The IKEA showroom represents the ideal homogenized living space. Perfectly organised, cleverly designed and packed full of smart little lifestyle hacks. We wander around in droves, mentally assembling the identi-kit furniture, how it would fit into our living spaces, how it could improve our homes. If you bought this rug, this lamp, and this shelving unit, your life could be just perfect.

But in IKEA’s flagship store in Slependen last month, a different display made its way amongst the usual aspirational scenes of domesticity. Instead of the typical bright, and colourful modern spaces, a 25-square-meter space was set up in an exact replica of a real Syrian home; a home where Rana and her family of 9 live just outside Damascus.

IKEA visitors were able to explore the showroom, taking in the cramped conditions, and imagining what it would be like to live within the bleak cinder block walls. Plush sofas were replaced with a handful of dirty, scattered rugs and instead of IKEA’s typically colourful printed bedding, makeshift sponge mats were draped in old blankets.

The iconic IKEA labels told Rana’s story so visitors could learn bit-by-bit what day-to-day life in Syria is like for all too many families. But not only did the tags tell the story of real people caught in the crossfire of Syrian civil war, most importantly on every tag there were details letting visitors know how you could help and donate.

The project was a collaboration with Norwegian Red Cross and IKEA, created by Oslo agency Pol and ran during October 17th – 31st. The project was designed to make people aware of the realities of the situation with details that perhaps might not appear on our TV screens and social media feeds.

“IKEA is a place for planning your future, but what if the future you’d pictured was taken away from you?”

“We had been working with the Red Cross for months, so we had a lot of footage from Syria,” said Pol. “But no matter how emotional it was, nothing got close to the experience of visiting people in a war zone.”

The project physically put people in a situation where they were forced to imagine what life would be like if they’d been born elsewhere, and to imagine how different things would be if the war was happening to them. One minute IKEA shoppers were searching for the dream kitchen, the next they found themselves in a dark and dingy alternative. As the campaign film puts it “IKEA is a place for planning your future, but what if the future you’d pictured was taken away from you?”

A clever and immersive project that not only puts people into a Syrian family’s home but also into their shoes, this stunt offers a simple yet powerful call-to-action and a cry for help. The visceral nature of “25m² Syria” is sure to drum up a lot of interest on social media, hopefully reaching a wider audience of people outside of Norway and galvanising the masses into action.

25m² Syria served as a powerful reminder of how lucky we are just how easily circumstances could change for the worse, but most of all, work like this hopes to wake people up to the dreadful reality of a situation that simply cannot afford to go on unnoticed any longer.

Campaign: 25m² syria

Brand: Ikea

Agency: POL, Oslo