Floor plan templates are out. Flexibility and individuality are the distinguishing features of up-to-date domestic architecture and furnishings. Or is it just that there are new templates? At the very least, it is possible to outline general structures that will determine the layout of our future homes.
It seems as if action is called for – especially when it comes to standard housing.Your own four walls, a house in the countryside: a place to live out your twilight years and something to leave to the kids. But even without a deed of ownership, the “Ikea nesting instinct” (Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club) is more widespread than ever before.
Our identification with our own little world is turning the apartment into a showpiece: “You are where you live.” Design exposes the connoisseur and the bohemian, furnishings – whether country-house style, plush, high-tech or rudimentary “basics” – stand for a life philosophy. For an increasing number of people, the furnished nest is the focal point of their lives, where they can design a stage for private performances or indulge their very private preferences, away from day-to-day working life, unobserved and liberated from dress codes.
Yet again, the Swedish furnishing giant captures the essence of the times with its slogan “Home is the most important place in the world”. Requirements of the home and its furnishings have changed considerably. And the housing market is changing too. But not quickly enough for the modern lifestyle, egged on as it is by designers and brand labels with their creations and loft-like scenographies. They are increasingly showing solutions with James-Bond-style bathrooms and interiors.
Was it the consumers who dictated this line of approach, or the designers who created a new sense of spaciousness? It certainly can’t be dismissed as a marketing trick any more: estate agents and developers are reporting an increasing demand for apartments over 100 m2 in conurbations. But reality cannot always live up to the ideal, for space is in short supply and expensive. In the standard segment, the impression of spaciousness can only be achieved by restructuring the space available. The floor plans that have been used virtually unchanged for decades are increasingly losing validity. Architects have to change the way they think, and not only in relation to individually designed, custom-built houses. What exactly are the new standard requirements of contemporary housing?
The home as habitat
The home is becoming the focal point of life, the natural habitat of humans. It’s no longer just a place to live, it’s where life happens. The living areas that host the communicative side of life that’s accessible to the outside world are increasingly assuming a semi-public character. They are being separated more scrupulously from the “rest” of the home, which is reserved for intimate moments and regeneration.
At the same time, the transitions between the individual rooms of these two living categories are becoming fluid: the kitchen and living room are merging, the bedroom and bathroom are seen as a single unit. And whereas the outdoor area – be it a garden or a patio or just a balcony – is meanwhile regarded as an integral part of the home, spaces with a passageway function – i.e. especially the hallway – or storage role are losing their legitimation.
For space, as already mentioned, is a precious commodity. A box room is a luxury – you’ve got better chances of finding a walk-in wardrobe. And so a possibility for storing the bare essentials will have to be incorporated into every room – a job for the product designers. Anybody that can afford it will then concede a very generous amount of space to their – predominantly solitary – offspring. This conforms to a general trend in the upmarket sector towards fewer but more spacious rooms.
A remodelled apartment will sell much better with one child’s room than with two, provided the space thus saved is used for the master bedroom with adjacent wellness bathroom. And where the well-off allow themselves the luxury of a study, Joe Public has to rely on intelligently designed furniture that provides a spacesaving solution for combining living and working. The broad spectrum of needs includes huge sofas and folding furniture, sliding doors and quick-change artists for people large and small, for rich (and plentiful) single households and microfamilies alike.
Statistics indicate that, on the whole, the average total floor space of an apartment or house is getting bigger all the time. The furniture is getting more voluminous too – which is why, in future, we will need bigger and bigger places to live, even though singles are increasingly determining the housing market. There is also a growing desire for flexibility: who knows whether the patter of tiny feet might echo through the apartment one day after all? The next few years will see the emergence of new housing formats with modified architectural structures. The traditional detached house will have to be adapted to the demand for flexibility.
Traditional family structures are breaking down, marriages are breaking up, partners with older children from previous relationships are moving in together. The patchwork family will find it particularly difficult to find a home that suits its needs amongst conventional housing formats: the supply of manor houses with a varied repertoire of larger communal areas and smaller rooms for work and retreat is, after all, decidedly limited. As society becomes increasingly open-minded towards different life designs, it is crying out for familiar residential architecture to change. The conventional elements of an apartment or house can hardly claim to satisfy the requirements of a modern family or couple.
On top of that, society is making growing demands on the mobility of the individual. The most appropriate response to these social changes would be a modularly organised and openly designed structure. That would permit the existing space within the house to be remodelled and unconventional ideas to be catered for, because individuality will continue to be a form of personal luxury.
Designers, the furniture industry and related sectors such as the bathroom industry have recognised the mood of the times and are offering increasingly flexible systems for all phases of life. But where are the courageous developers, architects and housing associations who are adapting existing and new buildings for the rank and file? When can we all finally live in the future?
27. July 2009
Categories: architecture, Design concepts, Trends
Tags: architects, architecture, balcony, bathroom, bedroom, design, Design concepts, flexible systems, floor plans, furnishings, future homes, garden, habitat, housing market, kitchen, living room, mobility, new buildings, patchwork family, singles, Trends