Soaring house prices and stagnant wages put the dream of owning a home out of reach for many people, especially the young. Recent reports show that London will become a city of renters by 2025. How are designers responding to the new realities of the renting market?
Maria Jonsson (Macro Insights Leader at IKEA Group) discussed how IKEA’s Life at Home Report unveils the ways in which the ‘home’ is being affected by fundamental shifts in how people live today, including changing demographics, the digital tech revolution, urban living and a stressful environment. The research identified five core emotional needs of the home and if the below needs are not met, they can feel restrictive beyond our control:
The report also found that as homes are getting smaller, smarter, busier and noisier, lots of us are beginning to find a stronger sense of ‘home’ outside e.g. going to a park for anonymity or privacy – something they find difficult to find in their own space, both mentally and physically.
Maria discussed that furniture companies, such as IKEA can contribute to this growing need through design, by helping customers create sanctuaries in shared spaces or their ‘own’ zoning space through furniture, such as curtains, room dividers and storage systems.
Architectural Lead at SPACE10, Jamiee Williams added that whilst shared living can be highly positive in many respects, privacy is a big pain point that’s difficult to obtain long term. She added, whilst people are saying they want more privacy, they are also more open to the sharing than ever before – we see this most frequently through Airbnb, Zipcar but most importantly, through sharing everything about their lives on social.
Co-founder of Apparata Architects, Nicholas Lobo Brennan, discussed how the future of renting design will focus predominantly on adaptability and ultra-flexibility around the home – something he’s experiencing first hand on a social housing project with Grayson Perry.
When reflecting, Nick mentioned the desire for a more generous feeling of space and higher ceilings, when really it’s all about the ability for the home to adapt as your needs change. Renters are constantly moving, but once they’re found rented space they like, “why not adapt it so they can stay over a longer period?” he questioned.
Nick continued by revealing how in the last few decades, rental accommodation has focussed on sub-divided spaces, but questions why housing can’t be more flexible, so you can join up living space with your neighbour (e.g. through double-doors that can open out to create bigger spaces – which can close again when you need privacy).
Adaptation through furniture design: Maria Jonsson added how there has been an evident increase in the design of adaptable furniture over the years that are lightweight and easy to deconstruct, in response to the growth of generation rent and nomads on the move. She notes that IKEA’s modular furniture collections (such as VALLENTUNA sofas and BESTA storage) are perfect for renters, as they can be adapted and tailored to fit any space, so your home can easily grow with you and your changing needs.
Maria added that IKEA has also released collections such as PLATSA that are perfect for those on the move, thanks to an innovative wedge dowel mechanism, which means you can simply click and slide the pieces together, so it can be easily assembled and disassembled if required.
Adaptation through architecture: Nick revealed how re-designing co-living spaces can open up many more living opportunities. For example, removing dark corridors (often found in rental flats / new builds) releases open space that you can use for almost anything. He noted that it is important for architects to adapt what is already there, rather than destroying perfectly good homes to re-build.
One of the key components to being able to feel at home even when renting, is to think about how we even view ownership. As we move in to a world of more renters (PWC have claimed that London will be a city of renters by 2025 – with only 40% homeowners by then) this is only going to become more apparent. How can we design homes and ways of living for this?
When discussing how renters can create a feeling of ownership in the home, the panel continued to discuss how a space doesn’t have to actually be yours (in terms of the bricks and mortar) if you can put your own stamp on it and personalise it in some way.
Nicholas Lobo Brennan talked about how ideally, we would design rental space to be personalised from the offset, giving renters the ability to break down/open interior walls between flats to create more co-living spaces, in addition to giving renters more access and sense of ownership in public spaces around the development, allowing them to change furniture and layout.
Maria Jonsson added how the use of furniture is also a key way to put your mark on your space and feel as though it’s truly yours, even if you don’t own it. By introducing interiors that can express your personality, or that can be adjusted to allow for personal interpretation (seen most recently with IKEA’s SJÄLVSTÄNDIG and PS 2017 collections), you can create a true sense of belonging.
The panellists agreed that a growing discussion around homes of the future is actually subscription housing, a shift we see all too often with digitalisation of our other assets and belongings. Nick questions, “Is there a sense that we don’t need to own as much stuff anymore?”
Jamiee Williams stated that brands, developers and designers need to radically re-look at how they are designing and financing homes – as the future will no longer be just about ‘renting’ or ‘owning’, but instead, how to make our homes an asset in other ways, including earning equity, ownership tokens or investment on other areas of the home. She then asked the audience to consider what would happen if everything in a rented building was made up of spaces, items you own or services/skills you have that other people could subscribe to.
Finally, all panellists agreed that the future of renting is likely to see a dramatic change in furniture ownership, as many brands are exploring a more sustainable, subscription-based model that allows users to return, upgrade and change their interiors as and when they need.
Maria said that IKEA were exploring rental, leasing and subscription solutions to meet an increasing need for flexible furniture options, and to reduce consumers’ environmental impact of disposing furniture. An area that’s particularly appealing to people leading transient lifestyles, such as those in the UK rental market.