Tom Dixon x IKEA: From coffin to customisable bed-sofa
When British designer Tom Dixon approached Ikea for a collaboration, he wanted to make a coffin, although the Swedish furniture giant thought better of it. The compromise resulted in Delaktig, a customisable bed-sofa-armchair that Dixon dubs ‘a platform for living’. Home & Decor finds out more about the dynamic design from the man himself.
From coffin to customisable bed – take us through the product’s conceptual evolution.
The initial approach was rejected, so we started to look at Ikea’s research into the way people live and how it is evolving. Given that I’ve got my own company, I wanted to work on a typology that I wasn’t able to do myself and that was the bed, whereas for Ikea, it wanted a sofa. So we came up with a hybrid, and what we’re sitting on is the result of that discussion.
Ikea will be selling the main product, but your own brand will be selling luxury ‘pimp your bed’ add-ons, like an electric blue 100% wool throw – how do you think people will receive them?
That’s kind of the point of the experiment. How you cover the product up, adapt and change it to suit whatever part of life you’re in – it all depends on the customer, right? The idea was driven partly by the conversation we had about how furniture, particularly sofas and beds, are made from stapled frames that are usually hidden under upholstery and textiles. But with the Delaktig, we’ve kind of done the opposite – we’ve made the higher-quality aluminium frame the hero of the piece; it’s actually the first thing that you see. And that, too, is a departure point for both the affordable and luxury sectors in furniture.
For years, the members of an online group called Ikea Hackers have been modifying Ikea furniture to suit their needs better, a spirit that the Delaktig shares. Was the Delaktig designed with them in mind?
Not created for hackers per se, but the idea of allowing for the future of the object to extend beyond our present definitions is the interesting part of this project. The analogy that I always revisit is the iPhone – by the way, the shape of the iPhone 5 is exactly the same as that of the bed frame. What’s interesting about iPhones, and mobile phones in general, is that you buy it for one function, but its functions increase as your demands and requirements grow, with the series of apps you use on it. So that’s a modern way of having an object: It’s not a finished thing, it’s a work in progress. What we’re trying to say is that when you buy either a bed or a sofa, it’s a big commitment. So why not make them such that, when your life changes, you can use the same furniture for something else? So if you’re presently living in a small apartment, you can buy a sofa that can be used as a bed, which can turn into a very fine bed for your children as they grow up. So it’s not a fixed piece of furniture at all.
Why has it taken so long to do this collaboration with Ikea?
I worked at Habitat from 1998 to 2008, but, despite Ikea owning Habitat, we had “friendly rivalry”. And then for the first 15 years developing my company, I had to develop my identity, my products and distribution, so I wanted to be not collaborative. Now that I’ve kind of established my aesthetic and some recognition for what I do, I can loosen up a little and do more collaborations on projects that I wouldn’t be able to do myself, beds being one of those. I don’t think I could really be an expert at distributing beds, because Ikea is.
When do you get your best design ideas?
Usually when I’m not thinking about design. So it could be when I’m riding a bicycle, or when I’m visiting a factory. Art such as sculpture helps; seeing an exhibition at a museum. So anywhere that is non-design is where I get my design ideas – when I push myself outside of the context.
IKEA’S CREATIVE LEADER, JAMES FUTCHER, ON WHY ‘PEOPLE WANT TO SHOW THEIR PERSONALITY IN THEIR FURNITURE’.
James: People often like to hack and change many of our products. But what we have learnt from our research is that, beyond hacking, people want to personalise and customise things. They want to look different. One of the pillars of this project, therefore, was to make a platform on which it is possible to change and adapt, so you can show your identity in different ways – be it by making your own covers, or setting the base up in different ways.
The DELAKTIG collection is available at IKEA Tampines and Alexandra. Prices range from $20 for an armrest/backrest cushion cover to $379 for the 3-seater aluminium platform frame. Find out more at www.ikea.com/sg.