Real life roomsets

In collaboration with their national charity partner, Shelter, IKEA UK has turned showrooms at four of their stores into a troubling visualisation of the country's mounting housing emergency.

One in 208 people in England are experiencing homelessness

It's a sobering statistic: today, one in 208 people in England are experiencing homelessness*, a number that will likely only worsen as the effects of the cost-of-living crisis takes its toll on vulnerable families.

IKEA has always believed that a better home creates a better everyday life; a belief shared by UK charity partner Shelter, whose work defends the right of every citizen to a safe home, through legal counsel, research, campaigning and much more.

Together, IKEA UK and Shelter have collaborated on a series of roomsets at four stores – IKEA Birmingham, IKEA Bristol, IKEA Hammersmith and IKEA Warrington – each closest to the cities with the highest levels of homelessness. The roomsets aim to raise awareness of the lack of decent and affordable social housing by recreating the living conditions of four real families who found themselves in temporary accommodation after losing their homes.

"The case study for each of the four roomsets we created was based on a real person local to that area," explains Liam Hill, communication specialist for IKEA UK and Ireland, who led the project team for this initiative. "We’re so grateful to them for being so brave and allowing us to tell their stories."

Emergency hostels, B&Bs, one room bedsits and cramped flats are some examples of temporary accommodation provided by councils to qualifying families who are homeless. However, with a shortage in social housing, some families find themselves living in temporary accommodation for years and are very often asked to move several times with short notice.

"A lot of people don't know about hidden homelessness," explains Hiliary Jenkins, Sustainability Business Partner at IKEA and Ireland, referring to these kinds of informal, supposedly temporary solutions that are often extremely unsuitable for long-term periods or families with children. "Many also don't know that almost half of the people who are homeless in the UK are children."

"By designing these roomsets, Hiliary continues, "where our customers walk through and are normally inspired by our home furnishing solutions, we hope to create a bold statement and conversation around this issue." Liam agrees: "You hear about these things, but you rarely see the reality of it, and that's what these roomsets try to show."

The campaign is one of the first fruits of IKEA UK's long-term partnership with Shelter, launched in October last year as part of their neighbourhood and social impact programmes. Together, they are demanding that 90,000 social homes be built a year by 2030 to help address the UK's housing emergency. Additionally, IKEA US is also joining Shelter's campaign to amend the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill with a new Infrastructure Levy, to ensure all new truly affordable homes are social housing.

IKEA customers can add their voice to the cause too, says Liam. "On the campaign page that we’ve built (see below for link), we have a toolkit for people to use if they want to get involved with the campaign. This includes how to write to your local MP to get them to talk about the issue and help us bring about change."

21% of people in the UK are worried about losing their home

49% of people say that if they lost their current home, they would struggle to find somewhere else to live

1.2 million households are on social housing waiting lists in England

Today, children make up almost half of the UK's homeless

IKEA UK and Shelter are working to ensure that, by 2030, half a million people have access to a better life at home

* Source:

Sam's story

Homeless after her relationship broke down, Sam and her three young children found themselves staying in hostel rooms like this: cramped, with black mould and a lingering smell of cannabis.

Safety was also an issue. At the first accommodation, security concerns led to Sam moving out and sleeping in her car, while her children went to stay a friend. The situation was no better at the second, where she was assaulted on two occasions. The accommodation was also an hour and forty minutes away from her children's school, which limited Sam's working hours and caused regular upheavals and separation from her children.

After working with the local council, Sam finally found a private rental and was reunited with her children. But the long-term impact of having lived in temporary accommodation will always be a worry.

Kate's story

A qualified nurse and teacher, Kate became homeless when she lost her job during the pandemic. She moved into a room like this with her twenty-four-year-old daughter after someone set fire to the tent they had been living in.

The room looked like it had never been cleaned: with stained carpets and curtains falling off the rails. With no kitchen, microwave or a fridge, they often lived off instant noodles. To make things worse, some of the other residents were aggressive – which, as someone who’d experienced domestic violence in the past, made Kate feel particularly vulnerable.

Channah's story

Can you imagine four people living here? Well, that was the reality for Channah and her three daughters, who found themselves staying in a room like this after a no-fault eviction notice from their private rental left them with nowhere else to go.

Channah slept on a pull-out mattress while the others shared the bunk beds. The space, or lack of it, had a detrimental effect on everyone: Channah’s sixteen-year-old daughter struggled at school; Jasmine, the oldest daughter, had nowhere to study and was forced to sit on the toilet while preparing for her exams. As if this weren’t enough, the family dealt with constant invasions of privacy and had their belongings searched by complete strangers.

Claire's story

Homeless after escaping an abusive relationship, Claire and her three young children lived in a hostel that looked like this. They were welcomed by a terrible odour, broken cupboards, peeling wallpaper and a filthy floor. There were bloodstains on the mattress and let’s not even talk about the state of the bathroom.

Without a place to put her children safely to sleep, Claire had no choice but to send her children back to live with their father while she moved into her car.

Everyone deserves a safe place to call home

Sadly, the stories of these four households aren't unique. Thousands of families are stuck in temporary accommodation like this because they have nowhere else to go. Read more about IKEA UK and Shelter's mission to highlight this issue and their call on the UK government to build 90,000 social homes a year until 2030.