Life is changing, and IKEA says it’s time for our homes to catch up. The Swedish retailer recently revealed the 2018 results of its annual “Life at Home” survey, and they raise some pretty interesting questions about what helps us create the feeling of home — and about what “home” even means.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos
Promotional materials for IKEA's 2019 "Life at Home" report.

In 2016, 20 percent of urban survey participants said there are places where they feel more at home than the spaces they live in. In 2018, that figure rose to 35 percent. Does this change reflect a reduction in the quality of our homes and their ability to meet our needs? Or does it speak to a broader phenomenon that might actually portend positive changes in how we view our communities?

One of IKEA’s key findings is the fact that 64 percent of people around the world would rather live in a small home in a great location than a large home in a less-than-ideal location. Another is that 60 people of people say they’re ready to create a life at home that’s different than the one they were brought up in.

Some of the ways in which our sense of home has changed over recent decades include an increase in the number of people who work from home, longer work hours with fewer vacations, bathing outside the home multiple times per week (at work or the gym, for instance), and taking in roommates or AirBnB guests to make extra income.

A lot of complex factors go into our sense of home. To explore them, IKEA identified five core emotional needs: privacy, security, comfort, ownership, and belonging. These needs are universal, but vary in importance individually depending on our personalities, age, who we live with, and where we are in the world.

Promotional materials for IKEA's 2019 "Life at Home" report.

If we live with a big family, for example, our homes might not be able to give us a feeling of privacy. Our sense of both ownership and security certainly depend on whether we’re homeowners or renters, our relationships with our landlords, and how often we have to move. Our sense of belonging might shift if we go from living with loved ones to living with strangers, or vice-versa.

When our homes can’t sufficiently meet these needs, we look to our surrounding neighborhoods and communities — and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it could help us build a greater overall sense of belonging, insulate us from emotional hardships relating to tough transitions in our home situations, and teach us to grow as people.

“Your network of spaces and places might be big or small, and maybe you have your own home at the heart of it, and maybe you don’t,” reads IKEA’s report. “There’s no one-size fits all. The important thing is that everyone deserves to experience that feeling of home. The things we have learned through this year’s research will help us develop products, show furnishing solutions, and design home experiences that take us closer to our vision.”

Promotional materials for IKEA's 2019 "Life at Home" report.

Sure, IKEA’s “Life at Home” report is mostly market research meant to help them sell more products. But there’s also value in thinking about those core emotional needs and what we could change in our homes and lives to feel a greater sense of peace and contentment.