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Ikea outfits the ultimate small space: a Mars research station

Multifunctional furniture works well on the Red Planet too

Exterior of white cylindrical dwelling in the desert. Inter IKEA B.V. / Photographer: Oskar Falck

Traveling to Mars brings to mind plenty of important questions: What kind of spaceship will make the arduous journey? Can human life really be sustained? And what kind of shelving will Martian settlers have in their kitchen?

Scientists probably haven’t given much thought to the interior design of Martian settlements, but you know who has? Ikea.

The furniture retailer recently visited the Mars Desert Research Station, a cylindrical habitat out in the Utah desert where scientists simulate what it might be like to live on Mars someday. The dwelling is typically inhabited by teams of six who cram into 26 foot-wide pod to live and conduct research for anywhere from a week to a few months.

Stools at desk filled with science instruments. A horizontal window looks out to desert landscape. A stainless steel cart on wheels holds lab beakers. Inter IKEA B.V. / Photographer: Oskar Falck

In recent years, Ikea has put tremendous energy toward designing goods for the growing population of people who live in small spaces. And what better pressure test is there than to see how it works in a cramped, extraterrestrial environment? The daunting task fell to Ikea interior designer Christina Levenborn, who spent time at the research center two years ago.

She went about filling the station with Ikea products like the Bror shelving unit, Kungsfors cart, Kullaberg stools, and Tertial work lamps.

“We tried to work with products for a small space living situation that could be arranged in a flexible and multifunctional way. For the habitat, we brought products on wheels for mobile living, stools for seating and table surfaces, and stackable chairs for saving space,” says Levenborn.

The result is appropriately utilitarian but with a hint of homeyness. Honestly, it doesn’t sound all that different from what might be found in the average dorm room. And in some ways that’s the point—what would make you feel more at home when you’re 34 million miles away than having to tighten the leg of your desk with an Allen wrench?

People installing cabinets on round walls. Inter IKEA B.V. / Photographer: Oskar Falck
Shelving unit used as storage for planters and other containers. Inter IKEA B.V. / Photographer: Oskar Falck