Popular Mechanics looks at how the new prefab “IKEA house” was designed:
Russell started Ideabox in Salem, Ore., more than six years ago, but he suddenly gained a following—thousands and thousands of emails in just a few days—when he unveiled the first-ever Ikea-inspired prefab home at a Portland home show last week. Contrary to what you may have read in the blogosphere, the Aktiv house isn’t actually from Ikea, sanctioned by Ikea, or in any way sold through Ikea. However, the folks at the local Ikea in Portland certainly played a major role in coupling Russell’s love of small-space prefab buildings with Ikea’s design-savvy, space-saving systems. The collaboration yielded a home filled entirely with Ikea products.
As generations of cramped apartment-dwellers can attest, part of the Ikea allure (besides the fact that its furnishings are cheap and pack flat) is that the broad range of design options lets you get the most out of a small space. For example, Russell says, the variety of Ikea kitchen options gives customers design flexibility and the ability to mix and match Ikea products in the space, choosing for both style and cost. He designed the 745-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bathroom home around specific Ikea components, and the designers from the local Portland store worked directly with Ideabox to ensure the builders had all the parts they needed (there was no room for the frustration of a missing bolt on a commercial-scale project). In all, he says, building an Aktiv will cost about $86,500…
The major difference comes in the delivery of the home, forcing designers to engineer the structure for travel. “When you are picking up the house and driving it down the freeway, sheer loads are very important,” Russell says. Thus, the house, just like a car, must be built with as unified a body construction as possible, ensuring that the home stays together in the face of winds on the highway, or transfers from the production shop to the truck or from the truck to the foundation. “There is a little more stealth factor,” Russell says about the sleekness of the design.
Once the home gets delivered and is safely resting on the foundation, it is as close to a “plug-and-play” model as possible, requiring only hookups to the water, power, and sewer connection points, since all the wiring and plumbing was already done in the production facility. From there, the customer is free to walk into their new Aktiv space.
The house looks decent enough and I’m sure the connection to IKEA will attract many. However, I wonder who would buy this: as some of the commenters have suggested, is this basically a fancier mobile home?
In some ways, I think this house isn’t innovative enough. A couple of thoughts:
1. What about having a neighborhood of these? How would that look and would people want to live there?
2. Can it be expanded or is this the one-bedroom for the living alone culture?
3. I’ve always been really intrigued by the 250 square foot living spaces that are featured in the IKEA stores. Why not work with a really small space (and you don’t have to go to the really small size of a tiny house) and be more innovative?
4. People can already buy smaller homes from a variety of sources – for example, you can buy the materials for a 1,471 square foot home from Menards (from the most recent weekly ad):
Granted, you still have to put the home together and it doesn’t have the IKEA name but the Copeland does have two floors and three bedrooms. So why go for the IKEA house?