How IKEA Is Democratizing Gardening To Build A More Sustainable Future
PSFK speaks to the brand about how its activation at the world's largest flower show engaged visitors in unexpected ways, inviting them into a hyper-natural and hyper-tech exhibit that demonstrated a more sustainable future of home food-growing
- Earlier in the year, IKEA hosted an exhibition called “Gardening Will Save The World” at the Chelsea Flower Show, where the home goods retailer took away the silver medal for its empowering creation that explored sustainable food growing.
- The activation was designed to showcase IKEA's work in building a more eco-friendly and economical future, inviting visitors to step into the immersive, two-story garden exhibit where they could learn about growing food at home, particularly in urban environments.
- PSFK spoke with James Futcher, creative leader at IKEA Range and Supply, to learn more about the brand's exploration of alternative, local and sustainable means of growing food, how the exhibition demonstrated ways everyone can home grow, and why the CFS was the perfect place to build brand engagement.
PSFK: What inspired you to collaborate with Tom Dixon and put on the ‘Gardening Will Save The World' exhibition at the Chelsea Flower Show?
James Futcher: One of the main starting points for this collaboration is that at IKEA, we want to inspire people to a lead a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.
On a very basic level, if we were able to encourage more people to grow food in their homes, the result would be less transportation of food, lower water usage and less food waste. We are also exploring home growing and urban farming, making homes the new farmland. It really goes back to encouraging our customer to do some home growing—on their balcony, their garden, wherever they have access.
The Chelsea Flower Show was the first step in the collaboration with Tom Dixon to see how we can reach out and make people aware of growing in the home.
Why this flower show in particular?
We thought it was a great opportunity to be at the biggest flower show in the world. We had this idea about really turning upside down the Chelsea Flower Show and seeing how we could democratize gardening, making it available to the many people.
The Chelsea Flower Show is beautiful and attracts many visitors. It's very much about beautiful gardens, beautiful plants and flowers. They're so perfectly kept. You actually only view them behind a rope. At IKEA, we're very much about being for the many people, available to everybody. We made our garden open to visitors so that they could come in and experience all parts of it.
With everything we do at IKEA, we have this formula called democratic design. One of the starting points when developing the garden with Tom was to use our democratic design principles, but very much focusing on developing sustainable food growth and consumption within our homes and urban community.
The garden was created to explore this hypernatural, hypertech environment and allow people to explore gardening as well as understand a potential future of growing vegetables and plants in your home.
It all very much links into our planet-positive goals at IKEA: How can we all do our part to save the planet for the future generation in the best way?
How did visitors respond to the exhibition? Do you have any feedback or insights to share?
We had just below 100,000 visitors to our garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. I think people really enjoyed immersing themselves in the top garden to see the different ways to grow plants and understanding the good that they can do for you.
They were also really intrigued to see the bottom part of the garden underneath, which displayed this very futuristic approach and Tom's view that this way of growing vegetables and herbs at home or in communities could be the future. I think people really liked the difference between the top garden and the underside garden.
There was a lot of interest. People would come very eager to know what the plants were, how could they do it at home, how could they make a change. People really engaged with the whole concept, which ties into IKEA's greater democratic design concept.
Could you expand more on that?
We want to be available to the many people. That's one of the reasons I work at IKEA. We want to make great products for all.
Democratic design encompasses five pillars. It's the tool to help us develop great products. One of the really important points is form. We need to make products that are beautiful, that people like and want to have in the home.
Function is the second point. If you make something really beautiful, it also needs to function. There's no point having a beautiful dining chair that looks great in your home but isn't comfy and doesn't function in the right way.
After function, it needs to have the right quality. It's about picking the right material, something that could age gracefully over time.
The next point is really important in the world today: sustainability. It's about having products that are knocked-down, flat-packed. Customers can come to the store and take them home. One of the big impacts on sustainability is we're not shipping extremely big boxes all around that world.
Then one of the most fascinating and the most important points, and it's in our DNA at IKEA, is we want to make design available to the many people. Design shouldn't have an expensive price tag on it. The last point is low price. We want to make these great products that tick all these points in democratic design and are available to all.
There are the five points that we work with in developing all of the range that you see in IKEA.
Could you explain more about how this exhibition enabled you to engage consumers with your brand and concepts like democratic design?
Everybody is very familiar with interacting with us in the IKEA store, the big famous blue box, but it's really important to engage with customers outside the blue box. That's one of the reasons for doing the Chelsea Flower Show. That's where we can learn and interact with people in a different way. It's also a way that we can inspire people, effect positive change and where we can try out new ideas.
It was also about more than just building a beautiful garden with a message. It was also about putting it together in a sustainable way, to have a second life. This garden had actually been donated. It's in Barking in London. It's called the Participatory City Foundation. It's really important for us that the garden get reused and preserve the big message about gardening saving the world, and how can we encourage growing.
One of the other things: At the Chelsea Flower Show, everybody does something to win. We hoped we were going to win the gold for the best show garden. But when we think about it, we are super excited that we won a silver medal. I think we've created a big awareness.
Ultimately, a big thing is product development at IKEA. Linked to this product, we will have a first step of very simple vessel topped containers to try to encourage growing either more indoor and outdoor.
Looking forward, how will you continue this project and engage consumers around sustainability measures?
The next step of the project is all about finding affordable and sustainable solutions to grow plants and vegetables in your home and in urban environments. At IKEA, we know that the many people do live in cities. They live in small spaces. We want to have solutions that can help people in small-space living, whether it's a vertical garden, stacking or encouraging gardening in the home in simple ways.
Lead image: IKEA