IKEA’s first virtual festival shows how the pandemic is changing homes around the world

Global open hus.
Global open hus.
Image: IKEA
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IKEA’s first ever online festival is happening right now.

The world’s largest furniture manufacturer has planned a program (pdf) that offers a rich picture of how the pandemic is transforming domestic spaces around the world. Cooking lessons, musical performances, talks, and room makeovers, all set in the speakers’ actual living or working quarters, are featured in the 24-hour virtual event that kicked off at 8am CET (2am Eastern US time or 2pm Hong Kong time).

To appeal to its global customer base, IKEA queued an eclectic line-up. The roster of musicians itself is worth tuning in for. Performers include Italian hip hop duo Coma_Cose, Danish singer , Japanese gypsy rock duo Fu Ching Gido, Mumbai born pianist Sandunes, and Haitian-Canadian DJ Kaytranada.

Joining them are chefs like Australian vegan crusader Zacchary Bird, Kenyan “cookist” Mulunda Kombo, and TikTok-famous home cook Pasta Queen.

For design nerds, British interior design star Ilse Crawford and ubiquitous design entrepreneur Virgil Abloh, who once created a line of tongue-in-cheek home accessories for IKEA, are on the program. Several in-house talents will also get a spotlight at the festival, including Mikael Axelsson, designer of IKEA’s cast iron cookware.

“Life at home has taken a new twist with the pandemic and it’s never been more important,” says Erika Intiso, director of IKEA of Sweden’s marketing department. “We wanted to contribute with the knowledge we have, the inspiration we can bring, and also learn about the changes in every day life.” Intiso describes the festival as a forum to broadcast its new initiatives, and in effect, serve as a substitute for its print catalog which was phased out in 2020 after a 70-year run.

Apart from being a marketing blitz for the 78-year old company that saw a significant decline in sales during the pandemic, the festival also serves as a scouting opportunity for future collaborators, explains Linus Karlsson, chief creative officer at IKEA of Sweden. “We’d like to work with new talent; people who have something important to say” he says, explaining that the festival is one expression of its “democratic design” ethos. “We want to expand the definition of ‘democratic’ from being a tool and a process for developing our range [of products] to a platform of participation.”