Here is one snarky interpretation of some interesting data from a recent Ikea survey of Americans:
Only 1% [of those surveyed] want their home to reflect how successful they have been.
Analysis: This may seem surprising, but in fact Americans often choose to lie to surveys to make themselves appear more humble…
43% state they have assigned seating in their living room.
Analysis: Americans care deeply about personal property and annex even the smallest items…
31% of people with pets answered that the pet cuddles with them in bed “every night.”
Analysis: American pets do not respect boundaries.
I’ve wondered why sociologists don’t spend more time studying what Americans do in their homes. I could see why companies like Ikea want such information (see the survey results here): they want to sell us things for our homes. While such research questions may seem intrusive, Americans have created a superior private realm that keeps them away from community life (the interpretation of several New Urbanists in Suburban Nation) so something interesting must be going on at home, right? We know that Americans consume lots of television (lots of studies on this) and find ways to handle housework (lots of studies on this) but what about regular interactions? What about what they think about what their own home says about themselves? What do they do when left alone in their own homes? Surveys could help us get at this but participant observation would also help: seeing Americans in their natural and prized personal settings.One book that does do some of this is one I read a while back in grad school called The Meaning of Things: Domestic Symbols and the Self. Also, Pierre Boudieu’s classic Distinction looks at numerous household items and activities.
A little bit more on one of the Ikea questions (page 3 of the PDF):
How do Americans feel about home?•95% say home is a place they can relax•94% feel their home is a place where they feelsafe and secure• 78% stated their home reflects their character•50% believe that when it comes to life at home,the top priority is for the home to be warm andwelcoming• Only 1% want their home to reflect how successfulthey have been
It is interesting how many Americans don’t want the home to reflect their success but it should reflect their character. Critics of McMansions might charge that the reason those homeowners bought such homes was to try to impress other people.