We all know IKEA. I mean, we probably see a particular shade of yellow and blue and just know. We know that they showcase and sell products in a way that we know how we’ll actually use them, by arranging them in a way that appeals to our visual senses. Instead of us wondering where we can put that preposterous beanbag that YES I REALLY DO NEED, MA, DON’T ASK QUESTIONS, they’ll show us how perfectly it’ll fit in the corner between the window and the desk, providing the perfect reading space.
We go to IKEA and if we’re [re: I’m] not drinking glass after glass of that glorious lingonberry sparkling water, aka nectar of the Swedish Gods [blasphemy, forgive me actual and only God], we’re pointing at the beautifully black and suave looking kitchen, complete with a cutlery decorated island/ACTUAL LIBRARY and a fake fruit bowl, shrieking “I WANT THAT. THAT’S GOING TO BE MY KITCHEN”. And then it’s the huge bedrooms with a super king-sized bed placed diagonally across a corner [Amazing? Why didn’t I think of that?], with fluffy grey rugs on wood flooring and a vanity mirror slap-bang in the centre and gah.
We’re so used to seeing homes in a condition that we’re familiar with, or a condition that we long to be familiar with. Messy childrens rooms, decent sized bedrooms that look like a neater and better designed version of ours, something totally achievable. We can look at a room and say “lol, mine’s better”. Everything is mostly affordable. We see massive kitchens [like the aforementioned beautiful black room where probably the best steak in the world is made], and we see nothing that is surprising to us.
We don’t see anything that isn’t ‘normal’ to us, and in not being exposed to this in real life [read: not just behind a TV screen, far away from our grasp], it keeps us ignorant as to what may be ‘normal’ to everybody else.
IKEA is probably at the forefront of providing the most normalised setting – the home – to the average person. And it has set out to change this ignorance.
In partnership with the Red Cross, IKEA’s flagship store in Norway replicated a home – a 25 square foot apartment – of Syrian woman Rana and her family.
In the final two weeks of October, this display, which, by the way, used actual concrete blocks instead of simply wallpaper [for authenticity], allowed visitors to view what ‘normal’ is for families in Syria – and obviously in other war-torn countries. Visitors were also encouraged to donate [the campaign having raised 22 million euros for the Red Cross], which you can still do here, here and also here, and honestly this is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. We all know that people generally don’t care unless it’s happening to them, or they have a first-hand experience of it, and bringing this ‘normal’ setting to a place where ‘normal’ for us is so starkly different, creates the kind of empathy that pushes people to try and help. As Snorre Martinsen says, “it was important to get the public involved, and to really understand where the help was going”.
<3 you, Ikea
Photo credits: All screenshots from 25m2 Syria, by POL.
Note: Please remember to donate if you have the means! Please also remember that it’s not just Syria that needs help!! I usually donate to human appeal, and there you can find all the causes that desperately need help. I know, it’s hard. You end up wanting to give to everybody.