Home appliance giant Siemens spoke to our research director Jane Blakeborough about how the events of last year are shaping the way our households are looking in 2021 and beyond.
Here’s what they talked about …
S: What changes are we seeing to households in 2021?
JB: Last year has been one of re-evaluation in lots of ways, and one of the major changes going forward is how families and households live together.
On the one hand, there’s the ‘boomerang generation’ of young adults between 25 and 35 who are going back to live with their parents because they can’t afford to get on the property ladder or are putting off having a family.
Then on the other hand, many people are thinking ‘do we actually want to put our older relatives in a care home at the moment?’.Last year has been one of re-evaluation in lots of ways, and one of the major changes going forward is how families and households live together. #consumerinsight #kbb Click To Tweet
As such, we’ve already started reviewing our homes and making them more flexible, to accommodate these family members.
And I think this will continue, because last year has taught people that they don’t want to be separated from their families. Our homes will therefore be forced to be more flexible.
S: So how will the ‘flexible’ home look different?
JB: One very important room in the flexible home is the bathroom. But the key challenge is to bring a feel of design to the room while still accommodating an elderly person with mobility issues.
No one feels good about using a bathroom with plastic grab handles – most particularly members of the older generation who don’t want to be made to feel old.
Ageless design is becoming more and more important, therefore, with design-led bars and rails, for example, that make the bathroom futureproof but still stylish for everyone living there.
Another challenge with this multigenerational household is how we create privacy if you have endless people waiting to use the bathroom. T
his is seeing houses being reconfigured to include more downstairs bathrooms – so not just cloakrooms, but bathrooms that have a wetroom or easily accessible shower – and bathrooms fitted into smaller spaces. This has been a trend for a while, but I think that it is really accelerating now.
S: What about in other rooms of the house?
JB: More people trying to use the same space has really highlighted that noise can be an issue.
It’s surprising how loud a kettle can be when someone is trying to take part in a video call in the same room! Not to mention washing machines and tumble dryers.Design Trend: Improved acoustics. Why? Because it's surprising how loud a kettle can be when someone is trying to take part in a video call in the same room #consumerinsight #kbb Click To Tweet
As such, the acoustics within a home will be a key area that people will start to focus on.
This could mean making a utility room a priority or simply moving back to having carpet in a room instead of floorboards or hard flooring.
Curtains and wall coverings also absorb sound – and this is something we can learn from commercial spaces where acoustics are very important and wall coverings are often used.
S: How much of a role will smart technology have to play?
JB: Smart technology will play a big role. It analyses how you use your heating, lighting and security, and then adapts to be in sync with how the home is used.
This is particularly useful if you have different members of the household all on different timescales. It makes your life easier and allows your home to be flexible without you thinking about it.
However, one of the sticking points with adoption of smart appliances has always been security.We have become far more comfortable than we've ever been with technology in the home which will spill over into acceptance of the smart home #consumerinsight #kbb Click To Tweet
What’s changed with the events of 2020 is that we’ve been forced to use technology – to have virtual meetings and set up our home offices.
So, we are actually far more comfortable than we’ve ever been with technology in the home.
Therefore, I think that will spill over into acceptance of the smart home – people will have more confidence in their understanding of it and feel safer.
What manufacturers need to do to capitalise on this uptake in interest is to show how the smart home can save people time and money.
S: How has the health crisis impacted how we feel about our homes?
JB: At the moment we’re understandably obsessed with our health. So, anything that can make us feel healthy and safe in our own home is a priority.
A good night’s sleep is big part of this – and I think people have struggled with sleep because we’re disrupted in our work patterns and being at home all the time.At the moment we’re understandably obsessed with our health. So anything that can make us feel healthy and safe in our own home is a priority. #consumerinsight #kbb Click To Tweet
Interest is increasing in things like Circadian lighting, which replicates natural lighting throughout the day.
For the same reason, concern about air quality and how air circulates throughout the home will become a concern.
In the wintertime, with the heating on and windows shut, the air quality gets poorer. Therefore, we will start thinking more about opening the windows, using air purifiers and including ventilation – such as extractors – to create a healthier home.
S: Does the trend for biophilic design also feed into this?
JB: Yes, the idea is that bringing nature into our interiors provides a connection to the outdoors that makes us feel less trapped inside, and therefore a bit healthier.
Hence there is a continuing trend for using natural materials in our décor – natural woods for our furniture, plants on display and features like living walls.There is a continuing trend for using natural materials in our décor – natural woods for our furniture, plants on display and features like living walls. #biophyilicdesign #consumerinsight #kbb Click To Tweet
And if you don’t have much natural light or access to the outside in your home – as so many people who live in apartments are finding – then biophilic design is even more important.
S: What role does sustainability play in the trends of 2021?
JB: Food wastage is a big trend at the moment; how can we combat the amount of food that we waste in throwing out?
And if people are on a budget and are having to do a lot of cooking at home, they’ll realise how much food they actually waste. So, there’s a growing awareness, but also people are looking to appliance manufacturers to help them keep food fresher for longer.
Also, it’s about packaging and how we are really going against plastics. How do we keep things fresh when we’re not wrapping them in plastic, and how do we store things?
People are buying a lot more fresh food and buying locally; they’re concerned about how far food has travelled at the moment and about animal welfare. These are the main sustainability issues.
What will be significant, however, is how manufacturers will help people live a more sustainable lifestyle. Because however much consumers want to live sustainably, it still needs to be relatively easy for them to do so.People want to live a more sustainable lifestyle, but they want it to be easy for them to do so #consumerinsight #kbb Click To Tweet