A group of neighbours sit on the stairway drinking coffee, eating cake and chatting.

IKEA everyday rituals

Your stairs or mine?

Living in an apartment with neighbours stacked on top, below and next door differs around the world. In some places fellow residents may create their own community, offering friendship, support, and even food. In others, they are simply a face we meet in the hallway, an interaction that never goes beyond a friendly “hi”. In the toughest times, the strongest bonds are forged, as was the case in this three-story apartment block in Spain.

Jose, his girlfriend Sara and their dog, Eduardo (@water_edu), live on the top floor in an 80 ㎡ apartment in the historic, medieval quarter of Cádiz. Below them live Kike and Gonzalo and on the ground floor are Juana, Alberto and their daughter Paula. As the co-owner of a graphic design company, Jose can work wherever he lays his laptop, but he confesses he prefers the buzz of the office.

When the global COVID-19 pandemic forced countries around the world into lockdown, like so many others, Jose and Sara were confined to their home. Desperate for a change of scenery one day, Jose decided to venture out beyond his front door. “I was in the house during lockdown and didn’t know what to do, so I decided to take a coffee on the stairs. Then a neighbour came out and joined me, and that’s how our communal coffee breaks started,” recalls Jose.

"If you’ve got a problem, you know you have your neighbours' support."

Using the stairs between each floor to carefully maintain social distancing rules, their coffee breaks or “fika between floors” became a weekly ritual for all three apartments. This simple date offered everyone a break from the same four walls, and a chance to meet, laugh and even sing together. Armed with flasks of coffee and their favourite snacks, the meet-up soon became the highlight of the week as the families shared food and stories.

As the lockdown ended, their friendship continued, and so did the socialising. Now they meet anywhere: on the stairs, on the roof terrace and even in each other’s homes. From games nights to rooftop barbecues, the small block has become more than a home for three families - it’s grown into one big family. “The benefit of hanging out together in the stairway, is that by spending so much time together, we got to know each other, and if you’ve got a problem, you know you have your neighbours' support,” says Jose.