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Ikea announces collaborations with NASA, Virgil Abloh, and more

Several are targeting young urban dwellers

Mars habitat in Utah Ikea

Ikea is holding its annual Democratic Design Days event in its birthplace of Älmhult, Sweden this week, the time of the year when the furniture giant reveals its latest curiosities and anticipated releases. If you’ve been paying any attention to the company’s recent moves, you won’t be surprised to hear: It’s all about collaborations, collaborations, and more collaborations.

First up, the furniture giant is partnering up with NASA and Sweden’s Lund University for a collection informed by the challenges and constraints of space travel and living— to Mars, specifically, an idea already broadly explored by NASA, not to mention Tesla founder Elon Musk.

The idea here is that space living concepts like growing plants for both air purification and food as well as tight bunk bed setups could spark new design approaches back down on earth. For Marcus Engman, Ikea’s Design Manager, the “dream outcome” would be a completely new way of doing storage. (Yes, please.) The company has already sent a team out to a NASA research center in the Utah desert, where they’re working with space architect Constance Adams in a simulated Mars habitat.

Ikea’s team with Constance Adams in Utah, introduced via livestream at Democratic Design Days on June 7.
Jenny Xie

An upcoming collection with Virgil Abloh—Kanye West’s creative director, a trained architect, and the designer behind high-street fashion label Off-White—turns the lens on young people and their “first home” experience. This is not necessarily about millennials purchasing starter homes, but the ambition and promise that come with being able to furnish a place yourself for the first time.

For Abloh, it began with a blue Eames chair that he still owns. For his Ikea line, it’ll be about those statement pieces that make a space cool, comforting, and revamped—whether it’s via a coffee table, ash tray, or piece of art.

“Three new things and decluttering can give you an apartment that looks like your Tumblr page,” Abloh said in an interview.

He’s kicking it all off with a fresh prototype of a remixed Frakta bag, the humble Ikea accessory that’s having quite having a moment.

While these are both long lead projects, a few special collections closer to fruition also come by way of the fashion world. Bea Åkerlung, the fashion stylist who’s worked with the likes of Beyoncé and Madonna, is developing OMEDELBAR, a bold range of furniture and wardrobe accessories inspired by her own story.

“The hat vase (pictured below): You can put a champagne bottle in it, or you could put apples and oranges, or you could put your makeup, or whatever you want,” Åkerlung said. “I really played with the idea of using clothing and styling objects and turning them into homeware.”

A hat vase for OMEDELBAR
A wardrobe for SPÄNST
A sneaker box for SPÄNST.

SPÄNST, a collaboration with Chris Stamp of LA fashion brand Stampd approaches furniture and home goods from perspective of, say, a sneakerhead and sports fan. A minimalist clear container mimics the form of a shoe box, offering a streamlined way for sneaker junkies to collect and display their goods (instead of towering cardboard shoeboxes labeled printed images of the what’s inside.) The wardrobe, shown above, on there hand, has hints of sports locker.

Both OMEDELBAR and SPÄNST are to slated to hit stores in spring 2018.

Disclosure: Curbed participated in a four-day, three-night press trip to attend Democratic Design Days 2017, with travel provided by Ikea. As per our ethics guidelines, coverage was not guaranteed, and all opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.