As rapid urbanization propels the growth of cities around the globe, these denser urban areas experience both higher housing costs and shrinking living spaces. When people are crammed into small spaces, they lose the flexibility to create living areas that suit their lifestyle and meet their personal needs. Together with IKEA of Sweden and IKANO Real Estate, we’ve studied what’s emotionally important to those that live in small spaces.
When it comes to building homes that enhance quality of life, small living spaces present a significant challenge. At the same time, urban space is now a luxury that most people can’t afford. Together, these elements create a need for smart and affordable compact living concepts that are in synch with increased population demands.
In order to gain real insights about every aspect of the small space living experience, we had volunteer families reside in our Living Lab – an experimental apartment equipped with compact living solutions. In our study, we focused on individual perceptions of the home and its concepts. Each two-week stay allowed respondents to form a solid, considered opinion and gain a sense of longer-term use. Participants qualified for the project by being residents of the neighborhood where the Living Lab was situated; they also needed to be living currently in a compact apartment and have a family size that was suitable for the Lab space.
We used our “Emotional Experience Mapping” method – developed through many years of scientific research and design knowledge – to capture and quantify the human emotional experience. In short, this tool maps a customer’s emotional journey before, during and after they use a service or product. The map provides vital clues on how to add value to a proposition and make our client’s offerings more meaningful and attractive to their customers. Confident that whatever generates emotions is important, we asked respondents to share the emotions that each concept or room in the Living Lab brought up for them. Their reactions to the flexible concepts were also continuously captured through an emotional probe sheet, the REE application, which they could easily access on an iPad. This way, respondents were able to report emotions as they occurred at any point throughout their stay. Capturing emotions in the moment is ideal since they are elusive and trickle off quite quickly. Participants were also given a task to complete: they were to invite guests to visit during their stay, demonstrate the space’s flexible concepts and capture the reaction of their guests on film.
In this project, our emotion-based research revealed unexpected insights into what people find meaningful in their lives. The research is a step toward improving the concepts presented in the Living Lab –as well as a validation of them. Results revealed that the concepts were well in tune with the needs of respondents. In fact, the match was even better than we anticipated. We found that the apartment’s features and design could significantly improve people’s lives. Specifically, both the kitchen and the living room serve as crucial areas for family gatherings. When guests enter a home, residents have a strong need for representative areas that they feel proud of and where guests feel at ease. We found that flexible space can enhance how families socialize, especially in space-efficient apartments.
The Living Lab’s flexible concepts and hide-away areas also helped families create boundaries between private spaces and social ones. Clever storage makes compact living more practical and convenient. With a fold out walk-in closet, we transformed a practical storage solution into a dream dressing room. Emotional expressions of pride and happiness about the walk-in closet revealed that a basic and practical solution could provide a sense of luxury in people’s everyday lives. The positive reactions we received from all participants confirmed that the concepts are worth developing further. Thanks to the Living Lab project, our clients have gained useful insights that will benefit their everyday businesses. These insights will also be drivers for continuing the project further, and improving regulations and city planning to bring them more up to date with the needs of the population. The project will be shared with influential opinion leaders and politicians in Sweden to highlight the question of forming future accommodation in pace with greater demands, denser urban areas, higher housing costs and shrinking living spaces.