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The importance of privacy

What does privacy really look like?

At IKEA, we make it a priority to understand what we all need from home, which is why we carry out annual research into how people live all over the world. Our Life at Home Report 2019 takes a deep dive into the importance of privacy and how it enriches our relationships, personal creativity and wellbeing.

We learned that privacy is one of the most important emotional needs of the home, which means it makes a big contribution to whether or not we feel at home where we live. But it’s also a need that can be difficult to meet in our hectic, over-scheduled lives. People who live in cities and families with young children, in particular, are more likely to struggle to find enough time and space for themselves.

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In fact, we found that 85% of respondents consider it a right to have privacy at home, yet one in four are concerned that they’re not getting the privacy they need. There are a number of reasons for the disconnect, but how we live, who we live with and the role we play at home all play a part.

The good news is that the opportunity for downtime comes in all shapes and sizes. Turns out, private time doesn’t mean you have to be alone, shut off from the world outside. It can arise in a crowded cinema, or on a long walk through the city. It might happen while you’re working in a public library or dancing with wild abandon at a party. There are countless routes to find it, even in our busy and crowded lives.

Here, we’ve mapped out the four different types of privacy, based on a framework created by author and professor Alan Westin back in 1967. It feels as relevant today as it was back then. By expanding the notion of privacy beyond just ‘being alone’, we believe we’re more likely to find the breathing space we need in all kinds of spaces and places.

Solitude

This is when you’re completely alone, in a space away from intrusion, perhaps doing something to relax and recharge like taking a bath, or sitting in your bedroom with the door closed…

“I was reflecting on some important personal decisions. I went to my study room alone to not be disturbed.” Tina, 25–34, Mumbai

Reserve

This form of privacy can be found when you’re physically in the same space as others, but you’re mentally in a different place altogether. You might be listening to music with your headphones or reading a book whilst others have a chat…

“My bed is in the lounge, so I use my headphones to show that I want ‘me time’, even if my flatmate walks in.” YX. Mi, 18–24, Shanghai

Intimacy 

It’s important to remember that private moments are often shared with others, like a date night with a partner, a movie night with flatmates or playing games with children…

“Protecting the collective privacy of our ‘flat family’ is what’s most important to me. I love our uninterrupted movie nights.” Maria, 18–24, Amsterdam

Anonymity

Anonymous privacy can only happen outside of your home, where no one knows you. This might be going for a walk, working in a library or sifting through a flea market.

“I love going to the mall and getting lost in my thoughts as I wander through from shop to shop. No-one bothers me and I feel free.” Y. Wang, 25–34, Shanghai