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The power of privacy

Behind the doors of the IKEA Open House event

What happens when seven experts come together under one roof to ponder the meaning of privacy? A lot of good ideas, that’s what. In December last year, the second IKEA Open House event explored what privacy means – and how we can help people get more of it.
Last autumn we launched our IKEA Life at Home Report 2019, The Power of Privacy, and in the process uncovered one universal truth: we all need private time to be our best, most authentic selves.


‘Just for me’ time is one of the most important social needs of the home, yet our hectic, over-scheduled lives don’t always accommodate us getting enough of it. One of the big questions we at IKEA have been asking is: what can we do to help?


To find some answers, we decided to circle back to the idea of ‘home’. At the second IKEA Open House event last December, we brought seven international thought-leaders together under one roof, for two full days and nights, to grapple with the question of how to get – and maintain – enough private time in our daily lives. Because, we thought, what better way to prompt open discussion about privacy than by asking seven strangers to live together for 48 hours? 
Made up of writers, entrepreneurs, academics, an architect and a publisher, our group created a temporary home in a sprawling London townhouse where, over family-style lunches, dinner parties and casual brainstorming sessions, ideas began to flow about what privacy means to each of us individually and as a society. Our experts were asked to stretch their imaginations and suggest new ways that IKEA could help educate and assist people in finding privacy, even in the most challenging circumstances.


The exciting part? Some of those initial ideas were then evolved further and visually illustrated, so that our innovation team at IKEA can develop them into practical solutions, with the aim of unlocking the power of privacy in more homes across the world.


Here’s how it started…


The first day began with our seven experts asking themselves: ‘What does privacy mean in my life and my work?’. Their answers showed that, even in a small cross-section of people from western countries, the definition of privacy can be different for everyone. 

Sophie Scott, founder of wellbeing publishing house Balance Media, needs complete solitude at home, without any interruptions from the outside world. Yet for sustainable food expert Stefano Tosoni, a genuine connection to nature provides all the private moments he craves. 

London-based architect Jim Colman tackles his clients’ need for privacy through the design of their homes, while race and gender activist Sekai Makoni highlights the fact that privilege and discrimination play a part in the level of privacy a person can achieve if they’re from certain minority groups.

Our experts were asked: ‘What does privacy mean in your life and work?' Their answers showed the definition of privacy can be different for everyone

This was an intriguing contrast with author Bruno Simlesa’s account of what life is like as a public personality in Croatia, and the experience of being recognised outside of his home. Meanwhile, American blogger Erin Boyle steals moments to herself on the streets of Brooklyn, New York, despite the risk of being recognised, because privacy is hard to come by in a family of four (soon to be five) that lives in a one-bedroom attic apartment. 

And then there’s Evan Selinger, a Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. His research into data protection and increased levels of surveillance in our daily lives made him ask if we what we’re actually seeking is obscurity, rather than privacy.

These themes were brought into focus during an interactive exhibition that ran throughout the townhouse, where the group experienced a curated selection of stories and provocations that used film, photography, written content and interactive devices such as Alexa and Google Home, to explore the privacy landscape of today – and tomorrow. 



During an initial brainstorming session, our experts were split into groups, where they came up with a longlist of ideas, including pop-up privacy hubs in IKEA stores and public spaces; adaptable and customisable furniture lines; room settings designed for privacy; and encouraging local school tours to run privacy education seminars.

Each group then developed one or two of their best ideas with the support of an illustrator, who created a visual sketch of them for the final exercise: pitching to the IKEA team.


With ongoing input from our experts, all the ideas developed during the Open House event are with the IKEA Innovation Team, who will use them to identify and explore possible new solutions for IKEA customers. 

Everything we learned from the event helps us continue to inspire and enable more people around the world – no matter how or where they live – to live a better everyday life at home, by getting the breathing space they need there. 

Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be sharing more about these ideas, in addition to further reflections from some of our Open House experts. So watch this space!

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