Category Archives: Environmental

Key Surface Design Trends Spotted at Surface Design 2019


This year’s Surface Design Show took place at London’s Business Design Centre from 5th – 7th February and was the destination for architects and designers keeping up with all the new surface-related innovations. Over 150 companies participated this year and the displays did not disappoint – Trend-Monitor was there to spot the key trends.

Surface Trend No.1: Acoustics

One of the important themes of the show was noise reduction in an open-plan setting. There were a number of companies exhibiting solutions, and while the applications may have been focused on the commercial sector, the consumer’s ongoing love of open-plan living is bringing it closer to residential settings too.

Print Acoustics was displaying its acoustic panels and doors that have been developed to absorb sound, particularly the human voice. Made from water-resistant MDF, the panels can be made to measure, and are shock and scratch-proof. The grooves and holes in the panels give each its own acoustic value, and distinctive look.

Friends of Wilson was exhibiting its range of acoustic wall panels and screens. The Tesselate wall panel made from part-recycled fibre resembles a work of art, and works by scattering sound waves in different directions.

The company’s room dividers can be used to create a broken-plan setting, reducing noise and encouraging areas of privacy.

The studio of Finnish artist Anne Kyyrö Quinn was exhibiting its sculptural creations made from cut, sewn and hand-finished fabrics. Inspired by organic shapes, the three-dimensional felt designs are ISO-classified as Class D absorbers with a high-frequency efficiency rating, while the acoustic panels are ISO-classified as Class A absorbers.

Surface Trend No.2: Back to Nature

Natural products were out in force. Innerspace Cheshire was showing its NatureMoss wall covering, made from real moss, but treated to preserve it so it has the look of a living wall but without the maintenance issues. The company’s bark panels have sound-absorbing qualities and are made from cork, birch or poplar and sourced from responsibly managed forests.

Freund also had sound-absorbing wall art made from moss and bark on its stand. Its Evergreen moss panels are soft to touch, and do not require light, water or fertiliser. They were displayed alongside bark products, such as the natural cork tree bark.

Austrian manufacturers, Organoid Technologies were displaying their surfaces made of natural raw materials such as hay, flower petals and leaves. These are applied, partly by hand, on various carrier boards – HPL high pressure laminates, self-adhesive films, fleeces, textiles, etc. Thanks to a gentle production process, the natural features of scent, colour and feel are preserved.

Finium was exhibiting its decorative wall panels in real wood, focusing on juxtaposing rich tone and rough texture for maximum effect. The company uses raw timber from sustainably managed North American forests, and says that the varnishes and oils that it uses are continuously recycled and reused throughout the production cycle, while no part of the tree is wasted.

Surface Trend No.3: Sustainability

Sustainability was a theme that ran throughout the show. One brand, keen to get the message across, was Alusid with its SilicaStone surface – a sustainable alternative to natural stone, traditional ceramic or modern, polymer-based surfaces. SilicaStone is a versatile material made from glass, ceramics and mineral waste. Through the process of sintering – binding the materials together by applying heat and pressure – low-value waste materials and by-products are transformed into surfaces that can be used for a number of design applications. It can be cut, ground, polished and glazed like traditional granite. Made without resin, it is UV-stable and naturally fire resistant.

PHEE-board is a bio-composite decorative flat panel (veneer) make by recycling the dead leaves of the seagrass Posidonia Oceanica, which wash up annually on Mediterranean coastlines. By combining with biological resins, the leaves are made into boards for different different commercial uses such as furniture, flooring and interior design applications

Trend No.4: Next Generation MDF

Also spotted at the show were companies taking MDF to the next stage. Valchromat, distributed by James Latham, is a wood fibre panel which is coloured throughout using organic dyes to impregnate all the fibres individually. It is moisture resistant, and has greater resistance to bending and higher mechanical strength when compared to standard coloured MDF. It comes in 10 colours and five thicknesses.

Similar product Forescolor, distributed by International Decorative Surfaces, is made exclusively of pine wood, and comes in nine colours and three thicknesses. Specifically developed to overcome the limitations of normal MDF board, Forescolor is made without using formaldehyde resin and has high moisture resistance making it suitable for bathroom and kitchen applications


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The Cabin Spacey Minimal House


Is the Cabin Spacey ‘minimal house’ what the home of the future looks like?

When they decided to think about making a prototype to meet the demands of how people will live in the future, architects Simon Becker and Andreas Rauch set about addressing some of the restrictions of traditional living today.

The configuration of most apartments comprises two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom, and has changed very little for generations. The team wanted to come up with something more flexible that addressed the changing needs of the ‘modern metropolitan’.

Equally, as urbanisation continues and space becomes an increasingly sought-after commodity, they needed the cabin to be compact.

The smallest unit measures just over 25sq metres and can comfortably accommodate two people. The king-sized bed overlooks the living area, and features storage space and a USB docking station.

The bathroom is equipped with Grohe products, and the kitchen is kitted out with a hob, steaming hot tap, fridge, washing machine, and coffee machine, with many of the products by Bosch.

The multi-functional lounge area has a window seat that doubles as a guest bed, as well as a dining table. There is an array of smart tech that enhances home comfort and efficiency, including a smart mirror, intelligent heating control, Sonos sound system, Phillips Hue lighting system, Amazon Echo and smart lock.

One of the main advantages of the ‘minimal house’ is that it is completely sustainable, with a solid wooden structure made from renewable raw materials.

A large solar battery, integrated into the innovation’s sandwich floor and with panels on the roof to collect energy from the sun, provides power so even though the Cabin Spacey is connected to the energy network, it produces energy itself.

When coming up with Cabin Spacey, Becker and Rauch decided that today’s ‘urban nomads’ require a home that is above all easy to transport and to install.

“An increasing demand for mobility is shaping new forms and habits of accommodation,” says Becker. “Our overall goal from the beginning was to lower the access barriers to appropriate living space in exceptional locations.”

The beauty of Cabin Spacey is that it can be hooked up to existing utilities and infrastructures, so in theory is able to be set down just as easily in a car park, as it is in a garden or on a stretch of urban wasteland, or on an unused roof.

According to the company, Berlin alone has space for 55,000 apartments on unused rooftops that are unsuitable for development, but where Cabin Spacey might work perfectly.

Cabin Spacey was not a pop-up idea. It’s a combined answer to several paradigm shifts, newly arisen needs and behaviour changes in living and travelling – Simon Becker, CEO and founder of Cabin Spacey @cabinspacey #tinyhousemovement Click To Tweet

Officially launched last June, the result is an environmentally friendly, intelligent space, that meets the occupants’ needs, while offering all-round flexibility for contemporary living.

Source: Cabin Spacey

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Ikea and the Circular Economy


The news that Ikea is to start renting out office furniture such as desks and chairs, starting in Switzerland, comes as no surprise. The company launched its People & Planet Positive strategy in June 2018, making a global commitment to removing all single-use plastic products in their range by 2020.

Alongside that, it promised to ‘inspire and enable people to live more sustainably’, designing its products with new circular principles using renewable and recycled materials only.

“By 2030, our ambition is to be a circular business built on clean, renewable energy and regenerative resources, decoupling material use from our growth,” the company said.

Ikea was founded in 1943 by the late Ingvar Kamprad when he was just 17 and has evolved into a global giant with more that 420 stores.

The move to lease furniture is a significant one for a business, now said to be the largest furniture retailer in the world, and while it’s beginning with office furniture, the next step is said to be to rent out kitchens.

Talking to the Financial Times, Torbjorn Lööf, the chief executive of parent company Inter Ikea, said:

“You could say leasing is another way of financing a kitchen. When this circular model is up and running, we have a much bigger interest in not just selling a product but seeing what happens with it and that the consumer takes care of it.”

For Ikea, a circular business model whereby the company designs products that can be repaired, reused, recycled or resold is the goal, and this complementary leasing model forms part of the ultimate aim.

It already offers a simple five-step process on its website that enables consumers to have used Ikea products valued with a view to resale, and it also has facilities that allow shoppers to return items that have been damaged in transit so they can be repaired and donated to charity rather than wasted.

Speaking to Trend-Monitor, futurist Will Higham explained why buying and possessing items has become less relevant to Generation Rent.

“The sense of the importance of ownership itself is starting to ease away,” he said. “This is a generation that grew up with constantly upgrading their mobile phone, and now you can rent things, download things, subscribe to them – I can access a car but I don’t need to own one. So when it comes to our homes, are we going to go back to this idea of renting our furniture and TVs, and are manufacturers and retailers going to offer us opportunities to rent and upgrade things?”

With sustainability Ikea’s top priority, this would appear to be the case, and it remains focused on delivering on its promise.

On 7th February it opened Ikea Greenwich, which it says is its most sustainable store yet, designed with Londoners and the environment in mind, and complete with greywater recycling, rainwater treatment and solar panels.


The message is clear: the retail landscape is rapidly changing and Ikea is staying one step ahead of developing trends to keep giving its customers what they want.

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Mimica Touch Freshness Indicator


The average UK household loses an estimated £470 a year because of avoidable food waste, and 34% of this household waste is due to the food going past it’s ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date, when in reality the discarded food is still edible.

If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, after China and the US.  In the UK, 60% of all wasted food is perfectly edible.  The reason for this is cautious expiry dates which are kept short by the food industry to be on the safe side.

With this in mind, the Mimica Touch is being developed.  Spotted at 100% Design this year, this freshness indicator degrades at the same rate as the food it carries, meaning generic expiry date labels can be replaced with packet-specific labels, thereby helping to prevent the premature rejection of food and drink.

Mimica Touch is a patented tactile label that tells you exactly when food spoils, accurate to a few hours.  The label is activated as soon as it is attached to the packaging and contains a gel that is calibrated to spoil at the exact same rate as the target food.  The gel is made from waste materials from the food industry, meaning that it is actually experiencing decay, adjusting to conditions along the way and is accurate to one hour.





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Love food hate waste


Approximately 7.3 million tons of food was wasted in the UK in 2015, which equates to £13 billion in monetary terms.

This isn’t new, we’ve been throwing away food for years, but most consumers have been unaware of the amount of food that they have wasted.

Until now ….. in July 2016 an official House of Commons food waste enquiry was launched and this has estimated that the average UK household lost £470 a year because of avoidable food waste.

The household is where the highest percentage of food waste takes place. Households in economically developed countries are responsible for about 38% to 47% of their country’s food waste. According to research from WRAP, a UK-based Waste & Resources Action Program there are 10 main reasons for food waste at home.



As a result, the big food producers like Heinz and Bird’s Eye have reacted by developing packaging that allows food to be kept fresh for longer.

And the major supermarket retailers are all updating their shelf-life guidelines and storage information, as well as relaxing their quality standards so that ‘wonky vegetables’ are allowed in their stores,

The message out there is not only is this food waste causing huge environment problems with the account of landfill its using, it’s also hitting consumers where it hurts; in the pocket.

And this in turn is creating a culture change in how we respond to food waste which has impacted on our grocery shopping habits.  The 2017 Waitrose Food and Drink Report says that consumers now treat supermarkets like walk-in fridges with two-thirds of Britons nipping to a supermarket more than once a day, and one in 10 people decide what to buy for an evening meal just before they eat it – often stopping to shop for it on the way home from work.

Longer opening hours and more convenience stores combined with a drive among shoppers to waste less and stop themselves “over-buying” has led to a new trend that Waitrose is calling “as and when shopping”.

Waitrose said the changes in the way we shop and eat are bringing some unexpected changes – like the trolley downsizing – just a few years ago, an average Waitrose would open with around 200 big trolleys and 150 shallow ‘daily shopper’ trolleys lined up outside. These days the tables have turned, with 250 shallow ‘daily shoppers’ and just 70 big trolleys needed.”


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What will the UK’s homes look like in 5, 10 and 20 years’ time?


With the government pledging to build 300,000 new homes a year AXA Insurance has asked the public what they think homes will look like in 5, 10 and 20 years’ time.

Key Findings

  • Homes are becoming increasingly multi-purpose, with a quarter of people now viewing them as places of work as well as leisure;
  • Technology will ramp up in 5 years’ time, with 26 per cent believing all homes will include smart technology;
  • Sustainability is the name of the game in 10 years’ time, as 20 per cent expect houses to have access to driver-less vehicles and be made of sustainable materials

Homes of Today – A mishmash of work and leisure

Twenty years ago most people thought of their homes as a place they go at the end of the day to unwind and catch up with their families, however today a quarter of people use them as places of work as well as leisure. Thirty-six per cent of people feel that there are more people working from home today compared to ten years ago, while 64 per cent think that even more people will be working from home in the future.

However, even though there are now more people working from home than ever before, only a few of us have dedicated spaces to do this work in. Only a third (29 per cent) of people work in a dedicated office at home, while another third (32 per cent) work in their living rooms and 15 per cent in their bedrooms. Most people work on their laptops (69 per cent), while less than half have a dedicated desk, office chair or monitor!

Homes in 5 years’ time – Technology becomes more widespread

We often forget how quickly technology can become commonplace, however considering the fact that the iPhone came out less than 11 years ago, it’s not surprising that over a quarter (26 per cent) of respondents believe the UK’s homes will include technology such as Hive and Alexa in the next five years.

What’s more, 27 per cent believe there will be smart screens (e.g. TV screens you can use to call people etc.) throughout their homes in the next 10 years, while 25 per cent think people will have the ability to charge electric cars at home instead of having to go to charging points.

Homes in 10 years’ time – The Sustainability Era

Conversations surrounding sustainability are becoming increasingly prevalent as the world envisions the type of environment they want to live in in the future. Concerns over sustainability appear in respondents’ hopes for homes in 10 years’ time, with almost 20 per cent thinking they will be made mostly of sustainable materials (e.g. solar panels, flood resistant technology etc.) and will also be better equipped to withstand environmental factors such as storms, rain and wind.

Meanwhile, one in five believe homes will have access to driverless cars in the next 10 years – just 5 years after having the ability to charge electric cars at home. There is a good reason why sustainability is so important in the future: a quarter of people (24 per cent) think the UK’s electricity network as it currently stands would struggle to keep up with demand in 10 years’ time.

Homes in 20 years’ time and beyond

Along with determining what homes will look like in 5, 10 and 20 years’ time, there were some general observations from respondents regarding on-going trends that we are seeing today and expect to carry on in the future. At the moment, only 20 per cent of people think homes have the ability to change rooms depending on their purpose (work, leisure, relaxing etc.), however 43 per cent think they will have this ability within the next 20 years.

Throughout the decades AXA has seen a number of changes in the way people live their lives and the homes they reside in. Today more than ever, people are starting to use their homes for multiple purposes and are relying more heavily on new technology, and this is set to continue. In the next five, ten and twenty years we expect homes to change once again, but into what is a conversation we all need to have.” Gareth Howell, Managing Director, AXA Insurance

Other predictions include:

  • Nineteen per cent of people think UK homes already have more people living in them; this increases to 38 per cent within 20 years’ time.
  • Twenty-three per cent of people think UK homes already house multi-generational families; this increases to 35 per cent within 20 years’ time.
  • Twenty-five per cent of people think UK homes are already smaller in size in general; this increases to 31 per cent within 20 years’ time. A quarter of people also think homes will never become larger in size again.


Source:  AXA insurance


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Wellness and the Home

Over the last few years, Wellness has become a word many have heard all too much. It is something we see on social media, on the news, and in magazines, and is now a word hard to escape from.

With various industries across the spectrum capitalising on it, a look into what Wellness really is, and what it can do for us, is long overdue. Holiday companies are selling out of mindfulness and yoga retreats, health-food accounts on Instagram are monopolising the web, and spa treatments are more popular than ever.

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The Latest Outdoor Living Trends from Glee 2017

Glee 2017

Trend-Monitor visited the Retail Lab @ Glee this month to find out about the latest outdoor living trends.

Glee is the UK’s garden and outdoor living trade show, showcasing brands, new products and garden retail insights.

Based at the Birmingham NEC and spread across 8 different show sectors; landscaping and garden decoration, garden care, outdoor entertaining, plants, pet products, home, gift and clothing, retailer experiences and services, food and catering, the exhibition attracts over 550 exhibitors and over 7,000 visitors and buyers.

The focal point of the 2017 show was the Retail Lab @ Glee, built in collaboration with the Horticultural Trades Association (the HTA).  Designed as a future-facing, interactive hub of inspiration, the display provided visiting retailers with the latest trend information and a long-term vision for their retail environments.

The Retail Lab focused on four key themes:-

#1. Rewilding

Glee 2017 Rewilding

Working with nature to create unique shopping environments.

85% of people live in an urban environment and this number is growing

However there is a latent attraction to wildlife and as the urban environment becomes greener there is a different market emerging. One where space is limited and gardens are not conventional. There is an opportunity to capture this market by providing inspiration, a can do philosophy and by providing knowledge on the benefit of growing in small areas.

#2. Community

Glee 2017 Community

Bringing people together through gardening projects

With the increasing urban population, community gardening, shared gardens and public spaces are becoming the new meeting places and the centre of community life. Garden centres can harness this trend and help people enjoy the ‘working together’ experience.


#3. Well-being

Glee 2017 Wellbeing

Creating outdoor retreats to regain balance

There is a growing understanding of the importance that outdoor activities play in our psychological and physiological well-being. The benefits of healthy eating, exercise and mental de-stressing (mindfulness) are well know.

However there is a growing understanding of the positive aspect plants can play in our lives as well. Smell, sound,air circulation and re charging all help us study and perform better.

#4. Family

Glee 2017 Family

Combining quality together time with skill development

Gardens are no longer places to work in and look at. They now form part of everyday living. Patios, play areas, outdoor seating, entertaining in the garden all form part of our everyday lives.

Gardens need to be user friendly for the whole family, accommodating the needs of children, pets as well as adults.


Source:  Glee Birmingham 2017 


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Building Places That Work for Everyone

Building places that work for everyong

This report by the UK Green Building Council gives an insights into key Government priorities for the built environment and how the construction industry can address the challenges these priorities raise.

Under Theresa May’s leadership, the current Conservative Government has set out its vision of a country, an economy and a society that works for everyone. Achieving this vision requires the Government to address some of the fundamental challenges facing British people today.

  • The urgent need to build new homes and thriving communities
  • To reduce energy bills for those that are just about managing
  • Improved health and wellbeing to reduce the burden on the NHS
  • For jobs to be created, skills to be developed, and productivity to be boosted in a post-Brexit Britain

The UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) and its multitude of diverse and progressive member businesses believe that the built environment is fundamental to addressing these challenges, indicating that building places that work for everyone can and will support the Government’s policy priorities.

Download the report here



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The Changing Consumer podcast from the KBB Conference

Changing Consumer podcast

At the kbbreview Retail and Design Conference 2016 Trend-Monitor’s Research Director, Jane Blakeborough, took part in a panel discussion about the Changing Consumer.

A podcast of this discussion is now available.

Alongside Graham Jones, Sales and Marketing Director of Mereway Kitchens,  and Tina Riley, Managing Director of retailer Modern Homes, Jane identified some key consumer trends which are influencing the way consumers purchase new bathrooms, discussing research prior to purchase, individualism, bargain hunting, environmental issues and much more.

Click on the image below to listen to this session via Youtube or follow this link


Note:  J M Blake Associates is now part of Trend-Monitor Ltd


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