Sustainable design: IKEA Democratic Design Days 2019

in Sustainable Design

Like every year around this period, IKEA has shared new collaborations and plans for the upcoming future during its Democratic Design Days (opened in a new window/tab), a two days’ event taking place at the headquarters in Älmhult.
Sustainability has been high on IKEA’s agenda lately and that's not just in theory. In fact, they’re practically turning to sustainable design and leading the way towards a circular economy model.

IKEA Democratic Design Days 2019 saw the realization of some of the collaborations announced last year plus a lot of news!
The focus was definitely on sustainable design and in particular on:

  • Circular design
  • Indoor air pollution
  • Sustainable living

So let’s see what they're working on in detail!

Circular design is the way to go

IKEA is making a lot of experiments around circular design, from producing less trash, to upcycling waste into new products.


Sea plastic pollution is a massive problem that requires a combined solution. One of IKEA’s contributions is MUSSELBLOMMA (opened in a new window/tab), a sustainable collection including a bag, two cushion covers and a tablecloth whose polyester fabric is made entirely out of recycled plastic. A part of this plastic is PET waste that was floating in the Mediterranean Sea and was caught in fishermen nets.
The pattern is inspired by the sea with its green and coral geometric forms and the stylized shape of a fish. The MUSSELBLOMMA collection is entirely produced in Spain and will be launched in Italy and Spain in autumn 2019.

IKEA also announced that for every kilo of PET plastic waste used to make the polyester fabric, another 9 kilos of waste will be taken out of the sea. Great news!
But IKEA’s commitment to clean the ocean doesn’t stop here…

A tote bag and a tablecloth from IKEA's MUSSELBLOMMA collection.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
IKEA's MUSSELBLOMMA collection. Credit: IKEA (opened in a new window/tab)

World Surf League

IKEA Democratic Design Days 2019 have unveiled an interesting partnership with WSL (World Surf League) (opened in a new window/tab), with the intent to save the oceans. The idea is to reduce plastic pollution in the oceans by upcycling the existing plastic waste while inspiring others to do the same. Together, IKEA and WSL will also explore the life of surfers’ and design a range of products for them using upcycled plastic waste.

A surfer on the beach.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: IKEA (opened in a new window/tab)

For what concerns plastic, IKEA has also announced that – by 2020 – they’ll remove all single-use plastic products and replace all virgin polyester with recycled one (opened in a new window/tab). This fits into a broader and very ambitious objective for IKEA: embracing a circular design model and using only renewable or recycled materials by 2030!!!

Tackling indoor air pollution

This is a problem that is very dear to my heart and we’ve already discussed it on the blog. Indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor one and for sure it’s more polluted than what we tend to think.
Two solutions we can all implement right away are opening the windows regularly to let the air circulate and adding air-purifying plants.

But what is IKEA doing to improve indoor air quality?


Northern India is one of the places in the world with the worst air pollution. One of the biggest causes is the burning of rice straw – a waste residue of rice harvesting.
Looked through the lenses of circular design, waste is a resource and rice straw is no exception. IKEA started experimenting and discovered that rice straw is a very versatile material that can be twisted into a fibre or transformed into a mouldable pulp.

A man holding a handful of rice straw.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: IKEA (opened in a new window/tab)

The first result of these experiments has been announced during IKEA Democratic Design Days 2019. Its name is FÖRÄNDRING (opened in a new window/tab), and it is a collection of textiles, baskets and other homeware made out of waste rice straw!
The word förändring means change in Swedish – a further sign to represent IKEA’s commitment to sustainability.
The best thing about this collection – that will be launched in autumn 2019 – is that it is actually tackling two problems in one. First, it’s an example of circular design and waste upcycling. Plus it is cleaning the air by preventing waste from being burned!

Rugs, boxes, baskets and lamp shades from IKEA's FÖRÄNDRING_collection.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
IKEA's FÖRÄNDRING collection. Credit: IKEA (opened in a new window/tab)


The pollution of the air outdoor is only one of the causes of indoor air pollution. Combustion fumes, cleaning products and materials are guilty of releasing harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in the air.
To address this problem, IKEA is working on a textile that actually cleans the air! Thanks to a mineral-based treatment, the fabric is able to break down air pollutants once it’s hit by light, mimicking what plants do with photosynthesis.
The first product using this textile is GUNRID (opened in a new window/tab), a white timeless curtain that will be launched in 2020 in the stores. But more air-cleaning textiles will come in the future!

IKEA GUNRID white curtains on a large window.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: IKEA (opened in a new window/tab)

Sustainable living solutions

Sustainable living means – among the rest – being mindful about the way we use resources. IKEA is tackling in particular energy and food and is working on some very interesting solutions!


Sustainable design can also serve deep social purposes. At last year’s Democratic Design Days, IKEA announced a collaboration with Little Sun, a German social business whose mission is bringing light to people that live without electricity. And this year, they presented the first prototypes coming out of this collaboration, that will be launched in 2021.
Sustainable design principles will be at the heart of the SAMMANLÄNKAD (opened in a new window/tab) collection and all products will be powered by solar energy.
This way, they'll actually serve a double purpose. First, they will bring light to areas of the world where there is no electricity. And also, they’ll give everyone a chance to live a more sustainable life every day, by consuming less electricity and potentially even going off the grid!

"We want to connect the world by sharing the power of the sun in order to promote a sustainable lifestyle. The collaboration with IKEA is a huge opportunity to raise awareness for energy access and the urgent need for global solutions, while at the same time working with world-leading product designers"
Cit. Olafur Eliasson, founder of Little Sun

A sun powered pendant light from IKEA's SAMMANLÄNKAD collection.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
A sun powered table light from IKEA's SAMMANLÄNKAD collection.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Prototypes for IKEA's SAMMANLÄNKAD collection. Credits: IKEA (opened in a new window/tab)


Last year IKEA had announced a collaboration with Altered to produce MISTELN (opened in a new window/tab), a water-saving nozzle.
The release date was planned to be August 2019, but they recently shared they’re facing some challenges in adapting Altered’s technology to IKEA’s Democratic Design pillars (opened in a new window/tab). We’ll therefore have to wait for 2020 to see MISTELN in the stores, but having a water nozzle that adapts to almost all taps in the world & costs less than 5 euros is worth the wait, isn’t it?

One part of IKEA's MISTELN nozzle.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
A component of IKEA's MISTELN nozzle. Credit: IKEA (opened in a new window/tab)


Food supply is another issue in our times and growing our food at home would be both cost-effective and good for the planet (allowing to save on transportation). Even more, growing some food at home may become just essential in the future given the latest growth population forecasts!

IKEA has partnered with Tom Dixon to develop a sustainable design solution that will make growing food at home affordable, desirable and easy.

“We’re assaulted every day by headlines that hint the destruction of the natural world, and I think that everybody needs to make steps to put nurture in that natural world… without plants we are nothing!
Cit. Tom Dixon

The first challenge is that today we’re just not used to grow our own food. And that's why the collaboration has started with an awareness-raising event. As part of Chelsea Flower Show, Tom Dixon has designed “Gardening will Save the World”: a conceptual garden to show how plants could be grown in the urban environment. The upper part was a garden with an endless list of edible and medicinal plants (opened in a new window/tab). And underneath was a modular growing system featuring high-tech farming technologies like LED lighting, robots and hydroponic systems.

A rendering of the concept garden.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Tom Dixon's conceptual garden. Credit: IKEA (opened in a new window/tab)

To make growing food achievable for everybody, Tom Dixon has designed stackable planters that can fit even in the tighter space. And – with their lovely organic shape – they’re definitely something I would put into my home!

The stackable planters designed by Tom Dixon for IKEA.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Planters by Tom Dixon for IKEA. Credit: IKEA (opened in a new window/tab)

I'm always very curious about the news coming from Älmhult, but I must say that these IKEA Democratic Design Days 2019 have been my favourite so far! I'm really hopeful to see IKEA involved in sustainability and circular design. We need big companies to start walking along this path as this is the only way this will become the norm in the future!

Silvia's signature

Share this post


Don't be shy, let me know what you think!


Join 100+ biophilic and sustainable design enthusiasts on the monthly newsletter.
I'll never share your email with third parties and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Powered by Mailchimp.

Let's Connect on Instagram !

Sustainable Product Picks