Maybe you knew that Ikea’s largest franchisee, Ingka Group, annually conducts a comprehensive, global lifestyle and home survey, but this came as news to me.
I stumbled upon this trove of Life at Home survey data doing some basic googling on Ingka Group’s recently announced partnership with photographer Annie Leibovitz, notable for, among so many other images, her iconic photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono for Rolling Stone magazine in 1980. I use her work in one of my college courses.
Leibovitz is the franchisee’s 2023 artist-in-residence. To even have an artist-in-residence is fairly progressive for any furniture company. Respect.
As Ingka Group puts it in a news release, Leibovitz is renowned for “her ability to capture the inner life of her subjects” through her photographic portraiture, subjects she “engages in intimate spaces or moments.”
“I’ve been photographing people in their homes since I began,” Leibovitz said. “It’s a way to understand who a person is. The advice I give to young photographers is to photograph their families.”
Putting another log on the fire
Ah, family. This is the centering concept for this year’s Life at Home report, a compendium of trend lines and sentiments aggregated from a survey of more than 37,000 regular folks from 37 countries throughout the world.
Among the report’s takeaways is the survey respondents’ ranking of concerns: The economy is first and household finances are second, leaving climate change a distant third.
Also intriguing — and for home furnishings companies that advertise — rather important is that nearly half of the survey’s respondents say their lives at home are not reflected in media. This is an opportunity for advertisers to better connect visually with the ways people are actually living rather than continuing to present idealized and, ultimately, disaffecting depictions of families at home.
Ingka Group’s research indicates that 66% of people are worried about the general economy in their country, especially rates of inflation, and 61% are concerned about their household finances. Climate change came in at 56%, which is still significant, but also surprising to me because as I write this, temperatures in the South, including my area’s 82 degrees today, vary from those in the North by 100 degrees. Oh, my God!
Back to the economy: “After years of enforced lockdowns for our health, people will likely feel the need to stay at home once again to save on costs, meaning our spaces need to work harder than ever,” said Katie McCrory, who leads the Life at Home project.
Juxtapose this felt need with the fact that nearly four out of every five respondents said they regularly feel frustrated by everyday household gripes, such as messes, chores and too much clutter.
These concerns are opportunities for advertising and marketing efforts to meaningfully address the home as it is lived in, rather than how it’s depicted in media more generally.
One in 10 said that what they describe as a “cost-of-living crisis” is affecting some of their more significant decisions, such as getting married, buying a home and having children. More than a third, or 35%, reported expecting to cancel or postpone home improvement plans.
The outlook for people’s day-to-day quality of life, judging by the report data, is equally alarming, with two in five of those surveyed expecting their hobbies and interests outside the home to be negatively impacted by money pressures.
So, following Covid-19 lockdowns, many families are self-imposing a sort of financial lockdown.
Furnishings, floor coverings, outdoor products and accessories are going to have to last longer. And they are going to need to be more flexible and adaptable because another implication of the survey — which shows 8% of people working from the bathroom (that’s right, the bathroom!) and more than one in five eating in bed during the past 12 months — is that the home is and will increasingly be expected to include multifunctional spaces.
Let’s bring in psychographics, because those who believe that their homes accurately reflect or project their personalities are twice as likely to see their homes as sources of mental well-being. This helped boost the overall number of people, roughly two out of five, reporting that they feel “more positive” about their home than they did a year ago.
Ikea’s decisions to initiate buy-back programs and to offer warranties between 10 and 25 years look pretty good.
After reading through the report, a few key words spring to mind: security, comfort, belonging, ownership and privacy. The pandemic reminded us that enjoyment and accomplishment are emotional needs we want our homes to meet. More than half of respondents said that they believe the most important aspect in an ideal home is the ability to unwind and relax.
People sharing their living spaces report the biggest at-home deficits in enjoyment, accomplishment and belonging, which is counterintuitive. Those living in halls of residences, flat shares, rented rooms or parental homes “struggle to get a sense of accomplishment at home,” according to the report. This has implications for those of us who study or work from home.
Whether people own their homes not surprisingly impacts how well they believe their emotional needs are being met by their homes. Nine of 10 people say it’s important to feel enjoyment at home, but only half report getting it. For homeowners, the number jumps to 80%.
Finally, let’s take a look at reported sources of home inspiration. People are most inspired by:
- TV home renovation shows (24%)
- Physical home furnishing stores (22%)
- Friends’ homes (19%)
However, when shown a list of common sources of home inspiration, including social media and TV shows, more than one in four reported “none of these.” So, when people are inspired, it’s most likely what “real people” are doing. Age matters, though. Older respondents were more likely to report feeling inspired by TV home makeover shows, physical stores and magazines. Younger respondents report being most inspired by neighbors’ and friends’ homes, and, not surprisingly, were more likely to report finding inspiration in social media and podcasts.
Roll the credits
The quantitative research was conducted by YouGov, an international research and data analytics group. The study was conducted as an online survey among a national representative sample of people ages 18 and older in 37 countries. A total of 37,405 interviews were collected, according to the report.
The following countries were included: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Data was collected July-August 2022.
To return to the concept of an artist-in-residence, what will Leibovitz be doing? Traveling the world, photographing people in their homes. Where can I get a gig like this? She’ll be visiting people in the United States, Japan, Germany, Italy, India, Sweden and England creating a series of 25 portraits that seek to present the nuances of “life at home.” Hmm, I think I know what the centerpiece of next year’s Life at Home report will be.
Brian Carroll covered the international home furnishings industry for 15 years as a reporter, editor and photographer. He chairs the Department of Communication at Berry College in Northwest Georgia, where he has been a professor since 2003.