The increasing requirement for our homes to be flexible and reflect our individual lifestyles is an emerging trend that Trend-Monitor has been tracking for some time now,

And in 2020 the flexible home became a reality for many as the concept that one room has one function changed when we were suddenly forced to use our rooms for a range of activities that previously were taken outside of the home – exercise, schooling, work and socialising.

In 2020 the concept that one room has one function changed as we were suddenly forced to use our rooms for a range of activities previously taken outside of the home Click To Tweet

The lockdown restrictions, in conjunction with a number of developing social, demographic and economic trends, have emphasised the requirement for our homes to be able to adapt to a range of scenarios.

Here we look at the drivers behind the new Flexible Home trend …

Multi-Generational and Multi-Family Households

There is expected to be a growth in the number of multi-generational and multi-family households over the next few years, partly driven by the aging population megatrend and changes in our social and demographic structures, but also by the impact on many families of being separated from parents and grandparents when the increased threat of Covid-19 on the elderly became evident.

These two household types are similar but are slightly different in their structure – multi-generational households are three or more generations of the same family living together, whilst multi-family households are 2 or more families living together, but not necessarily related, and could be for example two unrelated couples house-sharing or a couple living with their child and child’s partner.

Although currently representing the smallest share of UK households, they were the fastest-growing household type over the last two decades to 2019. They grew by 75% from 170,000 in 1999 to 297,000 households in 2019 – an increase that the Office for National Statistics describes as ‘statistically significant’.

The multi-generational/multi-family household creates challenges in terms of privacy, personal space and acoustics and where ‘open-plan’ had previously been seen as the popular option for the larger household, this is giving way to ‘broken-plan’ which is a more flexible option for households that need to accommodate social activities as well as the personal needs of individuals across different age-groups.

The Boomerang Generation

Although often counted as a multi-generational household within official statistics, the increasing number of young adults still living with their parents, or returning to live with parents after university, is worth a separate mention as a driver for flexible homes.

A decline in home ownership among young people and the demographic trend for delaying the formalisation of relationships and starting a family, has meant that there are more young adults in this situation than ever before – over one in four people aged between 20 and 34 years old are currently living at home with their parents.

Parents who had originally planned for their children to ‘fly the nest’ are having to look at innovative ways to accommodate their return, often after down-sizing the family home.

Home Working

During the national and regional lockdowns, several external activities were forced to be carried out at home, leading many to claim these activities to be the ‘new normal’ for our homes.

However recent research by the Office for National Statistics has shown that many of these activities have not continued even as far as September/October, with the exception of working from home.

This new way of working is especially pronounced for those in the higher household income brackets and is one of the key drivers behind the trend for multi-functional spaces that can transition easily into a different role in the evenings and at weekends.

Home working is one of the key drivers behind the trend for multi-functional spaces that can transition easily into a different role in the evenings and at weekends Click To Tweet

Smaller Living Spaces

Trend-Monitor has regularly documented the diminishing size of UK homes, pointing to the fact that the UK has the smallest new-build housing in Europe. As the UK housing crisis continues, the average size of our individual homes is unlikely to increase, and whilst the recommended size for a 3-bedroomed property is 93 sqm, the average size is more like 88sqm, however new government guidelines may halt developers plans to reduce the allocated space any further.

Intelligent Technology

Increasingly our new houses are being built ‘smart’ from the ground up and intelligent technology will play an important part in the flexible home of the future.

Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, the smartest homes will increasingly keep tabs on our behaviours and collect data that can be analysed and acted upon, turning our homes from a collection of gadgets to a truly smart environment that is capable of anticipating our needs.

Developments in robotics will also play a key role in the flexible home. Robotic-furniture company Ori Living is already working with Ikea on pieces that change based on your needs such as getting the bed out of the way when you need a desk, or hiding your closet when it’s dinnertime. The ‘Rognan’ range of furniture is no smaller in dimensions than normal furniture but is designed to adapt and allow people to enjoy their small environments in the same way they would if they lived in a larger home.

Related Trend Updates: