London — To mark 30 years in Britain, Ikea has transformed a London house to recreate living rooms through the decades. Sarah Rainey takes a look at the good, the bad – and the downright bizarre.
From the Jane Fonda workout video and David Bowie vinyls on the bookcase to My Weekly magazine on the table, this room is unmistakably Eighties: bold prints, clashing colours and statement furniture everywhere.
Consumerism was on the rise in this era and house-proud Britons wanted to put what they owned on display.
Red was the most popular colour for the iconic Klippan sofa; walls were often painted blue and many items, from rugs to tables, were look-at-me round rather than rectangular. Note the zig-zag shelves; completely impractical, but certainly a talking point.
"People were very proud of their homes in the Eighties," explains Clotilde Passalacqua, Ikea UK’s interior design leader. "Previously, interior design had been expensive and out of reach. Suddenly, it was affordable. They could buy the things they saw in glossy magazines – striped curtains, bright cushions and trendy table lamps.
"This was a decade of rebelliousness, of expressing your personality and not caring what other people thought. The same looks you saw in fashion, you saw in people’s homes." Bestsellers included glass tables, laminated cabinets, vinyl record racks and leather recliner chairs in bright colours.
In this era, she explains, Ikea was mostly targeted at families who wanted pieces to be durable, rather than just cheap – so price tags were higher than today.
By the Nineties, Ikea started to understand the British way of living. Laurent Tiersen, Ikea’s UK brand manager, explains they do more than 200 house visits a year to understand how people use the rooms in their homes.
Entertaining was a big trend in this era; sideboards, soft-lighting lamps and stackable tables (handy for canapés or drinks) were bestsellers – as was glassware including champagne flutes. One of the iconic pieces of the decade was the PS 1995 clock, which came with an in-built liquor cabinet – another must for sociable homeowners.
Colours were neutral: magnolia walls, beige soft furnishings and wood floors. Matching furniture was important, with coordinating cushions, curtains and accessories such as these beanbags."Living rooms were clean and stripped back," says Clotilde. "People had busy lives – there were more women than ever in the workplace – and home was a peaceful haven."
Ikea also launched its children’s range, called Mammut, in 1994. The Lack coffee table continued to be popular as a family staple.This decade also marked the growth of technology in the home: TVs had their own stands and sturdy desks were needed for computers. Vinyl shelves were replaced by CD holder.
"This was the early era of furniture doubling up as technology solutions," says Clotilde. "People wanted the latest mod-cons, but they didn’t want them cluttering up their homes."
From the high-gloss surfaces to the cow hide rug and a faux fireplace, the turn of the century was all about experimenting.This kind of gaudy feature wall – as seen on TV home makeover shows such as Changing Rooms and DIY SOS – appeared across the country as families rejected the bland serenity of Nineties interiors.
"DIY was on the rise and people wanted to express their personalities in their living rooms," Clotilde says. "They liked trying out bold wallpaper and dark, daring colours such as black and purple. Everything was minimalist and contemporary: sleek surfaces, monochrome furnishings, industrial textures like plastic and chrome."
With its clinical lighting, bleached furniture and hushed atmosphere, it may look a little like a dentist’s surgery – but the home of the future has plenty of surprises in store.On one wall are Floalt light panels, motion-activated by sensors in the ceiling, which have modes including soft sunset, white and dark.
At present the panels are operated by a dimmer switch, but it is hoped in future we will control them with our phones."The home of the future is all about control: homeowners want to be in charge with technology at their beck and call," says Clotilde.
They’re also conscious of the environment, saving energy and sustainability.’There will be wireless charging furniture – tables and chairs that charge our devices – and ‘smart’ mirrors, which can also tell you the time, weather and what’s on your to-do list.
The room features 3D-printed chairs, made by a hi-tech printer. There is a screen called a ‘shadow tracker’, which uses movement and temperature to create constantly-changing digital ‘art’.
The most eye-catching feature is the greenery-covered walls. These are hydroponics, specially-cultivated plants that can be grown indoors if you don’t have a garden. Clotilde says: "Outdoor space will be even harder to come by in the future. Not only do indoor plants clean the air but they have a very soothing effect."
Homes are set to get smaller, so designers are focusing on storage, including using previously-empty space above eye level, as well as space-saving models such as fold-up beds, collapsible chairs and multi-purpose stackable stools. Some innovations, it must be admitted, are more exciting than others.