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IKEA co-worker story

Meet... Fredrik Bengtsson

Assistant to Group Communication Manager, Ingka Group

Fredrik’s living situation:

Who: Fredrik and his husband Jörgen make up ‘a family of two’. They’ve both just entered middle age and have been together for 18 years.

What: A one-bedroom apartment with ensuite, living room, and studio kitchenette. The doors, walls and ceilings are thin, which means Fredrik and Jörgen can hear neighbours coming and going, and vice versa.

Where: The couple live in Den Haag/The Hague, Netherlands, after moving from Malmö, Sweden. They reside in the city centre, in a building that was previously a single residence but is now divided into several flats. Fredrik and Jörgen live on the second floor, overlooking a busy, narrow street overlooking a tree lined canal. The neighbourhood is full of hipsters, young families, designers and cuisine from around the world.

Where does ‘me time’ fall in your priority list? High or low?

High. We both have intense interactions with people at work – especially my husband, who is a teacher at a very large school. I work at a relatively quiet corporate office and have the flexibility to shape my days a bit more. Sometimes when I only have virtual meetings or need to focus, I work from home or a café. I also travel quite a bit back and forth to Sweden for work, and during those days we both get a lot of me-time but to be honest, it gets boring and lonely quite quickly. I’m an introvert and need time to myself to reflect and recharge, but I don’t have any problem having my husband around. He doesn’t count, if you know what I mean.

What are the biggest barriers to you getting breathing space at home?

The first is physical space in our apartment, which is a bit small for us. But also how we use the different spaces of the city. We live in a very densely populated area of Europe and it can get a bit much; it’s loud and busy and packed with people. Our most treasured get away is the vast beach and dune area – a nature reserve just outside of Den Haag. It’s a short bike ride away and we can always find spots that are completely silent without any people. The only barrier there is bad weather (it rains a lot).

If you had two hours for yourself, what would you do?

Jörgen would go out for a long walk; no music, just him, his cap and his sneakers. I would go to a cafe, drink coffee and let my brain be creative with something; writing or dreaming up a creative concept of sorts. Scents, art and photography are territories where I lose track of time and space – it’s a place where I find peace and where I can let my mind wonder. But most of the time I just crawl into bed and stare at beautiful things on Pinterest or Instagram.

“It’s therapeutic to have less stuff.”

What changes to your home have you made – or would you like to make – to get more breathing space?

We would love to have a spare room for guests, and a balcony where we can take care of plants or just hang out. Our previous apartments had those things and we really miss the extra space, and the option to close a door behind you. But on the other hand, when we downsized during our last move, we realized how little we need. It’s therapeutic to have less stuff.

 

We’d also love to have simple, flexible temporary space creators. We have amazing light and hate to kill the flow of it, but it would be nice to have little capsules, or bed tents, and room dividers that act like walls and that you can demount and put away for the day.

What’s your top tip for getting the privacy you need when living with other people?

Well synchronized routines, and the ability to read the room. Be clear on what you need. For example, I always need ten minutes to decompress when I come home after work. My husband has usually been home for a while by then and wants to chit-chat, but he knows I need ten minutes to rest.

And really good set of headphones.