How eight designers envision the house of the (near) future
How do you create a retreat from the stresses of modern life or incorporate a co-working space into your home? Eight designers who will be featured at the 2018 edition of the Interior Design Show, opening on Jan. 18 in Toronto, tell Kristina Ljubanovic how multipurpose rooms, communal gathering and more will reshape our living spaces
Sleep and retreat
Brian Gluckstein, founder of GlucksteinHome, says he's already witnessed changes in the technology and construction of bedding over the past few years, as well as clients getting more educated about sleep-related products. "I'm not that person who brags that I get four hours sleep. I need eight hours," Gluckstein says. "On weekends, I can get as many as 10." The busy (but apparently well-rested) designer of everything from homes to furnishings has a particular, professional interest in the bedroom. "Bedding is a huge product category for us, and it's probably because I love my bed."
He believes bedrooms will continue to expand in size and importance over the next decade. He sees them encompassing dressing rooms, ensuite baths, seating areas and "beverage centres" where occupants can read, brew and sip coffee and get away from it all – day or night.
"We live in such a frenetic world. The bedroom is the last sanctuary we have," Gluckstein says.
As options for eating out proliferate, meal-subscription services such as Blue Apron abound, and new technologies such as 3-D printing are applied to foodstuffs, how we cook in the future is sure to shift. But Snarkitecture's Alex Mustonen is interested in getting back to basics and examining our social connection to food.
For the Interior Design Show, the New York-based architecture and art practice is collaborating with Caesarstone to tackle the kitchen island, which Mustonen sees as a place of gathering in the home. "You do your homework there, you entertain there, you have your morning coffee there, you cook there. It's a very layered, multifunctional space," he says.
Snarkitecture's installation celebrates these various functions of the kitchen island, as well as Caesarstone's versatile engineered quartz countertop that handles state changes – from extreme cold to wetness and heat. Mustonen says, "We were interested in this very tactile, tangible, material connection with cooking."
Karim Rashid, designer of sinuous products and sleek interiors, says that to design for the future, one has to be "hyperaware of the present." And though there's a general embrace of contemporary forms and technologies ("Today, you wouldn't play tennis with a wooden racquet," he opines), when it comes to the home, Rashid sees conservative tendencies dominating furniture styles, materials and layouts. He points, for example, to the continued use of uncomfortable spindle-back chairs in dining rooms. "When it comes to our physical world, we tend to get nostalgic. The future is a bit scary and the past is comforting," he says.
Hotels are a great testing ground and agent for change, Rashid says (his design for the budget hotel Prizeotel features bulbous seating options, trippy wallpapers and copious splashes of technicolour). "When people stay in my hotels, at first, it's too much – too extreme, too colourful. But it makes you rethink your sensibilities or tastes at home." Projecting forward 10 years, he sees colour making a bigger splash in living spaces. "Colour was so understated [in] the last 20 years, and now people are getting a little more adventurous and daring. They'll buy a chair that's lime coloured." It's one of the areas in which he sees people being more open to change.
Beyond hue, and despite habits remaining fundamentally unchanged, function and performance are coming to the fore, especially as spaces get tighter (thus the rise of the kitchen sink cum island cum dining table, he says). "You have to design your living room to be more high performance, like the running shoe," says Rashid, ever a fan of the sports reference. "Things either close up, convert, or are multifunctional," he says.
London-based design duo Barber & Osgerby make objects for the long haul. "The analogy I often think about is friendship," Jay Osgerby says. "We want to design products that are like the super-lovely friend or partner you want to live with and share your life with."
The ethos of longevity is tantamount to Barber & Osgerby's position on the future. "Obviously, most designers wouldn't want to design stuff that breaks, but we also don't want things that break visually," Osgerby says, referring to designs that don't age. For their Lunar range of bath and home products for Authentics, they sought inspiration from mid-century Italian design, rendered in glossy ABS plastic. "If you create something which is beautiful, tactile and simple, it can work in so many different environments."
That was the impetus for Axor One, their simplified and centralized shower control system. The sleek unit features a button for the overhead shower, and another for the bath, as well as easy temperature and flow controls. "Instead of half a dozen metal objects on the wall and half a dozen plumbed in behind the wall, you have one box, one setting," Osgerby says. And because it's a mechanical, binary setting (on and off like the click of a pen, he assures) there are no drips. "The overriding principle of design for the future is designing objects which consider the world, but that last a long time and make you feel great every day."
Tommy Smythe, interior designer and contributing editor to House & Home Magazine, was happy to receive an invitation to dine at the home of Laura Calder, author of Dinner Chez Moi: The Fine Art of Feeding Friends, for the legendary company and food, but also because it was the first home-cooked dinner he'd had in weeks; an antidote, at last, to eating out at restaurants. "When you have these huge pendulum swings in culture, where everybody is dining out, no matter their tax bracket, then the really interesting people, to me, are those who are doing the opposite," Smythe says.
Smythe says the days of "dad comes home at 6, dinner's on the table at 6:30 and all the kids are sitting together and having a family dinner" may no longer be realistic, but for those who fear the dining room has gone the way of the dodo, he offers a future alternative. "We give it a second use," he says. "Could it also have a lounge area if it's big enough? Could we make it dual purpose, as a library? … I think that domestic space is going to get smaller as the world gets more populous and that means multiuse spaces are going to become more … I don't want to use the word relevant, they're just going to become more necessary."
At EQ3, discussions around the future of design are often fervent. "The product-development cycle is a long cycle," creative director Thom Fougere says. "It takes a long time to get a product from the idea to the shelves." Because the team typically works two years in advance, or more than that for more complicated technical undertakings, these conversations are necessary to stay ahead, he explains.
Though Fougere says predictions of the far future are difficult, he does reveal that the rise of "work at home" is top of mind for the Winnipeg-based company. EQ3's presentation at the Interior Design Show, titled "Homework," will be responding to the growth of freelance culture and providing simplified work surfaces "meant to be kind of a bridge between home and office."
"The shape of work is changing. We're getting into automated systems, robotics and AI taking over jobs. What does that leave for us humans?" Fougere asks. "I think, at the heart of it, humans always need comfort, beauty, sun, social outlets, stimulation and privacy. Keeping that human aspect in mind will be important to resolving the unknown."
All together now
As cities become more dense, some of the most novel innovations will tackle gathering spaces outside the walls of a condo, loft or townhouse
Michael Donaldson of Toronto-based Design Workshop Architects (DWA) is a self-professed sci-fi fan, watching with interest the advances in automated technologies and speculating on what they might mean for his own profession. "That's where the really interesting stuff is going to be happening. And not 20 years in the future," Donaldson says, "I think in the next 10 years we'll start to see some of these things creep into life." DWA's presentation at the Interior Design Show will test, in real time, participants' reactions to this certain uncertainty.
When it comes to outdoor spaces, Donaldson sees a greater reliance on public-private partnerships and so-called "edge" or "third spaces" to fill the gap, given smaller living areas with limited access to backyards, decks and terraces. "It's not a new model, it's actually an old model," Donaldson says, citing the good old pub as an exemplar. "It's this third type of space that people gather in," he says.
Another example is DWA's own, the recently redeveloped Hillcrest Mall in Richmond Hill, Ont., created in collaboration with MMC Architects. "There are all these uses that happen that you don't expect. There's an active mall-walking community, for example, of people that do laps around the mall every day," he says. "It means that it's actually a public amenity, beyond being a private property."
Kelly Cray and Neil Johnson of U31 have been in the condo design business since 1996. ("Longer than some, I suppose," Cray says.) In that time, they've seen material options expand as synthetics, such as high-performance laminates and porcelains, take the place of natural, but dwindling, material stocks. "The mountains will only be there for so long," Johnson says. "You do run into that. You love a product and there's no more left – it's gone."
At the same time, they've seen condo footprints shrink, predicating the rise of amenity spaces that fill a need for additional square feet and socialization. "You can't really entertain in 400 square feet very well," Cray says. "So, the amenities are really an extension of your living space."
Party rooms and gyms are just the beginning, says Johnson, who predicts the trend will continue, encompassing co-working scenarios and anything else the modern millennial or, in 10 years time, centennial, might need over the course of their day. "It's interesting how these vertical communities, which is what condominiums have become in the city, are almost like your neighbourhood. Yes, you have somewhere to socialize and maybe exercise, but you also have somewhere to work and interact with people," Johnson says.