These predictions are found in a study conducted by the International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA) among its 2,000 members. Founded more than 50 years ago, IFDA is an alliance of leaders in virtually every segment of the business. Members' affiliations range from manufacturers and retailers to educators, editors, marketers and interior designers. This special report is drawn from "20/20: IFDA's Vision for the Future," a January 2000 survey of these knowledgeable industry experts.
Home interiors also will change radically: the sharp delineation between living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens will virtually disappear as these and other rooms of the house become multi-functional. Media centers, exercise rooms and other specialty spaces will be more prevalent, and outdoor areas will take on increased importance for entertaining. The furnishings in these rooms also will reflect consumers' desires for increased functionality and storage.
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
An astonishing 76 percent of those surveyed predicted more people will be living in townhouses in the year 2020; 75 percent of respondents forecast that more people will be living in gated communities 20 years from now.
"We should be thinking and doing much more about communal housing, sustainable and cluster housing," points out Susan Zevon, architecture editor for House Beautiful magazine.
The number of people living in apartments also is expected to rise, although not to the same extent as other cluster housing: 41 percent of survey participants predict more people will be living in apartments, while an equal percentage believe there will be about the same number of apartment dwellers as today.
About the future of stand-alone houses: More than a quarter of respondents, 26 percent, say fewer people will be living in stand-alone houses, while 25 percent of respondents say more people will be living in stand-alone houses. Forty-one percent expect the number of people living in stand-alone houses to stay the same.
Regardless of the type of abode, nearly half of the survey participants, 49 percent, believe that Americans will live in less space in the year 2020; only 32 percent say Americans will live in the same amount of space. The average home will consist of 7.5 rooms, according to the IFDA, with the family room the largest in the house.
Raymond Chevallier, executive vice president of F. Schumacher & Co., New York, NY, says he sees two divergent trends in overall home design: "I think you will continue to see larger homes built, as long as the economy stays strong and people have money to spend. At the same time, however, I think there will be a trend toward smaller homes as people get older and want to simplify their lives."
Thomas Ward, New York-based president of WestPoint Stevens, comments, "Homes have gotten very large, and this trend will continue because people want a greater variety of personal amenities in their homes. For example, people want a home spa, a fitness center, a Jacuzzi tub, and all of these take up a lot of space."
There are conflicting trends, Abby Gilmore, chairman and president of Covington Industries, Inc., New York, notes. "We see houses continuing to get bigger and bigger because large homes are still the standard by which people express their financial worth," she said. "However this runs contrary to the overall nesting trend, which would seem to favor smaller, more intimate spaces. Also, it is getting much more difficult to find people to clean, service and maintain these larger homes. There is a definite contradiction."
"There will be a movement toward small rooms to save energy," comments Robert Hammond, an executive with Baker Knapp & Tubbs, a design showroom in Philadelphia, PA.
Lyn Lewis, FIFDA, a marketing executive with Alabama-based Benjamin Moore & Co., points out, "Convenience is what we are all looking for—compact, well-planned, low-maintenance areas; small lots in controlled neighborhoods; built-in computer areas; and bookcases to use every available square foot of space."
ROOMS WITH MULTIPLE PERSONALITY
One of the most dramatic changes will come in the way rooms are used. Flexibility will become the watchword for future home owners. An overwhelming 92 percent of respondents forecast that the average house will contain more multi-functional rooms; 73 percent predict a move toward more open plan design, and almost 40 percent expect moveable walls will replace permanent walls in home interiors.
"As now, people will be living a faster- and faster-paced lifestyle, in need of extreme organization," points out Sloane Marshall, with furniture retailer Robb & Stucky, Phoenix, AZ. "Technology will help to relieve these needs." She cites "moveable, well-planned space" as key.
Furniture designer Ruth Clark, FIFDA, of the Clark Connection, Jamestown, NC, says, "Open living spaces will require furniture designed to be attractive when free-standing. Multi-functional and eclectic styles will be important to accommodate new equipment and probable frequent job-related moves. Color will increasingly be determined by individual choice rather than 'trends'."
"Quiet time" will become a problem in the open plan, predicts Valerie Moran, executive VP and COO of Grange Furniture, who sees a reverse trend to room divisions unlike today's but with more separated areas for leisure. "There will need to be more multi-purpose pieces, more furniture on wheels and more varied storage pieces."
"Many of the trends we anticipate mirror changes we are already beginning to see," observes Dawn W. Brinson, executive director, Furniture Discovery Center, High Point, NC "Most prevalent of these changes is 'the big blur.' Our homes will no longer be clearly separate from work, hobbies, passions, education or entertainment. Why go to the Cineplex when you can see a first-release flick in the comfort of your media center? This quantum shift in the role our homes will play means that we must be alert for changes in home furnishings designs that will signal transitions for our industry."
While some 44 percent of survey participants anticipate homes will have fewer rooms, these remaining rooms most likely will have an open and airy feeling. Forty-eight percent of survey respondents foresee more over-scaled windows; 45 percent expect cathedral ceilings to become standard features, and 43 percent see skylights as an important design consideration. "As people move indoors, they need light and open space," comments Charles Delpapa, vice president of Elwood City, Pa.-based Emess Lighting.
A TOUCH OF GRAY
The growth of retirement communities and the aging of a significant percentage of the population will impact homes and furnishings over the next 20 years. Indeed, 93 percent of respondents say these factors will be important considerations. Similarly, the ergonomic needs of the disabled and growing elderly population are expected to be important issues by 89 percent of survey respondents; and the desire for simplified and easy home maintenance is expected to be an important or very important issue by 91 percent.
"This time period will see the largest senior citizen population in the history of the world," points out Karen C. Wirrig, owner of Phoenix, AZ, interior design firm Karen Cole Designs. "I think housing will reflect this with smaller but spacious homes, second homes, low-maintenance yards and secured home sites."
Gale Stevens, editor-in-chief of Home magazine, sees two growing groups of older Americans that will be influential in 2020, "the Young-at-Hearts" and the "Active Seniors." In the former group are currently the mid-50 to mid-60 year olds who are building their second vacation—or golf course—homes with an eye toward these becoming their retirement homes. They will be buying new furnishings for these homes, recycling to their children or selling older furnishings. The Active Seniors will be retiring to a home with less room for guests, and more room for a home office with, possibly, a guest house that can accommodate a temporary household expansion.
Clarellen Adams, with the San Francisco, CA, Design Center, speculates, "Homes will be elderly-friendly, with adjustable counters, health care sensors and robotic vacuums. Homes will have a large multi-purpose kitchen, and larger bathrooms with fitness equipment."
Richard Bennington, Ph.D, director of home furnishings marketing, High Point University, comments, "We teach our students about the necessity of whole-house adaptability of furnishings. We believe in the future we will need furniture that can be used in a variety of ways."
THE GREAT DEBATE
The future of formal living rooms and formal dining rooms is open to question, according to IFDA. Although almost 71 percent of survey respondents believe great rooms will eclipse living rooms, only 51.3 percent say formal living rooms will become extinct. Similarly, 51 percent of respondents say dining rooms will not continue to be a dedicated space in homes; 43 percent disagree.
"Interest in fine food will save dining rooms from extinction," opines Hammond of Baker Knapp & Tubbs. Richard Hammar, product designer for Ohio-based Kichler Lighting, concurs, noting, "I see a return to the glamour dining room—butler's pantries will appear again, as entertaining and dining at home become stylish again. I see the dining room becoming more technologically advanced—wine safes will be built into beautiful furniture."
However, some executives see dining rooms giving way to other types of combined living spaces. "There will be more living room/dining room combinations," declares Thomas L. Williams, president of Hale-Williams, Baltimore, MD. "It will be the same amount of floor space, designed differently. The dining room will become an area of the living room/sitting room, rather than a dedicated space."
Zevon of House Beautiful remarks, "There will still be dining rooms, but they will frequently be used for other purposes as well, such as offices or libraries, media rooms and guest rooms." To accommodate this, Moran of Grange Furniture believes that table surfaces will be developed that can be used equally for dining, deskwork or hobbies.
Survey participants were equally divided on the issue of eat-in kitchens as a replacement for dining rooms: nearly 50 percent said it is likely that eat-in kitchens will replace dining rooms, while 48 percent said this is somewhat or not at all likely. However, dining rooms of the future are expected to stay about the same size as they are today, according to 60 percent of the surveyed executives.
Kitchens, however, are definitely expected to get larger, especially as consumers' interest in cooking increases—72 percent of survey respondents indicate it is likely that kitchens will increase in size.
"Kitchens will become more significant spaces, both from a functional as well as a social standpoint," remarks Arnold Glassner, president of Louis Mazor, Inc., a Baltimore, MD-based interior design firm.
In fact Connecticut designer Beverly Ellsley, noted for her kitchen designs, is convinced we will be doing "more decorated rooms that just happen to be kitchens." She sees the trend to larger kitchens continuing with the kitchen becoming "almost a mini-apartment with seating areas, home office space, wine cellars, food preparation areas all vying for attention."
John Troxell, design director, Wood-Mode, Inc., Kreamer, PA, is in agreement. He predicts "the kitchen will retain its importance as a central gathering place." As such he foresees the "comfort level" will also remain a factor in its decoration. "There will be a continuing, if not greater emphasis on the decoration of this room with two distinct areas of kitchen design emerging: the kitchen where the appliances blend seamlessly and disappear into the room's interior architecture, or the gourmet kitchen with all the toys in plain sight."
In terms of style trends, the recent shift towards casual dining and casual tableware may have hit its peak, according to IFDA members. Less than one-third, 29 percent, of those surveyed say it is likely the popularity of casual dinnerware will signal the demise of formal tableware, while 69.5 percent say this is somewhat or not at all likely.
"Today, setting a beautiful table is not strictly divided into choices like 'formal' and 'casual,' it's about style," contends Milllie Martini Bratten, editor-in-chief of Bride's magazine. Fine quality materials are showing up in contemporary shapes, patterns and colors, as well as in time-tested traditional looks. She noted that people are becoming more style conscious, "whether they have a Gucci-sized budget or Gap-sized one. The emergence of great style at mass-market prices will persist far into the millennium."
Carol Dixon, director of the New York Merchandise Mart, which houses many of the leading tableware companies, commented, "My instincts tell me that we will, quite possibly, be where we are today, except more so. Radical changes in family and entertaining may take place as we move further into the new millennium only to come full circle by the year 2020. At that time, kitchens will be larger and even more central to the daily lives of families with better quality, more stylized casual dinnerware in demand. Dining rooms will flourish as get-togethers again become popular. I predict that this will create health and well-being at the luxury or upper-end of the market."
COUCH POTATOES VS. FITNESS FANS
Media and entertainment rooms are expected to become an important component of new home design: 87 percent of IFDA survey participants predict it is likely that future homes will have separate rooms for media and entertainment. Homes also are expected to have exercise or health centers: 82 percent of respondents believe these rooms are likely to be incorporated into new home design.
"A multi-media room could include library, home office, exercise room or a private room for live-in parents," points out Adams of the San Francisco Design Center.
"There will be a lot more attention to transitional spaces tying the house together for access to media, computers, the Internet and more attractive exercise areas," comments Kerry D. Touchette, an interior designer based in Washington, DC.
"Specialty spaces will become a luxury—an expensive one," declares William W. Hopper, principal of WWH Restorations, a Washington, DC-based firm specializing in historic homes and furnishings.
FUNCTIONAL, FANCIFUL FURNITURE
Furniture design is expected to change substantially, to accommodate and complement different home configurations and consumer lifestyles, according to the IFDA survey. For example, 86 percent of respondents say it is likely that multi-purpose furniture will become important; 79 percent feel it is likely that portable furniture will become more prevalent; 66 percent indicate it is likely there will be more hideaway furniture pieces; 61 percent believe it is likely that modular furniture will become more important; 61 percent predict it is likely that built-ins will replace storage pieces, and almost 80 percent say it is likely that more ergonomic design will be incorporated into furniture.
"People will find streamlined, minimal design and uncluttered spaces appealing, but will need places to store all of their stuff," remarks Judi Alexander, consumer marketing manager for WestPoint Stevens. "And even though customized closets and the like will be appealing, built-ins are less practical as people need to move, relocated, trade-up, etc."
Janice E. Schreft, an interior designer based in Fort Lauderdale, FL, sees a trend toward "dual-purpose chairs and tables that have hidden storage and can be expanded or made smaller according to the size of the room. Our designs should and will, increasingly, offer flexibility as well as functionality. Also, our children don't want or expect to keep their furniture forever, as our parents did."
Summing up the sense of the respondents, Nancy High, FIFDA, CEO of International Home Furnishings Marketing Association and vice president of American Furniture Manufacturers Association, High Point, NC, observed, "Demographic, societal and cultural shifts are occurring nationally and internationally at an unprecedented rate. In the next 20 to 25 years tastes and styles worldwide will be homogeneous. That, coupled with the world's imitation of the American lifestyle, can bring fabulous success to home furnishings manufacturers' willing to rethink their design and distribution."
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.