In this article, we deal with various socio-economic trends that will influence living in 2021 and the future. “Socio-economic” is generally understood to mean economic activity in its social context and this with the respective relationship to other social, political, demographic, ecological, and spatial processes. Demographic and social developments are also what challenge urban planners and architects in densely populated Germany.
Here 46.5% of the properties are owned. This means that just over half of the population lives in a tenancy agreement. If you consider that a tenancy agreement lasts on average 8 years, then the challenge for manufacturers and the interior industry is to offer as timeless, modular concepts as possible for living in 2021 that can be flexibly used. For example, retrospectively expandable or reducible cabinet systems, compact sofas that can be individually adapted, or kitchens can be individually inserted into a relatively small area. Furniture that can be moved easily will also be the focus of buyers more and more in the future.
One note in advance: We are not looking at those customers from lower to middle incomes, e.g., in the area of socially disadvantaged areas, but rather those whose personal and financial situation is stable and can be established. It is life-defining issues that influence people from these social classes when choosing an apartment and interior: a job, the family, free daycare/schools, and food.
As a rule, until adulthood, a person lives in a family that lives in a house or apartment. Later they are drawn to independence, and, depending on their choice of profession and family or social ties, the place of residence is then established. Then you often live with a partner with whom a compromise has to be found in terms of living area, apartment, or house. If the search for a suitable place to live at a young age often takes place in urban conurbations, this often changes when some of the people develop into families with children. Then at the latest, houses and more rural regions come into question to offer the youngsters the freedom and security of a small town. With age, when the children are literally out of the house, the older generations are drawn back to manageable rented apartments or better infrastructure, if one loses mobility, becomes dependent on caregivers, or even just to one of the services City brings to use. It is precisely this topic that will occupy urban planners in 2021 and certainly for years beyond.
It is precisely with that older generation that significant increases are recorded in rented property or tenancy agreements. They also value quality because who wants to go out again when they are over 60 and buy furniture or even assemble it at home. It becomes clear that in this segment, furniture purchase services play an increasingly important role. Or living concepts, including furniture, are offered. For architects and interior designers, the target group’s needs must be much more focused in the future to operate successfully. Or a way has to be found how different budgets and requirements for a property or piece of furniture can be reconciled, for example, modularity and flexibility with good quality.
On the other hand, for a student who only lives in a rented apartment for an average of 3-5 years, this point is rather insignificant when looking for an apartment. For them, the infrastructure and proximity to the campus are usually relevant. Around 14% already live in shared apartments. How the apartment generally looks inside or outside can only be influenced to a limited extent. In particular, since this generation is open to current trends such as environmental awareness, sustainability trends, and DIY, they are also increasingly looking for furniture that can be moved easily. Living in 2021 will certainly also be shaped by this socio-economic trend.
The “middle ages” and the older generation also value the apartment’s location and external impact. Infrastructure and proximity to friends or shops and cultural institutions also play a role. The prestige that a property conveys not only plays a role in the four walls but also the apartment, the house. The location must suit the tenant and the social position. True to the motto, “Show me how you live, and I’ll tell you who you are.”
Let us now look at the development of living concepts in Germany. Various similar living trend concepts have been establishing themselves here for several years. It is micro-apartments and so-called serviced apartments showing a strong increase, especially in the larger cities. The latter deliberately focus on temporary and furnished living with additional options, similar to a hotel ambiance. Temporary living, temporary home, and long-term rent are terms that stand for this concept. The flexibility aspect in terms of time and convenience is essential to many guests of “Serviced Apartments”. Often it is project staff, career starters, or fitters who need a place to stay for a long time at short notice and do not have the time to look for an apartment. These “serviced apartments” are mostly designed for 1-2 people and offer various services, from the integrated kitchenette to a breakfast menu and in-house cleaning service. The location and transport links also play a role.
When it comes to micro-apartments, many initially think of student accommodation, but that is no longer the case. The niche market for small furnished apartments is growing inexorably and has long since ceased to be the only target group for students. Micro-apartments have become a class of their own. Due to the many variants and the different requirements of the various markets, there is no standardized definition for the term. In German-speaking countries, this is understood to be a small-scale, furnished form of living with usually one or two rooms and a size of around 18 to a maximum of 40 square meters. These are mostly custom-made 1-room apartments in an urban location, the equipment of which is designed in a highly efficient manner to make them appear larger. The smaller the living space, the greater the challenge for architects and interior designers to create a real home in a small space that does not resemble a classic hotel room floor plan.
Much micro-apartments work with custom-made fixtures and multifunctional furniture, e.g., fold-away beds, concealed kitchen units, or home office solutions, to create additional storage space. Furthermore, these apartments often have higher ceilings and larger windows. For the bathroom and kitchen, almost 7 square meters are often estimated. So it’s a complete apartment in a small space. In the student segment, the kitchens, bathrooms, or living rooms are shared. In new residential buildings of this type, there is a deliberately large communal kitchen and additional social rooms for the residents to interact with – often marketed under the term “co-living”.
The background to this major trend is, on the one hand, the tendency that age groups from 18 to approx. 29 years of age like to live in the big city because they study or do an apprenticeship there and gain their first experience in professional life. But “micro-living” is also a good alternative for commuters to escape the daily stress on the street. The low rental prices of such offers allow a second home for work during the week. At the weekend, social life takes place at home outside the city.
We are going one step further when it comes to living in 2021 and claim those city dwellers will look for such living concepts as they get older. Resourceful building contractors are already thinking about building barrier-free apartments with the social connections that are very important in old age in common rooms, e.g., common rooms on each floor, such as a cinema room or reading corners, a large kitchen for shared or separate cooking, with personal cupboards for each tenant. Parts of the garden or hobby and fitness or yoga rooms are also incentives for this age group.
So you automatically come to our next trend: the cross-generational or intercultural concepts. As the name suggests, it is about residential buildings or apartment complexes intended to connect different generations and ethnic groups. Residential complexes for families are near residential complexes for the older generation to benefit from mutual closeness and togetherness. Examples of this are: help with childcare, shopping, driving services, car-sharing, or the very mundane exchange of experiences and practical help from the communal living concept with the greatest possible independence and independence. Such concepts would be particularly suitable in cities with larger old buildings. You can act on a small number of floors in the old building stock, inner courtyards, and green spaces create places of retreat and spaces that improve the city’s CO² balance and significantly raise the standard of living. This concept is just as conceivable for new construction areas in urban or rural regions.
The tendency with increasing age to exchange one’s own house for a condominium or an apartment with care or “family ties” is clearly visible. If the rate for the up to 49-year-olds is still 6%, it is already almost 10% for the over 69-year-olds. A positive side aspect of such concepts is the overall lower space requirement since some rooms are combined. Besides, such a concept strengthens the group idea, the socialization, which is quickly lost in high-rise buildings with sometimes more than 200 independent parties. One could fill books about the problems that such neighborhoods create. The aim must be to create communities in “Living in 2021” and beyond, e.g., to replace family ties that have disappeared. New compact furniture and construction methods also mean that less valuable space around large cities is required for new buildings.
You can see that there is no longer just the traditional living concept in one’s own house or apartment. More and more concepts are in demand that can respond flexibly to needs. This applies to both the interior and the construction industry.
The challenge for building developers, architects, interior designers, and manufacturers are developing and manufacturing products for these requirements. As a result, some topics have now gone under that one could certainly have written about, such as less need for large, sweeping furniture, less need in general for furniture stores, since furniture is often already installed and placed in small areas in the living trends. Or the subject of quality, ecology, and sustainability also plays an important role in the living concepts mentioned. The owner of a serviced apartment complex probably does not intend to renovate his room every two years due to wear and tear. It is important to develop long-lasting designs, and resource-saving sustainable production of these is another sales argument.
Because this topic has also played a widespread role in purchasing decisions in recent years, according to the 2018 federal government’s environmental awareness study, over 64% of the German population see environmental and climate protection as a significant challenge. Product solutions, particularly those that deal with sustainability and climate protection, are a strong trend for living in 2021.
For us, there is an approach to the future for manufacturers and interior designers. More and more durable, sustainable, and ecological furniture and interior items are needed again. So that living is not only beautiful but also sustainable and therefore healthy. It is also up to the city planners and architects to design clever living concepts that are space-saving on the one hand and additional benefits such as common rooms or green spaces for a better CO² balance in the district on the other.
All manufacturers and designers must stop producing short-lived “rubbish” and that in the true sense of the word. A mammoth task, sure. But the more such products there are, the more people will use them. At least, that is what the tendency of the above-mentioned environmental study says. But it is also clear: Neither the individual, nor the designer, nor the manufacturer, nor politicians will solve this problem: it can only be done together.
If we were able to arouse your interest in “Living in 2021” and color and furniture trends in 2021/2022, then look at our current e-book “Interior Trends 2020/2021”.