Throughout this report we’ve talked about the macro-trends and the questions we should ask ourselves as we think about what comes next in housing. When Mary Lunghi, head of market intelligence for IKEA, asks What the Future, she’s also asking those questions.
Her focus, naturally, is on how they impact what happens within the walls of the home. To get at that answer, Ipsos asked 1,000 U.S. adults about which rooms they most want to remodel and what sorts of changes or upgrades they would make to transform their home into an easier place to live. Their answers are shaped by mega-trends of aging, urbanization, automation and more. The data hints at a trend we haven’t discussed yet, flexibility, which impacts how we commute, how we work, how we eat and how we buy. How does this shape housing? Mary Lunghi takes us through her thinking.
GenPop: Why ask this?
Mary Lunghi: What we really wanted to get at is what’s important to people in their home lives to make their home life easier. Our mission is to create a better everyday life at home for the many. With that in mind, one of the things we thought would be helpful to understand is what room or rooms in the home are a priority for remodeling or refurnishing. While this study shows that the kitchen is the space most likely to be remodeled in the next year, we know from other research that there is a difference between aspiration and reality. Everybody wants to remodel the kitchen, but not everyone can afford to. This is a great insight for us, because we can make that dream a reality.
GenPop: Will that change in the future? Will we become more kitchen-centric given trends toward cooking more and dining in more?
Lunghi: People are still dining out a lot and enjoying that experience. There’s the rise of the fast casuals and mid-scale casual chains. But at the same time you’ve got the Blue Aprons, and people entertaining and cooking at home, both because they enjoy that experience but also because many seek to save money depending on the economic conditions. The kitchen is typically seen as the heart of the home. Even if you’re not cooking in the kitchen, it’s the place of gathering because it’s a place where other activities take place, such as doing homework, working from home, paying bills, etc. This speaks to the fluid home trend we’re seeing, where multiple activities or functions are occurring in the various rooms of the home. They are not so singularly functional anymore.
GenPop: As aging in place also continues, the bathroom seems like a place where you’d have more need for remodeling and reinvestment.
Lunghi: Yes, and you see the 55+ group over-indexing [in the data] for remodeling bathrooms. When you think about the kitchen, it’s a public space, and the bathroom is a personal space. I think that the places people see are where you’re going to remodel first. But if you are 55+ and you are aging in place, people are being driven by function and care less about showing off the home.
GenPop: In the second question, about the items that would make people’s homes more livable, many choices have to do with some sort of automation.
Lunghi: For us, we want to understand the direction your home life is taking. Do you envision a smart home in your future, because if you do we have to figure out how to work with that. What needs do you have as result of that? That feeds into our innovation and product design. We are developing products that have built-in chargers. If you’re really interested in automated cleaning solutions, what kind of impact will that have on product design?
GenPop: Do you wind up needing to make furniture that is higher off the ground to accommodate cleaning robots scurrying underneath?
Lunghi: That would be the exact kind of information that would lead to product design.
GenPop: When someone like you thinks about the future, what kinds of factors go into that? What kinds of questions do you ask yourselves at IKEA?
Lunghi: We start with the macro view: What are the mega-trends that are happening – socially, economically, politically, technologically and environmentally? [We’re working toward] understanding that landscape and then drilling it down into the home. When we talk about a mega-trend, at a certain point, it’s no longer a trend. It’s a driver of change. Urbanization is a driver of change. Aging population is a driver of change. These are things that are just happening. Trends then live under those drivers of change. We take that information and say, “OK, how does that impact how people are living at home?” With urbanization, for example, you have people living in smaller spaces and urban settings. How do we continue to enhance our small-spaces solutions?
GenPop: Which drivers will have the biggest impact moving forward?
Lunghi: They’re all having an impact.
We talked about urbanization. In reality, that’s just not about moving to cities, because the Census data includes suburbs when referring to the urban/rural split and the growth toward more urban living and the decrease in rural living. But there is the trend of “new urbanism,” with builders and developers creating communities that are mixed-use and built around a main square where you can easily walk to a grocery store or a post office or dry cleaner.
That’s directly related to an aging population being able to function if they can no longer drive. These drivers of change have led to a trend that we’re calling the “fluid home,” which I mentioned previously. What used to make a living room a living room is no longer the case. We’re seeing a fluidity of living. For example, in the living room I can do not only what I used to do, which is watching TV, but I could be paying bills, I could be doing yoga, I could be doing homework, I could be eating, I could be sleeping. There’s multifunctionality in the space, and there’s fluidity between the spaces as well, because homes are getting more technologically equipped. That creates a need for us to say what kind of furniture can we create, what kind of solutions can we provide that will accommodate that shift and enable the consumer to live a better everyday life at home.
Mary Lunghi is head of market intelligence for IKEA, U.S.