How will we be living in 2016? For the home Expert Outlook 2016, Canvas8 speaks to Alex Ely, the founder of Mæ and a leading authority on housing design, Mark C. O'Flaherty, design writer and photographer, sociologist Philip N. Cohen and Emma J Page of 25 Beautiful Homes.
Alex Ely is the founder of Mæ, a leading authority on housing and urban design, and the author of the Mayor of London’s Housing Design Guide.
Architecture and housing is incredibly slow to adjust. But there are sectors that are going to change significantly. One is Third Age Housing. We have a chronic problem of under supply. One thing that could help improve that, would be that if those who retired could free up family homes for the younger generation. One reason people are reluctant to downsize is because the housing on offer isn't good enough. There are new housing providers emerging that are very interested in how you can offer smaller housing that would encourage retirees, widows, elderly to downsize and move out.
PegasusLife is looking to offer high-end design to the elderly and the designs will not just be generous in terms of their internal space but also overcome the problems that the elderly suffer with in terms of its inaccessibility and isolation. Third Age Housing will often accommodate things like a shared lounge or spa facilities, so a care worker could visit and offer that support, but then also focus on outdoor space – maybe even allowing residents to cultivate those spaces themselves.
The way we design housing needs to start changing to address how lifestyles have changed
We need to focus on access to local amenities, especially for the elderly. If they're getting to the point where they can no longer drive, then we want to create a good housing offer in mixed use neighbourhoods where they could have a much more wholesome life.
Institutions doing large-scale private rental are also interesting. We've been working with a company called Grainger. It sees renting as a long-term housing offer rather than short term tenancy. As a tenant, you not only have security of tenure, but you also have access to shared facilities. They might have cinema rooms or a concierge that takes in your Amazon deliveries. The way we design housing needs to start changing to address how lifestyles have changed.
Housing needs to step up to meet an ageing population
Andreas Lindmark, Creative Commons (2012) ©
We're going to see a change of housing providers with custom build manufacturers entering the scene. You come along as an individual, you'll buy a plot, choose your house and that might be very different from your neighbours’. So you'll get the eclecticism that historical English villages had. You could get a thatched cottage next to a more contemporary design – it's fun, it's interesting and people have a choice.
It's very common in the Netherlands. We have the lowest uptake of self-building in the UK. In Scandinavia it's very high, too, with around 50% of housing custom built, where individuals will buy plots, commission a home or get a manufacturer. They literally pick up a catalogue and choose their home from it.
A well-designed home will be easier to live in, it will have lower running costs, it will reduce the stress of family life
MyHouse, the custom build home that we're setting up, is about flexibility, choice, great environmental performance, and long term flexibility so that if the homebuyer needs to extend to add extra rooms as their family grows then they can do that. HUF Haus is doing really well. It’s a very beautiful catalogue home that again has a lot of flexibility so that you can configure as you wish. We're trying to achieve something similar with My House but for a more English market.
Design-led housing is still a bit niche, but we’re becoming much more design-savvy. The popularity of Apple and Grand Designs is evidence that people want better design. It's not just a taste thing, it's not just a stylistic thing. A well-designed home will be easier to live in, it will have lower running costs, it will reduce the stress of family life. If you're all packed into a small space with no space to retreat or for privacy, it doesn’t work. Good design make places work better.
Soho Farmhouse may be done to death, but it still appeals to discerning design lovers
Mark C.O’Flaherty is a design writer and photographer. His work in travel, the arts and design has appeared in the Financial Times, Harper’s Bazaar and Architectural Digest.
We’re certainly seeing a move into ornamentation. People want comfort more than they want ‘a look’. But of course, it still has to be beautiful. There’s a lot of attention on lighting design – you can change the whole tone of that living room that you devoted so much time to purely be throwing in some statement lighting.
There’s a major emphasis on the kitchen. People are obsessed with food and cooking. We’re going to see a lot more luxury hardware and functional kit – the most beautiful knife, the most beautiful breadboard, all in performance materials. And the fitted kitchen is going to be taken to a new level. I shot at a home recently with a vast marble, metal and oak island, and an in-built extractor fan rose from its surface at the touch of a button. People will want their homes to reflect the way they eat out. Eating out has taken over from fashion and nightclubs, and the dining experience has changed accordingly. Before, it was the restaurant that was taking its cues from the home.
There’s a lot of attention on lighting design – you can change the whole tone of that living room that you devoted so much time to purely be throwing in some statement lighting
French designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec are amazing – I particularly love the way they create modular pieces to redefine a space. You can have one room, and use their Clouds to create all kinds of different shapes and spaces within that one space. What Soho House has done with Soho Home is really interesting, as well. But perhaps they’ve done it too late – everyone has ripped them off already and everything looks the same now. Soho Farmhouse is something that’s been workshopped to death, but it totally works – it’s CenterParcs for the London Fields crowd. The rough textures of the wood and the overstuffed furniture are very modern.
We’re going to get more bohemian, more eclectic – comfortable, antique, timeless, globe-trotting. People are getting braver with pattern. In terms of really out-there ornamentation, Yasemen Hussein’s sculpture is stunning. She produced the most amazing curled feathers for the Four Seasons in Tokyo and she’s working on some great interiors projects.
Good lighting can change the whole mood of a room
Im Gegenteil (2015) ©
Philip N. Cohen is a sociologist and demographer at the University of Maryland. He’s also the author of The Family: Diversity, inequality and social change.
There’s an increase in family plasticity. In the US especially, there’s a big increase in re-marriage, marriage later in life after people already have children, with one or both partners having children from a previous relationship. Cohabitation has been increasing for a few decades, with couples living together after one and both of them have been married or divorced, or have children with somebody else. These things create a dynamic where the rules are unclear and people have to negotiate their own family boundaries and relationships.
We’ve also seen a lot of people having children and getting married later in life. But it's not just that people do them at later ages, it's that the ages at which people do these things are spreading out. Everybody used to get married at 22, but now it's spread out – some people get married at 22, while some get married at 52.
Changing family dynamics mean the rules are unclear in terms of the way people negotiate family boundaries and relationships
The major life markers – completing education, having children, living together, marrying – as the periods of time get elongated, these things are more interwoven, instead of sequenced rigidly. Where there used to be firm expectations for how you ordered your life in terms of these events, now the order of those things is more flexible. All that plays into the same theme of uncertainty and people feeling like there are no rules to tell them exactly how they should do things.
There's also uncertainty around family obligations. It used to be that adult children supported their older parents; maybe they inherited the family home, but they were in the support role with their elderly parents. Now, the relationship is more complex than that because there are more young adults who have had trouble establishing themselves, their careers and their families, so they’re still dependent on their parents.
The fitted kitchen is going to be taken to a new level
Philips Communications, Creative Commons (2014) ©
We have more choices and we have more freedom in how we organise and live our family lives. Same-sex marriage is the latest formal recognition of that. But it's been coming with divorce, with remarriage, adoption. The downside is that we’re more at sea when it comes to making those decisions and people really need to justify their decisions with regards to family life. In the US in the 50s, we basically had universal marriage – over 90% of people were married before 25, so you didn't have to justify why you were doing what you were doing. Now we do.
That's why we see so much attention on celebrities’ and leaders’ personal lives – because people want to hold them up and say, ‘I'm like that person’. They need anchor points to reference their own decisions. So people might say, ‘I'm thinking of adoption and look, Angelina Jolie did it, I like her.’ Celebrities give us role models to choose from. It's harder to be a conformist but people need something to define their behaviour, positively or negatively.
We have more freedom in how we organise our family lives, which means people feel the need to justify their decisions. In the '50s, 90% of Americans were married before 25, so you didn't have to justify what you were doing
Parents are increasingly worried about how their kids are going to do in an equal world. We saw this with the scandal that came out with Baby Einstein. It had a product that seemed to be a no-brainer; 'wow this is great for infants, they're going to turn out to be smart if they watch these little videos’. It turns out there was no science behind it. People were so mad, because they just want to do the right thing. From breastfeeding to limiting screen time, parents are worried about how their kids are going to turn out.
There's big controversy over the gendering of toys, too. It was interesting that Target said it wasn’t going to have separate aisles for boys and girls. I think that's very healthy. Children have an inclination to rock the boat, but as soon as it appears that they're going to be penalised, it can be harsh. So it's a very positive thing when they have more choices and variety. Particularly for boys. That's why it's been harder for men to become secretaries, even as women's roles have changed. Because men have higher status, the penalties for gender non-conformity are more harsh, especially for adolescent boys.
Whether breastfeeding or education apps, parents want the best for their kids
Stephen Topp, Creative Commons (2013) ©
Emma J Page is commissioning editor at 25 Beautiful Homes and also writes for Homes & Gardens, The World of Interiors, House & Garden and The Times Magazine
Interiors have continued to be about provenance; the handmade, the bespoke, the unusual. It’s all about modern comfort – mixing sleek, unfussy lines with more opulent pieces like a statement chandelier, a bold print or a luxurious rug – but all offset by natural materials such as wide oak plank floors, rustic, unfinished tables and one-off furniture pieces. It’s about warmth, too, with plenty of coppers, burnished brass and vintage gold.
There’s a strong online-only presence, as brands like made.com become more popular. Online shopping brands including Cox & Cox, re-foundobjects.com, Rockett St George and Not on the High Street continue to attract custom, too. They share a common thread of commitment to reviving and re-imagining vintage pieces, unearthing the individual and unusual, and championing small designer and makers. Of course Etsy is another case in point, giving makers a direct platform to the public. This all feeds into our desire to buy unusual or pre-loved pieces that can lend a sense of uniqueness in our homes.
Intelligent open-plan living focuses on proper integration, where space isn’t compromised and there’s enough room for successful zoning so that the scheme still has room to breathe
The desire for intelligent, open-plan living continues, especially in family homes, where living and dining spaces are the social hub. Open-plan living, when done well, works brilliantly both for families and sole occupiers or couples. But the key lies in proper delineation of space and the incorporation of plenty of storage.
A kitchen area carved out of a living space in a rudimentary manner can result in a soulless, impractical scheme, especially in a small apartment. Intelligent open-plan living focuses instead on proper integration, where space isn’t compromised and there’s enough room for successful zoning so that the scheme still has room to breathe. Think large windows, storage integration, proper extraction appliances and zoning with the use of rugs, lighting, half-height shelving and multi-functional furniture.
When it comes to stylish interiors, nothing beats a bold print
House of Hackney (2015) ©
Improving rather than moving continues to be a theme, so homeowners are willing to spend more money updating or changing layouts to suit their needs. Home is a sanctuary from a fast-paced world.
But at the same time, people are travelling more than ever, and global travels continue to influence our interiors in 2016; from tribal patterns to geometric prints. Boldness is key in 2016, with bigger and bolder prints and patterns set to be centre stage, including jungle print, painterly pattern, and ethnic prints.
Homeowners are willing to spend more money updating or changing layouts to suit their needs. Home is a sanctuary from a fast-paced world
Home in 2016 will be about comfort, not size – especially as homeowners become more attuned to provenance and materials. People want to know how and where furniture and accessories are made, and are more willing to pay more for well-made pieces that will stand the test of time. Homeowners are also becoming more confident about mixing high-end with high street in the home, just as they are in the wardrobe, with the result that designer or artisanal pieces are sitting comfortably with a favourite chair or table from IKEA.
Attitudes are becoming less homogenous, with focus shifting to the individual – homes are becoming more personal with favoured artwork or treasured collections creating a distinctive note. It’s the artisanal brands that are making a name for themselves, from designers and makers like Sebastian Cox – who crafts unique furniture from sustainable wood sourced in Kent and Sussex – to Gareth Neal, an experimental furniture maker.
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