The current surge of home office development is expected to become a tidal wave by the year 2020. Observing the trends toward telecommuting, self-employment and flexible scheduling permeating our society, 97 percent of survey respondents say it is very likely that a home office will be integrated into home design and planning.
IFDA members also believe that technology will make a major impact on the types of materials used in furniture, home textiles and other interior furnishings, which will continue evolving over the next 20 years, particularly with substantial increases in new classifications of synthetic fibers and environmental, or "green," materials.
Also, 69 percent of respondents believe it is very likely that home design will incorporate more than one home office. "More people will work from home on a flex schedule, necessitating his and her offices," asserted Sarah B. Jenkins, president of a Washington, DC-based interior design firm.
Among the factors that will cause this surge is technology's cost-effective replacement of small offices. "Computer rooms with fax machines and multiple phone lines will be the norm," notes Janice E. Schreft, a Fort Lauderdale, FL-based interior design consultant. "Even if people don't actually 'work' there, more people will be ordering food as well as clothing over the Internet."
Technology will fundamentally alter our home environments, changing the way we live and work, according to the IFDA survey. Fifty-four percent of respondents say that cable lines are expected to have the most significant impact on our homes, followed closely by 49 percent saying wireless telephones will, while 30 percent believe solar power will have a substantial influence on our homes.
"Homes will be more functional to accommodate technological advances," points out Judi Alexander, consumer marketing manager for WestPoint Stevens. "We won't have to leave our homes for anythingówork, shopping, entertainment or socializing. We will continue to spend money on our homes, consumer goods and privacy, and security will be more important than ever."
Sixty-five percent say window coverings will be operated
automatically along with the 45 percent
also anticipating automatically controlled windows.
A remarkable 97 percent of respondents anticipate voice, sensor and other types of activation coming into wider general use by 2020 with 92 percent saying that lighting will be one of the most definite. Eighty-four percent say they look forward to these automatically controlled environments and believe Internet access will also be directed by this type of technology.
Patti Anderson, account manager for Whirlpool, notes that her company is partnering with other leading companies to produce smart, programmable appliances that can be operated from both inside and outside the home, improving energy management and performing multiple functions automatically and at a distance. "Imagine," she says, "contacting your refrigerator from your office PC and asking what ingredients you will need to prepare dinner."
Seventy-eight percent of respondents also expect energy saving devices to be controlled by advanced activation technology. Sixty-five percent say window coverings will be operated automatically along with the 45 percent also anticipating automatically controlled windows. Thirty-nine percent predict cleaning and maintenance duties will be managed completely by technology, 33 percent saying this technology also will be used to control recycling.
"We have gotten used to high-tech in the home, office and entertainment area, but in the future, we will feel technology's impact in a whole different way," notes Helen Wagner, public relations manager at 3M. "The home in 2020 will be unlike anything we have ever experienced." Commenting that last year 34 percent of 3M's sales were generated by new products, she is convinced that companies will "step up to the plate," accelerating the pace to meet product needs of future lifestyles.
Richard Hammar, director of product development for Ohio-based Hinckley Lighting concurs, "By 2020, the computer chip will be utilized in ways we can only dream about today. Our technology will make them very affordable and placed almost everywhere to make our lives easier. Computer automation will enable us to do more in less time. We are headed for exciting times in the lighting fieldósmart controls and fiber optics will be everywhere."
While not ruling out the continued desirability of natural fibers, especially for luxury goods, 76 percent of the respondents believe that the use of micro-fibers will increase substantially. Still, 65 percent predict green materials in home furnishings also will increase significantly. Additionally, the prevalence of plastics is expected to grow 55 percent, mostly in the use of nylon, polypropylene and similar fibers in the carpet industry. "Recycled products, such as metals and plastic, will replace or significantly impact the use of natural products, such as wood from our endangered forests," says Resa Farmer, president of Southeast Interiors, a Georgia-based interior design firm.
Looking to the future, Christine Pratt, chairperson of home products at the New York's Fashion Institute of Technology reports "innovations" by her students who, in their forecasted rooms, did not place a lot of furnishings as we do today. They showed techno-furnishings to make life easier: place mats with fiber optic messages, self-warming fabrics and fiber optic "window-scapes" featuring scenes that could be changed frequently to hide unattractive views. These students, she notes, "will be instrumental in what is developed in 2020 and will also represent a huge market at the peak of their spending power at that time."
IFDA is headquarted in Washington, DC; (202) 857-1897. The "20/20: IFDA's Vision for the Future" survey was developed by the market research and statistics division of Smith, Bucklin & Associates, an independent research group based in Chicago, IL.