanks to that, we can both see and feel the sunlight.
Why is that so important? Proper lighting in the places where we spend most of our time is necessary to ensure well-being and health. It has a massive impact on the proper daily rhythm, i.e. the fact that we have a lot of energy during the day and feel sleepy in the evening. This is because the sun has been affecting our daily rhythm for millions of years of evolution. Hence, it is so important to adopt solutions and technologies that reflect the sun’s impact indoors.
The relax zone also features designs made by the students of the local Academy of Arts, who hacked IKEA products, adjusting them to different functions of the Home of Tomorrow.
“Working with students made it possible to engage local residents in the creation of this space. We wanted this place to be made by them and for them,” says Joanna Jurga, who coordinated the process.
The students made a lounger and pillows that imitate hugging. When using them, guests can see the plants. It turns out that contact with greenery is what we miss most indoors.
Environment-friendly solutions adopted in the IKEA space were designed to take into account the circulation of food, water, waste and other resources between different rooms. This is so-called the metabolism of Home of Tomorrow. Here the outcome of one process acts as the basis for another. The heart of the system is a home farm based on a soil-free system using 5-10% of the water that we would typically need to use. Owing to the use of aquaponics, hydroponics and aeroponics, it is possible to grow tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, cabbage, legumes, strawberries, microgreens, herbs, spirulina and several species of edible fungi. In other words, a full range of vegetarian nutrition.
“If one was to create such farm at home, they would have over a half of the daily demand for calories and energy,” says Paulina Grabowska, who was responsible for the home farms and the light therapy installation mentioned above.
Ingredients are taken from the farm directly to the open kitchen and dining room, where every visitor can learn how to make vegetarian dishes out of them. You can also just open the fridge (that serves the food-sharing function) and take something home. All waste generated during the food preparation process is segregated in large containers that form an element of the interior design. This is how the designers wanted to show that waste does not always need to be kept below the sink (many people choose not to segregate because they don’t have sufficient space there).
Additionally, the kitchen accommodates composters in which organic waste turns into a natural fertilizer for plants. Plants are irrigated with water which has to be replaced every now and then in the aquaponics, hydroponic and aeroponic farms. Then, as a result of vaporisation, it comes back to circulation again. Water and its efficient use are highly crucial in the Home of Tomorrow.
All solutions are scalable and can be quickly implemented in houses or apartments thanks to products offered by IKEA and local stores. This is made even easier by guidelines provided in the Home of Tomorrow and online (on the open-source basis). There is also a perfectly equipped creative zone, i.e. a workshop where one can build and repair various devices.
The Home of Tomorrow will operate until the opening of the IKEA store in Szczecin, i.e. for about a year. Nevertheless, the authors want it to offer some value to the city in a longer perspective. This is why the initiative towards wasteless future kicks off at the same time. As part of this project, local residents will be naming problems related to waste management, and then work in groups with representatives of local authorities to resolve problems.
The Home of Tomorrow team will handle this project in cooperation with design thinking specialists to develop a plan for implementation and financing of new ideas. The report, including all solutions’ ideas, will be provided free of charge, following the open-source principle, meaning that everyone will be able to make use of it. This is IKEA’s first project of its kind in the world.
“We wish to encourage the residents of Szczecin to take responsibility for waste. I believe that only by starting to vote with our wallets for environment-friendly solutions we will create a substantive step towards sustainable life,” says Gustaw Jakubowski, IKEA, who was responsible for bringing IKEA Home of Tomorrow to life.