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What makes a home a home


A family having dinner in the kitchen at the dining table.

It’s such a personal question, isn’t it? IKEA recognizes that whatever home might be for you, it has an important place in your life. It facilitates your way of living, contributes to your unique idea of space, and is there by your side throughout all different stages of life – the planned, and the unexpected.

But, the way we live is changing. Life is becoming more fluid, and the world seemingly smaller. In light of this, IKEA has asked: What makes a home a home? To find out, they conducted their most comprehensive report yet about life at home, the Life@Home Report. The research team visited homes around the globe, talked to experts and asked the many people this question.

Keep on reading for a closer look at their top findings where the home is looked at from four different perspectives; Relations, Things, Space and Place.


Did you know that…

…48 percent think that home is where they have their most important relationships?

…20 percent define home as a physical space?

…Only 7 percent feel that home is a geographical place?


There’s me-time and then there’s we-time

Insight: A home must house both privacy and relationships.

"The home is where we can be most comfortable and unproductive. We can be together in the same room, but not talk to each other and still feel good."

Julietter, Shanghai

A woman sitting in front of the computer, drinking a cup of tea.

Fredrik, Stockholm: “It’s important having social as well as private spheres in the home. In my dream home, I would be able to have a big social space where I could invite others for dinner, as well as a more private part with bedrooms and so on. If I, after hosting a big dinner, could offer everyone a sofa for a nap or a space where they could just relax, that would be richness to me.”

Relationships are a fundamental part of what makes a home. The Life@Home Report discovered that positive feelings around home increase when people live together - the more, the merrier. On the contrary, there’s also a strong need for privacy. It’s a paradox: We crave more privacy, but at the same time we want to nurture relationships, since they’re such a big part of what makes home so special. This is where the digital world comes into play. It enables people to be alone yet connected at the same time, no matter where they are.

"The balcony is my special place. Sometimes I spend time on the balcony just to be alone. We can still look at each other, but it feels more like privacy to me. She watches TV, I have a scotch and smoke a cigar."

Matthew, New York


Beyond the four walls

Insight: Homes are extending outside the four walls – not least among the younger generation.

A man sitting in a leather armchair.

"Since I’ve been traveling a lot, home is where I can actually relax. That’s the first thing that comes to mind. It’s of course my room, my desk, my bed, but it’s also how I move around in my life - when I go to the store, when I meet my friends in cafés, or when I go to certain bars that I like. It’s a way of being."

Eric, Copenhagen


Only seven percent think of the home as a geographical place, 38 percent consider their neighbourhood as a part of their home, and 37 percent believe that the concept of a home goes beyond their four walls. With less space and an increased need for “me-time”, many people go outside of their residences to get the feeling of home. Think about it: hotels, cafés and restaurants are often times designed to emulate the feeling of a home. And, with the access to Wi-Fi, it seems that the activities we like doing at home, such as work, socialize and relax, can take place practically anywhere.

A balcony, seen from underneath.

"The ability to be social is very important, and we have hosted a lot of parties here. The rooftop at our house definitely comes in handy for parties.

Glenn, New York


What could be more important than Wi-Fi?

Insight: Almost 1 in 4 think Wi-Fi is more important than social space to nurture relationships at home

A photo of a danish woman with dark long hair, a black jacket and a patterned top.

Anna, Copenhagen: “I video-chat or call my family once or twice every week. I actually message with my brother every day. That makes me feel like we’re not that far apart. For me technology has changed everything. Without it I’m not so sure I’d constantly be moving as I have.”

Remember the time before the Internet, and Wi-Fi? Barely. Today people spend more and more time online. It’s the age of blogging, sharing, posting, chatting, liking and following twentyfourseven. In Shanghai, 49 percent think it’s more important to have good Wi-Fi than to have social spaces at home. It’s a fact: It’s nearly impossible to separate the virtual life from the real one nowadays. How will it impact our behaviours, values and needs at home in the future?

"That my computer connects to the Wi-Fi automatically, without asking for passwords, updating podcasts I like etc. That is the feeling of home."

Hendrick, Stockholm

A photo of a dutch woman with a black jacket and a white/black striped top.

"I think the phones, and tablets, and stuff, it’s not so good for your family life. Sometimes I’m sitting here all alone during the evenings. All three kids are on their pads or phones in their own rooms. Times have changed."

Ineke, Amsterdam


The things about home

Insight: The things that mean the most are the ones that support people in their lives.

"I think what makes a home a home is the fact that the things surrounding me are my own, that I’ve chosen and bought them myself. Things also become something with time. If you see my sofa, you won’t see it in the same way as I do."

Eric, Copenhagen

A cosy corner filled with cushions.

As people adjust to new ways of living, will their views on things change as well? It’s clear that today’s world changes the importance of objects at home – physically and mentally. Everyone has his or her favourite objects at home: Perhaps it’s a cup, a blanket or an instrument - things that might not look special to others, but have strong personal meaning. In fact, the things that matter the most seem to be ones that enable people to do what they love – at least, that’s what 43 percent say.

Yan, Shanghai: “My deck of cards is important when I have friends over. I usually play Texas poker with my friends when they come over.”

It’s also about personalisation. More and more people appreciate the experience of “hacking” their things. The Life@Home Report showed that 37 percent say that they enjoy making, modifying and assembling things for their home. Research shows that projects like building things, gardening, and other hands-on activities at home can make people feel better about themselves.

"We saw potential in being able to create and build a lot of things on our own"

Guido, Amsterdam


If it smells, tastes, feels and looks good  - it must be home

Insight: The senses can make people feel better at home.

Newly baked rolls on a baking sheet.

"There are certain aspects where I try to keep away from technology, so that I’m able to just have the pure sensation of an experience. An example of this would be cooking. For me it’s meditation."

Eric, Copenhagen


Our senses are important building blocks for our experience of our surroundings – a fourth dimension beyond the physical. They influence our feelings about home, perhaps even subconsciously; the familiar smell when returning from a holiday; the feeling of a soft carpet under our feet; the taste of our favourite meal; the sound of the rice cooker or the coffee machine bubbling. When asked what sound people associate their homes with, many mentioned everyday sounds, like those of voices or children playing. But to many, it’s the music that makes a place “homey”. 59 percent of the respondents play music to get a homey feeling.

A man with round glasses, a black hat and dreadlocks wearing red headphones.

"Like, when I hear a song that I might’ve heard, or remember hearing as a kid in my pop’s car. It’ll remind me of that moment. That feeling, it’s home."

Mohammed, Malmö


So, what makes a home a home? Or, more importantly: What makes your home, your home? There’s not one answer to the question, but several distinct. Perhaps the biggest learning is that ‘home’ is an ever-evolving, and transforming journey. No two homes are alike, and for IKEA as a whole, this is just the beginning of an adventure - one to better understand the lives of the many people.

Read the full Life@Home Report here

Check out previous Life@Home Reports here

And some more highlights…