The IKEA-Sonos speakers are a big deal… because you hate your neighbours

Milan – The full results of the initially unexpected and then much-awaited collaboration between IKEA and Sonos were finally revealed at this Milan Design Week: the Symfonisk collection features an elegant 100-euro WiFi speaker and a charming 179-euro lamp-cum-speaker.

But a few months ago, to much less fanfare, IKEA released something that was probably as important: the results of its 2018 Life at Home survey, which focused on how more than half of young families lack a sense of belonging within their residential space, and nearly a quarter have qualms about their privacy expectations. In other words: we don’t feel at home when we’re at home.

As the IKEA design team unveiled the new speakers in Milan, the designers and engineers spoke of the reasons behind it: hearing is the one sense we can’t willingly shut off, they explained. We can feel aurally assaulted at home, and that invasion of spatial privacy affects our wellbeing and our sense of peace within our own four walls. How noisy our neighbours are defines how fulfilling our home live are – and the neighbourhood can get rather noisy in urban environments. Loud talking and loud televisions are two of the most common complaints to the 311 public service in New York City; in the Netherlands, where Frame is based, police complaints about noisy neighbours increased 10 per cent in the last year.

Aural freedom is a fundamental right

Thus, when one of the largest home retailers in the world makes high-quality home sound so economically accessible, it’s making a strong statement: aural freedom is a fundamental right. As urban conglomerations become the norm, the company is treating residential sound control as a main necessity, subtly stating that people should be able to afford some sort of defence against one of the most stressful yet overlooked aspects of city life.

So that Symfonisk lamp might look adorable, with its zaftig textile-inspired body and its Minion-like head, but it is actually a deliberate lifeline for urban dwellers. In fact, bringing in the lauded Sonos know-how speaks of how seriously they took these speakers. As IKEA is a strong trendsetter in the spatial design world, it will be interesting to see how the industry will follow the Swedish giant’s lead. For now, 100 euros’ worth of aural freedom sounds about right.

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