Design for domestic environment

Edna Hirsbrunner
3 min readApr 18, 2018


© Edna Hirsbrunner

What does home mean to you?

That was the first question we were asked at last week’s presentation about “Design for domestic environment”. Words such as family, a house, a flat or the like came up but it’s been collectively agreed, that home is much more or even only a feeling that is mentally and not physically. It is for example nice, when you see your family physically but if they’re mentally there for you, it can be worth just as much and can be home as well. Furthermore, it is an atmosphere which often not can be described that precise. The funny thing is, that in the parallel running module, Interaction Design Process my group deals with exactly this topic. We investigate what home means to people, a bit more precise, how home can become portable. We focus on people that had or will have to leave their familiar homes due to external changes. We found out, that smells can evoke strong and subconscious memories. We find this interesting and decided to focus on this; but more about it in another blog post.

To come back to the topic, to design something for domestic environments that actually fits the target group and not only speaks to “world’s houses”, it is important to do research. The designers use an ethnographic method, that means, they go to the homes of the target group and record their behaviors in different ways. What one has to be aware of is the complexity of the system of the domestic environments. Some even use the method of defamiliarization.

“Defamiliarization is the artistic technique of presenting to audiences common things in an unfamiliar or strange way in order to enhance perception of the familiar.”, 18.04.18

Designing for home environment actually is something, that concerns everybody, because everyone has in some way a place or a feeling that he or she calls home. So why can’t then everyone be a designer? In fact, there is already a huge community doing so. You may all know it; it is the Do-It-Yourself movement. It has grown strongly over the last few years. One of the reasons could be the web. Over pages like Pinterest or manuals are spread; one can find online tips and tricks to nearly every idea you have.

An artist who has used the hype to his advantage and has made DIY to his design area, is Antonio Scarponi. Scarponi is an architect, designer and the founder of Conceptual Devices. Currently he is, among other things, lecturing at the ZHdK. One project he did is called ELIOOO. ELIOOO is a book in where Scarponi, not designed an object or the like; he designed an utilization of existing objects, with the help of, each and every one of them becomes a designer. On the website of Conceptual Devices ELIOOO is described as follows:

“By following the instructions in this book, you will become the manufacturer of an idea. This book is an instruction manual for a product that only exists if you build it. Here are the instructions. I have designed this device so that you can produce your own food, using some inexpensive IKEA boxes and the directions in this book.”, 18.04.18, 18.04.18

What he does is, help people use the good properties of IKEA items. What brings us back to the term of defamiliarization; one can use IKEA products and assembly them to something that they probably weren’t meant for. This makes the design much more personal for the user, what is for sure an advantage in coherence with domestic environments. In this particular case, it can be discussed whether it is good to support the huge industry of IKEA and its rather capitalist system or not. In my personal opinion not, but the idea behind it is definitely great.