10 Things An Ikea Designer Would Buy For A Small Space

Ikea has been a mainstay in our homes for pretty much our entire adult lives. The unbeatable prices are reason enough to keep coming back, but above all, the brand just seems to get us — and all the struggles that come with living in a small space. Its products are streamlined, flexible, and multi-functional, bringing all kinds of possibilities to even the tiniest of city apartments.
So, just how exactly does Ikea do it? To say that the Swedish brand keeps its ears to the ground would be an understatement: Every year, the brand embarks on an extensive project to figure out the top desires and pain points of its customers. In-home interviews are conducted in 22 countries around the world, on top of surveying over 22,000 people online. Unsurprisingly, limited square footage is an issue that comes up a lot.
"Our customers are common people and many of them have a thin wallet: That often means they live in a small space," says Johanna Jelinek, a designer at Ikea. "With rapid urbanization everywhere and more and more people living in shared homes, this has always been on our minds in the process of creating a new product."
The Life At Home Report, a publication detailing the findings, is compiled to inform the product development team on the top problems that need to be addressed by the new designs. At the launch event for the report at the Ikea design headquarters in Älmhult, Sweden, I sat down with Jelinek to discuss everything small-space related. Since the entire Ikea collection is 9,500-products strong, the designer — who's been with the company since 2002 — hand-picked 10 furniture pieces that would work magic in a cramped home.
Click through for her list of top products that can save you tons of space — and the design anecdotes behind them.
Editor's Note: Travel and accommodation to Älmhult, Sweden were provided by Ikea for the purpose of writing this story.
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According to Jelinek, our basic needs at home are pretty much the same no matter where we live: We need a place to sit, eat, sleep, and store things. "Oh, and most people want a sofa," she adds. These lifestyle similarities — rather than differences — are what the Ikea team focuses on during brainstorming sessions. Modularity thinking has been a main driving force behind the designs, seen in this sectional couch that can be rearranged depending on how you use a room.

Ikea VALLENTUNA Sofa, $1,095, available at Ikea
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When it comes to decluttering, most people still take the "out of sight, out of mind" approach — which is why we all need storage solutions. Ikea was one of the first brands to take notice of the micro-homes trend and dabbled in the concept of vertical storage back in the 2003 catalog.

For a small space, Jelinek says it's best to decide on one surface area for storage and then build up that wall as much as possible. Free-standing storage makes a place feel even more cramped, so make sure there are no "islands" of things. This shelving unit can be mounted to the wall and utilizes vertical space all the way up to the ceiling.

Ikea IVAR Two-Section Shelving Unit With Cabinet, $177, available at Ikea
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This rustic-looking chair may not look too compact, but it's sturdy enough to be stacked upon one another. They can be easily piled up in a corner when not in use.

Ikea NORRÅKER Chair, $69, available at Ikea
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A set of nesting tables is a godsend for small homes, since the desks can be extended or stacked together according to the home activity.

Ikea GRANBODA Nesting Tables, $59, available at Ikea
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When designing for a cramped space, it's important to invest in pieces that can do several things at a time. This room divider can be rolled around the apartment, and comes with a wire grid that will make a great home for kitchen appliances, fashion accessories, or even a photo collage.

Ikea VEBERÖD Room Divider, $129, available at Ikea
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"Our designs are adapting to a way of living that's no longer static," says Jelinek. With more and more people living in spaces that count as both living room and sleeping quarters, this stackable bed will save up a lot of room by offering room to temporarily place a second mattress. It's kind of like the adult version of a bunk bed.

Ikea UTÅKER Stackable Bed, $427, available at Ikea
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"Whenever we design a product, there's always a wish to do things multi-functional," says Jelinek. A perfect example is this stepping stool, which also contains a compartment for magazines.

Ikea VILTO Storage Stool, $29.99, available at Ikea
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A sofa is a typically a big piece, but to target the growing millennial generation sharing a home with roommates, Ikea created this compact sleeper sofa. According to Jelinek, this particular daybed was dreamed up for a cozy living room shared between two twenty-something women and their guy friend.

Ikea FLOTTEBO Sleeper Sofa With Side Table, $579, available at Ikea
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This mobile coffee table caters to the increasingly fluid lifestyle we live at home. It can be easily moved around and offers additional storage for the living room, bedroom, or kitchen.

Ikea LALLERÖD coffee table, $59, available at Ikea.
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Hanging up indoor plants is a great way to instantly open up a space by drawing the eye upwards. This hanging planter does double duty as a basket to store cooking knickknacks without taking up any counter space.

Ikea BITTERGURKA Hanging Planter, $9.99, available at Ikea
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