Jan 24, 2019

6 Modern Living Trends for 2020 as seen at Home Futures exhibition

Did you ever realise that we already live in the future? At least, the future as Ettore Sottsass and Joe Colombo, among others, used to dream of. It’s been a long way since.

Technology has evolved so much that it radically changed the way in which we live today. We are more nomadic than ever, declutter our lives and use apps that allow us to share everything. How has the traditional concept of ‘home’ evolved within?

The Design Museum in collaboration with the Ikea Museum, has put together a great exhibition called ‘Home Futures’ to answer this question: what happened to the future? It tells the history of radical domestic visions and compares them with today’s reality.

Do you know what’s interesting? Many of these radical ideas were quite in line with today’s living trends. The exhibition showcases 6 of them: let’s discover them together.


Living Trends 1 | Living with others

Now that I design student accommodations and other hospitality projects where ‘communal areas’ are a key feature, I find myself to be a lot more interested in the concept of sharing.

The ‘Living with others’ section explores the way we negotiate privacy in the home and the impact of media on domestic behaviour. For example, there is a timber reproduction of a traditional bedroom in the Netherlands. It was a little area where families used to sleep; they used to make it so small on purpose so that it would be easy to keep warm, feel safe and promote sleep.

The idea was to give the right amount of space to each activity. Private activities like sleeping don’t need much space, whereas social activities like cooking and eating deserve more. This concept reminds me of the current idea of co-living, where people rent a cubicle-like space to live individually but then share massive communal areas with gym, restaurants, co-working and cinema rooms, all in one building.

On this topic, the exhibition features ‘One Shared House 2030’, a collaborative project to imagine what a co-living space would look like in 2030 (when 1.2 Billion extra people will populate planet Earth and a third of them will be forced to share a house). Read more here 

If you are curious about co-living, have a look the first WeWork co-living space launched in New York here



Living Trends 2 | Living Smart

The ‘Living Smart’ section is dedicated to the connection between technology and the everyday tasks, showing the evolution from the modernist ideal of the ‘home as a machine’ to contemporary visions of the ‘smart home’. The common line throughout the years has been the desire to make the home more efficient. In the 50s this resulted in consumer goods that promised to make housewives’ lives easier. Today connected devices use our data to predict our habits and preferences.

It’s interesting to note that (as some studies suggest) domestic labour still takes just as much time as it did fifty years ago. Similarly, gender roles haven’t changed much apparently, as for example most smart speakers today opt for a female voice.



Living Trends 3 | Living with less

From the 1920s, with the growth of urban population, the optimization of domestic life became a matter of scientific study. A recurring idea was that housing shortages could be solved with fully-fitted homes and micro-living solutions. In fact, in 1972 Joe Colombo compressed all the home’s functions into a single piece of furniture called the Total Furnishing Unit.

Today the trend seems to continue, considering, for example, the prevailing micro-apartments in Hong Kong and other big cities. We challenge ourselves to declutter, share and reuse but the question of whether reducing our living space responds to our human needs is still open.



Living Trends 4 | Living autonomously

The ‘Living Autonomously’ section is all about challenging consumerism. In fact, in the early 70s some form of self-sufficiency was associated with visions of ‘the good life’. One example is Enzo Mari’s 1974 Autoprogettazione: a manual demonstrating how to make your own furniture using some wooden planks and nails.

A Brussels-based design studio called Open Structures  today takes a similar approach, proposing an open-source system that allows anyone to make furniture and basic household appliances; and then to reuse the parts to make something else.

Open Structures


Living Trends 5 | Living on the move

‘Living on the move’ was my favourite section!

This part of the exhibition explores the way the internet and connected devices have made nomadic living possible. In the 20th century numerous designers imagined a more fluid way of living. From Archigram and their ‘Walking cities’ to Hans Hollein’s inflatable bubbles, they all made a critique of consumerism and ownership.

Today’s so-called ‘digital nomads’ seem to have embraced life on the move, and to prefer experiences to ownership. In a similar way our concept of home is less bond to a physical space, but does that mean that we don’t need the comforts of a traditional home anymore?

The question is discussed in a provocative film called ‘Selling Dreams’ by Beka & Lemoine which shows a man’s life spent in hotel rooms. He makes a living sub-renting homes, that would otherwise be soulless, by creating imaginary owners and lives within them. This injection of personality, despite being not real, makes the homes particularly appealing on home-sharing websites.



Living Trends 6 | Domestic Arcadia

The ‘Domestic Arcadia’ section finally explores how homes can ever respond to our need for comfort, leisure and recreation. Opposing functionalism, some designers pointed out how our homes are also places of irrational, playful and emotional needs.

Design movement by Pietro Derossi, Michele De Lucchi and Gaetano Pesce here are compared with contemporary design by the Bouroullec brothers among others.




The “Home Futures” exhibition is curated by Eszter Steierhoffer with Justin McGuirk .

It will be open at the Design Museum in London until 24 March 2019.

Don’t miss it if you are around!

Do you fancy 5 minutes of extra reading? We have more home trends for you!

All photo credits: Felix Speller for The Design Museum

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