The House Of The Future
The large suburban home has long been the Australian dream but the house of the future is emerging as a sleek, minimalist dwelling designed to maximise psychological and environmental benefits.
The move to minimalism is resulting in smaller, simpler homes with streamlined, open spaces that are easy to maintain and provide a sanctuary-style escape from a hectic world.
Demographics are driving the move towards more affordable, minimalist homes. Two mega trends – the ageing population and the shrinking family, mean fewer people per Australian residence.
The ageing population will see more downsizer single and couple-only households. In the 2016 Census, 14% of Australians were aged 65 years and over, an increase from 11% in 20111. This is expected to further rise to 21-23% of the total population by 20662. Lone person households are expected to grow from 2.3 million in 2016 to 3-3.5 million by 20413.
Families are also shrinking, reducing the need for space. Australian women are having fewer children, with the fertility rate at 1.74 babies per woman –the lowest since 20014. The proportion of Australians living within traditional families has fallen from 54% in 1996 to 49% in 2016; and this is forecast to fall further to 48% in 2041.
By contrast, couples living without children have increased from 19% to 21%5. This has been helped by a big jump in couples aged 25-34 years who don’t have children, as more millennials choose to start their families later in life3.
Australia’s surging population, which is expected to grow from 25 million to 37-49 million in 2066, means major cities will have to make more use of medium and high density options6.
Increasingly time poor home owners want more flexibility and lower maintenance properties to suit their busy lifestyles. Many people don’t have time to mow lawns or clean large residences anymore.
An important factor driving the move to minimalism is psychological.
Japanese tidying expert, Marie Kondo has popularised minimalism through her best-selling book, ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ and her hit Netflix show,‘ Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’. People are realising they are happier and healthier in a minimalist home, which is backed by scientific research.
A study by the US Centre on the Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) revealed a ‘clutter crisis’7 amongst Los Angeles home owners. It found that women in homes they described as stressful, including cluttered and unfinished, were more likely to suffer from chronic stress, depression through the day and greater fatigue at night8.
Another study by Chicago’s DePaul University and the University of New Mexico found clutter can damage our sense of home and subjective wellbeing9. We are more likely to consume unhealthy food, too10.
The growing shift towards minimalism will see Australians reject excess across the design, décor and function of homes.
Houses will be smaller. The move to minimalism has found expression in the ‘tiny home’ movement – the growth of small, eco-friendly homes. Tiny homes significantly cut emissions because they need less heating and lighting11.
In Australia, tiny might not become typical but smaller will be standard. While the size of our homes grew by 30% in the 30 years to FY18, accelerating through the 1980s and 1990s, the average size of the Australian home is now the smallest it has been in 22 years, reflecting more apartment living12.
The smaller home will meet people’s growing desire to cut their environmental footprint. Bigger homes wipeout the benefits of more energy efficient dwellings13. Cutting the size of a house by 5-10% makes it easier to move to zero net energy – a household with no ongoing energy costs14.
Only essential furniture will remain and stylish yet easy to clean features will dominate, such as timber floors and stone benches and vanities. The growth of renting, including cars and even clothes, will make garages and storage increasingly unnecessary.
Technology is facilitating the move to minimalism. Less gadgets are needed as various technologies collapse into universal systems operated by phone or voice activation with Google Home, Alexa or Amazon Echo.
Family photos and documents are being digitised. Cookbooks are becoming redundant with recipes on smartphones and eventually, on smart benches. Home technology will become silent and invisible. Cords and knobs will disappear and screens will be camouflaged – the current trend is wall-hung TV mirrors.
The typical Australian home of yesteryear was a cluttered castle full of photos, trinkets, aged furniture and happy memories. The house of the future looks more compact and curated; and more symbolic of our work and lifestyle priorities.
1 Ageing population 2016, Australian Bureau of Statistics, published, October 23, 2017, 2 Population projections Australia 2017, Australian Bureau of Statistics, published November 22, 2018, 3 Household and family projections, Australia, 2016 to 2041, Australian Bureau of Statistics, published March 14, 2019, 4 Australian women are now having children older than ever, Australian Bureau of Statistics, published December 11, 2018, 5 People less likely to live in couple families with kids, Australian Bureau of Statistics, published March 14, 2019, 6 Population projections, Australia 2017 – 2066, Australian Bureau of Statistics, published November 22, 2018, 7 The clutter culture, UCLA Magazine, published July 1, 2012, 8 No place like home: Home tours correlate with daily patterns of mood and cortisol, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, published 2010, 9 The dark side of home: Assessing possession ‘clutter’ on subjective wellbeing, Journal of Environmental Psychology, published June 201, 10 Clutter, chaos and overconsumption: The role of mindset in stressful and chaotic food environments, Environment and Behaviour, published January 6, 2016, 11 Tiny homes: Improve carbon footprint and the American lifestyle on a large scale, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, published April 24, 2014, 12 Australian home size hits 22-year low, CommSec Economic, Insights, published November 16, 2018, 13 As American homes get bigger, energy efficiency gains are wiped out, Pew Research Center, published November 9, 2015, 14 Size matters: House size and thermal efficiency as policy strategies to reduce net emissions of new developments, RMIT University, published 2012
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