IKEA and The Embrace of Design Democracy, Part 3

Showtime at the Interior Design Show (#IDS11). There was plenty of energy to go around as I pranced across the packed exhibition floor eventually to find my way to Booth 926. Enter the Democratization of Black.

Natasha ARORA in situ at IDS Trade Day: IKEA wins RADO Design Award for its kitchen exhibit

As is commonly believed, home is where the heart is. And the heart and soul of the home is in the kitchen, not only for meal preparation but also for entertainment. But in this IKEA kitchen, with such a dimmed pink-lit constellation of papered Chinese lamps (hors contexte) in an already dark and November-feeling kitchen, what good could possibly come? I’d be concerned about making a human error while cutting, grinding, chopping, rinsing, peeling, toasting, boiling, stewing, pouring, washing, preparing, and ultimately serving in this kitchen.

I asked an IKEA exhibitor what was the meaning of a black kitchen? She responded that it was meant to add a “wow factor”. Oh, I see, a wow factor because it is black? “Yes”, she responded. Huh? IKEA’s official endorsement of black into the home actually reinforces its residual negative effect on people, commonly darkness and sadness, to one of the most important rooms in any house. I don’t think the masses need jump on this bandwagon. Continuing with my investigation, I had also asked what were the parameters given in order to create this space and what were the rules of engagement in order to be considered for a RADO Design Award. I received no answers. By the same token, another visitor to the booth expressed apologies when she informed the same IKEA exhibitor that she had accidentally “…spilled water on the counter!” Turning to her and with a smile, I interjected, “But we’re in a kitchen. It’s OK. Expect it to happen!”

I returned to this booth three times but still had not been feeling any emotional connection or clear understanding as to what was special. No doubt though that IKEA’s kitchen exhibit attracted a constant stream of visitors negotiating their way down the two aisles and around the two islands which flanked the middle part of this room. Amid worldwide political, economical and social turmoil, what more is needed but gloom in your own home? Afterall, color does make people happy— maybe what consumerland really needs are colors, shapes, textures, and energies that are indicative of hope, promise and goodness. What’s wrong with that? If you feel good in your home then maybe you might even feel good when you interact in society and henceforth treat people with kindness, respect, dignity, and on the off-chance, even a smile.

Black has not traditionally been a color for mass consumption. However, assertively, with their black kitchen, IKEA’s message is indeed one that says: ‘We stand behind IKEA for kitchen design because we understand our customers’. In my humble opinion I beg to differ. Yes, IKEA does kitchens and, for that matter, bathrooms, very well. And I have been in many such designed spaces. Maybe they just missed the mark in 2011?

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