IKEA Home Tour Squad to the rescue

Maureen Feighan, The Detroit News

They swoop in like superheros, banishing clutter and fixing one disorganized room at a time.

Their mission: make a dysfunctional space in one family’s home functional again. Create storage solutions. Exterminate messes (or at least hide them).

Meet the IKEA Home Tour Squad. Stopping in seven markets across the country this year, the five-person squad visited Metro Detroit this spring, working magic on not one, but two, homes.

They converted Judy and Bob Curry’s cluttered home office in Allen Park into a multifunctional guest room and art studio. And they transformed what was once Tiphany and Jonathan Walker’s cramped living room in Ferndale into an inviting, open space with ample storage and seating for guests.

“It was a fantastic experience,” Walker said. “... I wish everyone could have the home squad come.”

The home squad’s goal, says designer Robin Bach, isn’t just to transform one family’s home. They film all of their makeovers and post them online — their videos, available at, have racked up nearly 24 million views so far — so they can help homeowners across the country facing similar challenges.

“Since we can’t go into every person’s home” filming allows the crew to offer ideas that everyone can “bring that into their own home,” says Bach.

Budgets vary from project, depending on the size of the space; IKEA foots the bill for new furniture. Homeowners, who were selected from hundreds who applied for a makeover, pay for new paint or flooring.

And while they’ve tackled a wide range of projects, from entryways to offices, the squad’s advice for creating a functional room really applies to anyone and nearly any space.

“There are so many people that are struggling with the organizational aspect of their homes,” said home tour squad member Rocky Brewer. “Really truly evaluate what you’re using the most and keep it close by. And if you haven’t used something in a year, put in a box or consider getting rid of it.”

A dumping ground

When Judy and Bob Curry’s last child moved of their Allen Park house several years ago, they decided to convert her 135-square-foot bedroom into an office. Judy, a painter, also wanted to use the space as an art studio. And when their grandkids spent the night, it was also a guest bedroom.

Before long, though, it morphed into what so many spare bedrooms do: a dumping ground.

“I wanted to change it for a long time,” said Judy, a retired secretary. “It needed two or three functions and it just stymied me.”

When the home tour squad arrived at the Currys’ 1952 ranch this spring, Bach, the designer, says the first thing they did was really talk to Bob and Judy about the space and how they wanted it to function. They needed to create a room that could serve multiple purposes: guest room, office and art studio.

Bach gave each wall its own function. Against one wall the squad placed IKEA’s Holmsund sofa bed to create seating in the room; it’s also a space for grandkids to sleep instead of on bed rolls on the floor.

For Judy’s art studio, they installed a customized storage unit for art supplies on another wall and brought in the Stensorp cart for more supplies.

Now, “she can roll it to where she needs it and even to the backyard” to paint, Bach said.

And if Judy wants to do craft projects with her grandkids, the squad installed a special table that flips up or down so it’s not in the way when it isn’t being used.

“Everybody has to live a little smaller. It’s how you have to tackle that in their home,” says Bach. “... One thing we see is people don’t use the wall space to their fullest potential — picture rails aren’t just for pictures — you can put small jars or rolled up ties. We also use a lot of rail systems.”

“And go tall with your bookcases,” Bach recommends. “You’d think that would be overwhelming, but it makes the room feel so much taller and doesn’t clutter up the floor.”

Judy is thrilled with the results. She now has a space to do crafts with her grandkids and create her own artwork. But it still feels like their home.

“I felt like they listened to me,” says Judy. “We’re in our 60s, so we’re not looking to be on trend ... When my daughter who lives out of state saw the room — I sent her pictures — she said ‘The room is beautiful and it looks like it belongs in your house.’”

Ferndale living room

Tiphany and Jonathan Walker got married a year ago and are now expecting their first child. But when Jonathan moved into Tiphany’s home in Ferndale, they struggled with how to merge their styles. They needed a new sofa, but couldn’t find one they both liked.

“My husband and I just couldn’t agree on what would be the best,” said Tiphany. “So we just refused to do anything.”

Their small house also wasn’t the best for entertaining. Sofa space was limited in the living room and they didn’t really have room for guests.

So when the home tour squad arrived at the couple’s home this spring, they knew maximizing space was a must. The team also acted as a mediator of sorts, helping them finally find a sofa, the Friheten sofa bed, that Jonathan’s daughter can use on weekends when she visits.

To maximize the small 156-square-foot space, designer Stephanie Recupero selected a more narrow coffee table and nesting tables that can be used during entertaining.

The team also got rid of the old buffet the couple was using as a TV stand and installed IKEA’s Besta modular cabinet system on two walls for storage.

Hiding clutter isn’t just good for the eye, says home squad member Brewer. It also cuts down on cleaning.

“When you have doors, it prevents you from having to dust,” says Brewer. “... (and) it does help you create an aesthetic too. The (Vesta) doors are a pattern with a statement.”

The squad also added stools that tuck under the Besta system and can be pulled out when they have company.

Tiphany loves her new space. She says the sofa bed will be perfect when her mom comes to visit and help out after the baby arrives. And she loves the extra lighting.

“I never would’ve thought of the things that they did,” says Tiphany.

Within hours of seeing their new space, Tiphany and Jonathan did something they haven’t done in a year: they invited friends over.

“We had nine people comfortably in that room and before I wouldn’t have attempted more than 4,” says Tiphany. “... We had a little party. It was perfect. We literally were dancing in that room.”

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Home Tour Squad tips

Go vertical: “People don’t use the wall space to their fullest potential,” says IKEA designer Robin Bach. “Picture rails aren’t just for pictures.”

Use tall bookcases: For a small room, “it makes the room feel so much taller and doesn’t clutter up the floor,” says Bach.

Talk, talk, talk: If you and your spouse can’t agree on a style, talk it out. “Talk about colors,” says squad member Rocky Brewer. “Agree on color. Set a basic palette for yourself.”

Function first: “When you solve all of your functional needs. the space will feel good to you,” says Brewer.

Downsize: “The thing we discover the most when we clear out stuff is people don’t realize there’s so much stuff they’re holding on to,” says Brewer. “... Downsize to the things you use the most. And use the right kind of storage solutions.”