Life is a roller coaster; time passes by so fast you feel like a hamster on a wheel. I feel in the short 32 years that I’ve lived so far that I did it by the book, so here is to a year where I should go with my gut instead. I did my dues, earned a bachelor, earned a masters, went up the corporate ladder and advanced my career, quit and started my own, got married, had kids, the whole nine yards. What’s next? Here are a few thoughts:

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Empowering women in the workplace, marketplace and community is a responsibility that falls on everyone’s shoulders.

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To the world, a son is missing from the picture-perfect family, the comment of a lack of son is my daily struggle. “So how many kids?”, I smile and say two daughters, then comes the tilt.

Whether it’s the head slightly tiled to the left or to the right, a gentle stoke of a shoulder, a shy smile, and the infamous “Maybe next time around it’s a boy.”

 

The ideology society imposes about having girl’s vs boys is pathetic, it’s a gender double standard that should not exist. Since when is a son a preference over a daughter?

I think both genders are equally important to society. With the world constantly changing men and women, even sons and daughters should have equals roles in life and be able to do both genders “stereotypical” job or accomplish the other genders usefulness. If children are raised they can complete both sides of the gender bias and be able to accomplish anything they want making them equal not more important not less important than each other. The bottom line is, it’s all about how you raise your children, if anything the world needs more kindness and less judgement.

I am proud of having my two bundles of joy Hana and Ayah who bring so much into our lives.

 

Whenever I can, I will assure my growing ladies that I will support them in whatever decisions they make in life. I’ll be there, championing them the way I have been championed by their father and my father. Welcome to my journey of women empowerment one day at a time, one girl at a time.

 

Finally, just for kicks to all you beautiful ladies blessed with daughters please remember, a son is a son until he takes a wife but a daughter is a daughter all of her life!!

It’s been two weeks since you passed away! Life has an unfair way of driving us back to our daily routine. Wake up, give Hana breakfast/prepare her lunch box, send her off to pre-school, pick her up for lunch, then head home to mmom’s for lunch, only this time you aren’t there. Stay till 4:30 and leave. Play with Hana till bed time around 8:00, and then call it a day. REPEAT!

I haven’t written for quite a while now, and I wish that I had, every time I wrote a new post you’d call me the next day to talk about it or discuss – which really makes me feel like I should’ve written more, I would’ve loved to hear your opinion.

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The first time I attended the MENAICT Forum was the year it was officially launched was back in 2010, I had just started my journey to blogging Sleepless in Amman was only two months old at the time, and I honestly wasn’t sure why I was invited, but trust me when I say a friendship had been initiated among many special people since then, and six years later, I enjoy seeing them all whenever an occasion comes up.

So, in 2010, the highlight was Reality & The Cloud, Cloud Computing, and who could forget Werner Vogels of Amazon?

Werner Vogels with Ruba Abu Judeh - Too much brains in one picture!

Werner Vogels with Ruba Abu Judeh – Too much brains in one picture!

In 2013, I attended the MENAICT from the lowest point on earth, hosted at the Dead Sea which focused on the state of Arab ICT and its transformation and Peter Ryan whom six years later, I still keep in touch with. Not to forget two exclusive interviews with Stuart E. Jones United States Ambassador to Jordan and with Lorraine Hariton, Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs, U.S. Department of State.

Left to Right: Lara Abdulhadi (Sleepless in Amman), Ms. Lorraine Hariton Special Representative for Commercial & Business Affairs, and Mr. Khaled El Ahmad

Left to Right: Lara Abdulhadi (Sleepless in Amman), Ms. Lorraine Hariton Special Representative for Commercial & Business Affairs, and Mr. Khaled El Ahmad

Finally, 2014 – Which I still refer to as last year’s ICT (Inside joke that only a few will understand) was no disappointment either.   The theme was Disruptive Technology, and two cool interviews with Ahmad Hanandeh CEO of Zain Jordan, and Jean Francois Thomas CEO of Orange Jordan.

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What all previous years had in common? The types of people you get to meet at the MENAICT Forum! For the sake of humor and supporting this year’s theme DIGITIZING THE ECONOMY, I’d like to add the human factor of who you are most likely to meet at the MENAICT this November.

Generally speaking the MENAICT is an ideal platform for C-suit Business Executives, Governments, Policy Makers, Non-Profit Executives, Investors and Financers, Entrepreneurs, ICT Professionals, Enthusiasts, and Hobbyists… But if we were to break them down by persona, I would say:

Meet the Networker

This person will be chatting up multiple people during breaks, exchanging business cards, adding people on LinkedIn, and simply being a social butterfly. You can’t go wrong meeting people, so if you’re one of them, stack up on those business cards and keep your professional profiles polished and up to date.

Meet the Learner

This person is like a sponge, they try to soak up lots and lots of information, they write notes, type into a laptop, and they try to diligently keep track of everything, including a possibility of live tweeting that they could get back to later as a reference of what has been discussed.

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Meet the Leader

Thought Leaders and possibly experts in their field, and are most likely speaking at the forum. Follow them, get to know them, and see who you would like to meet after works if you get the chance for Q&A. You can check out the list of speakers here.

 

(C) Fadi Ghandour - Photo by Ala'a Tarawneh

(C) Fadi Ghandour – Photo by Ala’a Tarawneh

The Hoarder

I’m not talking about the person who is always hoarding a front row seat, but also those on a mission on collecting the best free swag! I mean how many pens and stickers and book notes do you possibly need?

 

 

…and finally…

Meet the Blogger

Just like me, don’t be surprised if you see a person totting a tablet, a phone, multiple power banks, and trying their best to remain composed. The trickiest part for bloggers is making a decision on which sessions to attend if any are running in parallel, because there is nothing like FOMO on great content. Nevertheless, they could be blogging, or micro blogging on Twitter, make sure to follow them for top industry insights and trends, their feeds will keep you on your toes.

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Will you be attending the upcoming MENA ICT Forum? What are you looking forward to the most? Tell us in the comments below.

August 31st marks Queen Rania’s Birthday! If you know me at all, you would know that after my mother, I would consider her my role model! I love Queen Rania’s passion for initiatives for education development, children, refugees, and family!

On occasion of Queen Rania’s 46th birthday, here are 30 reasons why we love and adore her beyond words can describe…

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Remember project runway, a reality series hosted by model Heidi Klum with Nina Garcia, Michael Kors, and Tim Gun about fashion? The show was all about having these contestants come up with fashionable garments with limited time, materials, and a theme for each night. As the case with most reality series, contestants were being eliminated one at a time, until the lucky finalists enjoyed the perks, in the case of project runway, prepare a complete collection for New York Fashion Week!

Now that we’re done reminiscing, this brings me to say why I’ve mentioned this in the first place. That was actually the first time I have heard of TRESemmé, a lit bit over a decade ago, I was fresh out of high school and enjoying my freshman year of college, and man oh man have I enjoyed the products since I laid my hands on them or what?

TRESemmé’s products are popular for hair repair treatment from heating damage caused by hair ironing and blow-drying, initially the product line was designed for Salon’s, and then made its debut for home use and became available in supermarkets worldwide. Personally, I have used a variety of their products, mainly because they were not consistently available in Jordan. I used to have a friend grab me some shampoos and my favorite “Split Remedy Leave-in Conditioning Spray” from the states, and after I had a baby, my go to was TRESemmé Smooth and Silky Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner which is great for dry and brittle hair (talk about the perfect combination postpartum).

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Fast forward a good 12 years, and one day I get this beautiful arrangement of flowers delivered in a black box, talk about a trendy fashion statement, that’s out of the box, and delivered in a box with a little black card placed over a bed of white roses…

The invitation read:

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“TRESEMME is finally in Jordan! We would like to invite you to a night of fashion, girl talks, image consultancy, and of course gorgeous hair! Join us at U Lounge on July 27th at 7 PM and bring your trendiest friend along. PS: Dress to impress and leave your hair & make up for us to take care of.”

Considering all variables, I called and arranged for a sitter, or else how would I dare step out so late? (Trust me, it’s late when you have a one year old and go to bed at 10.), and then thought of a trendy plus one. Now all of my girls are gorgeous inside and out, trendy with their own style, and making a decision was as hard as it can get, but I couldn’t think of anyone better than my cousin Inaam, she too has a one year old, and between juggling a job, a home, and a daughter, I felt that someone in the same boat deserved to step out for a night full of glamor.

Come Wednesday we were sipping mocktails and catching up over one of the best views and breathtaking sunsets in Amman, Inaam and I were definitely full of appreciation of our free time for the evening. Showing up au naturel with our hair undone and our make up as minimal as a slight eyeliner, ULounge was quickly buzzing with the sounds of chatting ladies, waiters going around with mocktails and canapés, and high heels clicking away while kisses were air exchanges and acquaintances were reunited.

The Sleepless Besties Inaam and Betty...

The Sleepless Besties Inaam and Betty…

The night kicked off with a very brief introduction of the brand followed by the announcement of the brand ambassador for TRESemmé Jordan, Shirene Refai. I’ve known Shirene from within assistance for almost as long as I’ve used TRESemmé for my hair. When I was just fresh out of high school I got an internship for the Summer at Living Well magazine and I got to see her work as the Fashion Editor there and then got to invite her a few years later to a Fashion Show held by the students of the college I worked at. Amman being a small world and all eventually I graduated and landed a job in a digital marketing agency, we ended up working in the same building only this time she was the Editor in Chief for UMagazine brand… Being a non-practicing lawyer in the fashion industry seemed to serve Shirene very well, as her career has spanned off into her passion, brand management and image consultancy.

I got the chance to catch up slightly with Shirene post event and we discussed her latest appointment as a TRESemmé brand ambassador, check out the transcript below for details:

SIA: What aspect of being a TRESemmé brand ambassador makes you the happiest?

Shirene: To begin with, I love my hair and I enjoy taking care of it. TRESemmé intensifies that experience and makes it even more fun. Having always been a fan of TRESemmé, it’s exciting to be their brand ambassador while providing women with the tools necessary to achieve their dream hair. However, it’s become about more than having great hair. Empowering and inspiring women in their quest to be more confident is the ultimate achievement for me. TRESemmé has always been that kind of partner to women all over the world and just to be part of that journey, a part of something I have great passion for, is exhilarating.  Everyone knows that I’m also an avid supporter of emerging designers. It’s important for people to see how involved TRESemmé is in embracing the local talent and supporting them to be greater. It’s not just about taking care of our hair. This collaboration is a means to influence and inspire, and ultimately command greatness.

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SIA: Your field of work has allowed you to work with endless designers and artists, and with your impeccable taste designers are now killing to dress you. How does this impact your daily life?

Shirene: Fashion and style come naturally to me. I love to dress up and look stylish all the time and I enjoy working with my fellow designers, both local and international. For me, they are my friends and partners but the best part of it is that I style my own wardrobe and so I’m constantly on the lookout for new talent that can inspire my look and express my mood for the season. I appreciate the various tastes and approach to design that exists, so it’s a great honor to experience global talent. I find endless inspiration in the clothes, and styles which instills a personal prowess to kindle all my dreams.

SIA: You’re a mother who just celebrated her child’s high school graduation, what is your advice for other working moms when it comes to looking after themselves and pampering themselves?

Shirene: It’s such a beautiful chapter in my life seeing my eldest off to face the world with all its challenges. (I promised him I wouldn’t get emotional during our goodbyes.) My advice is to be the best at what you do. In my opinion, looking after yourself includes having self-respect not just for you, but towards those around you. It will spotlight your authenticity and make you memorable. It’s a style that no one can replicate. I strongly believe your self-respect will arm you with happiness and the power to overcome any challenges that may come your way.

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All in all, it was a wonderful night, just look at the pictures of all of these beautiful ladies glammed up and having a perfect night out in town. Being a mom and all, (and I don’t use this lightly because any mom can relate), we managed to leave around 9:30 with Inaam sporting a fresh blow dry, and myself I managed to walk out with a broad smile, with we did not manage to get all dolled up with make-up, there is always time for another day for that, for the time being, we managed to get home to our sleeping babies in a timely manner, pay off the sitters, and plan our next “Mommy night Out” which is hopefully not far away from now….

Ladies, thank you for taking the time to read this, and gentlemen, if you survived this long, good for you, don’t forget to pamper your special lady with lots of love and book her some quality time too. No one says no to being pampered and taken care of.

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While visiting Sweden earlier this June and attending the IKEA Democratic Design Days, I got the chance to sip a quick cup of coffee with the lovely Iina Vuorivirta, now this is a name that you would want to remember in the design world, because what she has pulled off for the 2017 collection is out of this world.

Iina Vuorivirta had her own design studio, and she left it to work for IKEA, in a world where most people are leaving corporations for startups, this is quite different, and refreshing to hear. Apparently the decision was quite easy, “I’m here to stay…I love my work, and as tacky as it may sound, it comes from the heart!” she exclaimed when I asked her about it, adding that while having her own freedom while running her own studio and the thrill of going to sleep and not knowing what’s going to happen the next day is great, working for IKEA is even greater, because you really never know what’s going to happen the next day at work, so the element of surprise and the adventure is still there. The communication between people and making products together at IKEA is just amazing, with 1,500 people working together daily, it’s a match made in heaven.

Prior to meeting Iina in person, I wanted to see what her previous work has been all about, and I was impressed to check out some really impressive domination and manipulation between objects and lights that could totally change a home space whether small or vast. You can check out the designs on her tumblr blog http://iinav.tumblr.com/objects

When asking her about her work and focus on lights and objects she said: “I think that lights and objects are also materials, it’s not only a thing that you see, but it’s a feeling itself. Especially when it comes to using different materials, so we have the LEDS and new high end techniques but you also have a candle that can also give light, so it’s so many different ways of you can work with the material because it has so much to say and gives warmth and light, but then it also offers a depth”.

Her inspiration to working with light did not happen overnight, it’s not really something that you can manipulate as easy as actual objects. On the contrary Vuorivirta seemed to differ, and told me that it definitely is, because you have to start building around it and because you do have to start from scratch and you do not have anything around it. After all, it’s an immaterial thing, and how you start collaborating with other materials in order to get something that you want, and in order to get the result you want and a story to tell, light really allows you to do so.

For the upcoming 2017 collection, Iina Vuorivirta has created has worked tremendously with waste and recycled materials in an effort to make sustainable living accessible to all. The 2017 line of “no waste products”; includes seating, vases, and kitchen cabinets that are all designed and produced from recycled materials.

Check out this prototype kitchen below, I first approached it because I couldn’t help but be attracted to the shade of black in the cabinets, and the way the light hit it made me want to consider redoing my own kitchen. Imagine my surprise when i learned that 99.9% of this kitchen doors is recycled. The doors are made using recycled plastic bottles. Named the KUNGSBACKA, the kitchen door launches February, 2017.

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Also impressively sitting there to be admired were these colorful vases which have a beautiful story behind them. See those vases were inspired by one of IKEA’s suppliers in Chine who were throwing out products that were damaged or imperfect. In an effort to minimize waste, IKEA has decided to melt the glass and turn it into these mouth-blown vases that are so unique and different.

While they all use the same mold, the melted glass comes from various left over materials of glass, ensuring that each vase is unique and different in its own way.

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I had to ask, working so hard on a product and to find it in the catalogue and in the actual store, how does that feel?

Iina: When I had my own design studio, I was designing for certain people, and it was simply that community, so thinking about the scale, it’s completely different. Working for IKEA, I’m designing for the world, from people in India, to Jordan, to Brazil. I’m not telling the story in a different way, and it’s just amazing that all of these people all over the world are buying the same story that I have been working and breathing for so long; I really do feel that whatever story I am telling is carrying out a different context within the cultural that’s buying it, and it’s just an overwhelming feeling.

I also asked her about her sentiments about the IKEA Democratic Design Days, from a designer’s perspective?

Iina: The interaction that is now possible is amazing; it’s not every day that you get to talk about your work. Work is not only a job, it’s a way of thinking and a way of interacting and communicating, so when you are able to share that, that’s how you end up going places. You are the ones that help us tell the stories throughout our work, and it’s not only about the products, so to get the chance to interact and share the story is what the IKEADDD is all about, and it’s a win-win situation.

What are pieces of advice that you can give my sleepless readers about decorating their own space?

Iina: If you really see something that you like, take it into your home because since it got your attention then it has a place where you can tell your own story about that object. I also think that when you buy something, sometimes it’s just something that you need that goes beyond the décor, and it could even be functional while being decorative, so don’t be afraid to bring it into your home.

The best advice I can give is whatever you own, whatever you want, it’s something to appreciate!

Finally, what is your favorite room in your home?

Kitchen! Easily, it’s the kitchen. Because the home is a place where I want to share with loved ones, where I want to invite in my family and my friends, and the best part is, it’s usually around the food when you get to have these blessed memories. If I’m cooking, I can be cooking alone for these people, or even cooking together, so a kitchen to me is a place to gather…

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On average, a product designed at IKEA from the preliminary sketches to the final product on the shelf, takes around 3 years in the making, but it does depend on the actual product. Iina Vuorivirta is currently working on the textile range for 2020 and is incorporating different techniques that should be a crowd pleaser by the time they are launched…

Last week I was in Sweden attending the Democratic Design Days by IKEA. The IKEADDD is organized annually, and it’s all about discussing the impact of design on our everyday life, especially in making affordable and sustainable designs at the same time.

This year, IKEADDD was inspired by the LIFE AT HOME. Sounds simple doesn’t it? What is a home? Is it a physical place or a spiritual one? Is it where you sleep and rest, or is it where you build relationships and memory? Life at home differs from one person to another, from one culture to another, but it all revolves around one major point, which is the comfort place for a human to be.

By 2030, 7 out of 10 people would be living in the city, meaning smaller spaces, less time at home, more time at work dealing with a fast paced life. Smaller spaces also mean the extreme need to rising living standards, which means organization and functional storage is a must, because you can’t really live in a cluttered small space now can you?

With that said, this year IKEA is launching 2,000 new articles across the world to be added into their enormous product line, here is an insight of what I have gathered first head during my visit to IKEA One.

As mentioned earlier, as the years pass, people will be leaving in small spaces, urbanization means that life at home is about to become more limited in space. While many people are currently there, the number will be decreased enormously. By 2050, it is expected that 3 out of 4 people will be living in the city, which means each space at home needs to be carefully planner, and possibly be multifunctional. IKEA offers many versatile solutions; here are some that would interest you.

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Isn’t that kitchen just right for a tight space? The table folds in and out when needed. Behind the table a pantry hides in plain sight, and the folder table doubles as a rack for the tea towels and more. The space below the table serves as shelves that can be utilized for fresh produce or just about anything while the very top shelf is great for bottles and spices.

One of the most fascinating things I have seen has influenced my husband thousands of miles away, and i can see why. Growing your own plants and produce at home is no longer a hobby. Many people do it decorate their home and have fresh produce available within arm’s reach when preparing meals. Surprisingly (I’m surprised as I thought the number would be much lower), six in ten people across cities are bringing nature into their urban homes.

With that said many people have issues growing at home. Personally as Lara, I tend to think that I don’t know where to start so I stick to flowers and try to ensure that they aren’t high maintenance as i don’t have the time especially with Jordan’s climate, plants really do require your undivided attention. While my reasons for not planting much are among the same barriers by people from the IKEA Life at home report who had the same reasons at 14% and 28% respectively, the majority of 42% said they didn’t have the place to grow plants. Which brings me to share my next project at home when the product becomes available, let the pictures inspire you…

The kitchen featured below is made out of waste and recycled wood. I’m really motivated to learn that IKEA is moving to work towards a more sustainable society through innovative ways to minimizing waste. While I would like to dwell more on this topic because it’s among my topics of interest, I’ve actually met the designer behind both and managed to have a nice 15 minute chat with Iina Vuorivirta, so I’ll save the mesmerizing details for another post…

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The IKEADDD had so much to offer, here is an Exlusive behind the scenes from upcoming designs that could be hitting your local IKEA Soon!

 

The JASSA Collection, inspired by Indonesian Craftsmanship

The JASSA Collection, inspired by Indonesian Craftsmanship

 

SVÄRTAN Collection Textured and modern interpretation of India

SVÄRTAN Collection
Textured and modern interpretation of India

 

SÄLLSKAP Collection Redefines traditional that brings together old & new

SÄLLSKAP Collection
Redefines traditional that brings together old & new

 

AVSIKTLIG Collection Takes Sweden's design heritage into the future of IKEA

AVSIKTLIG Collection
Takes Sweden’s design heritage into the future of IKEA

 

LATTJO Collection Sparks the imagination and together time

LATTJO Collection
Sparks the imagination and together time

 

SPRIDD Collection By British Designer Kit Neale

SPRIDD Collection
By British Designer Kit Neale

Finally, saving the best for last, IKEA’s Social Entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs are in the business of making everyday life better in their communities. They use business as a way to tackle social and environmental challenges such as reforestation, reducing poverty and empowering women. IKEA actually have a long-term partnership with various social entrepreneurs around the world. If this isn’t impressive enough, the products that are co-created are all made by hand and offered in limited numbers to be sold in selected stores. Profits all go back to supporting the initiative and keeping the wheel going. If you’re interested in learning more about this check out this inpiring video https://youtu.be/gmlpwIRmuBY

IKEA Social Entrepreneurs an innovative way to contribute to social change in local communities

IKEA Social Entrepreneurs an innovative way to contribute to social change in local communities

That’s it for now… I still have a lot more to share, but i figured I’ll keep you coming back for more, because this is a journey worth writing about, and I’d like to do it justice by sharing all that I could. Stay tuned for more.

The road to Älmhult for the IKEA Democratic Design Days was like no other. I was accompanied by IKEA Jordan’s Marketing Specialist Jehan Aggad to the two day event which aims to build trust and desire for IKEA Products (both of which I proudly have). The event is held at IKEA One, which was the first store ever opened in Älmhult, Småland in 1958. As of March of this year, IKEA now operated in 48 countries and has 384 stores open; an impressive number since their first store opening in 1958.

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With 800 million visitors in IKEA Stores last year, the brand still considers its self-small and at the beginning of a long journey. The IKEA Democratic Design Days was about growing IKEA, making a better one, and growing the brand to be available for just about anyone with better products, improved quality, and to offer value by becoming more accessible to people.

In 1958, IKEA held 2,000 to 2,500 products in their range of designs, today they issue around that number on annual basis, all by ensuring that the design of each product has four main pillars.

Form: All products should be beautiful, simple, and absolutely irresistible.

Function: Products that work for the design they were intended to do.

Quality: Whether it knows how to sleep best, designing beds that kids can bounce off (safely), or furniture to come home to and relax, quality is always important when designing IKEA products.

Sustainability: It’s very important for IKEA that products are both made and function in a sustainable way.

The above four pillars according to IKEA are worth nothing if not accompanied by the fifth and most important of all which will aid with any decision making process, and that is PRICE.

Price: IKEA strives to always be affordable, at the lowest possible price. That’s why some products are discontinued and you find them again under a new name, many products are redesigned under different names after they have managed to cut down on costs based on new findings and research and you end up with the newer variations at more appealing prices.

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During the opening session IKEA announced their collaboration with HAY. While not a very familiar designer in the Middle East, HAY co-founders Rolf and Mette Hay are like design celebrities, and the collaboration announcement was met with a huge round of applause. One of the their announcements was giving the IKEA Blue bag (Frakta Bag) a face lift, the yellow handles are now forest green and the bag is a shade of grey.

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IKEA’s R&D Department spends a lot of time prototyping and working on the LIFE AT HOME Report and getting work down in the test labs. They see themselves even going smaller in packaging, which means more products into shipping containers, and thus even lower prices.

The Life at Home is an interesting subject to IKEA because home is everything. The annual report aims to study how people perceive their homes and how they spend their times in them. Here is to sharing some knowledge from the 2016 findings, which is the 3rd annual report released by IKEA…

Life is changing drastically and the world is pretty much changing at an astonishing pace, this means that people’s lives are changing as well. Life at home is becoming redefined by people…

People today define their homes by where they have their most important relationships. Only 7% of people say that home is a physical place. With urbanization, living spaces are changing, people are forced to live in smaller spaces, and not surprisingly with digitization everything is just out there, so people are seeking their homes for privacy as well, as a private haven. Many people are now saying that if they had an extra hour a day, they would actually spend it alone, at home, unwinding from the fast paced life. At the same time, people are constantly on social media, being connected around the clock, so there is something about defining the line between privacy and being social that makes a home what it is today.

Impressively, a team of 20 designers oversees the creation of 2,000 affordable products each year at IKEA. Stay tuned to my blog for a sneak peek of 2016/2017 collection…

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