From the mouths of babes

Janice Chamberlain, Jennifer Negley, February 5, 2001

The International Furnishings and Design Association released the second half of its Vision for the Future survey last week, a document that outlines in broad strokes what trends home furnishings designers and retailers will need to address in the future.

The study's conclusions were arrived at by polling manufacturers, designers, retailers, marketers and editors. All were asked to weigh in with their opinions about how life at home will change over the next 20 years.

The resulting report may be a bit of a mixed bag, but it's fun to chew on.

The notion that master bathrooms will continue to become larger makes sense, as does the idea that more of those master baths will include spa showers, whirlpool tubs and exercise equipment. (Note to makers of bath rugs: sizing will need to be larger, and coordinate sets might be a good idea.)

But are people really going to hang out in the bathroom to chat on the phone? How about the bathroom as a spot to send and receive e-mail? The bathroom is supposed to be the one spot in the house where a body can have some peace. I can't see the attraction of dragging worldwide telecommunications devices into the sanctuary.

There's a lot of talk in the survey about the home office, including the suggestion that homes of the future may come equipped with more than one professional workspace. Master bedrooms are expected to become ever larger and more luxurious, sometimes pulling extra duty as a living space/bedroom/office suite. Guest rooms are to become multi-functional spaces that can transform themselves into media rooms, hobby rooms and additional office space.

It's all bigger, more flexible and more heavily appointed with gadgetry, entertainment centers and the seemingly inevitable home office accouterments-except for the rooms envisioned by the kids who one day will have a great deal of influence on how such things are designed.

Bucking the "more, more, more" trend, students at the Fashion Institute of Technology reportedly placed very few home furnishings in their rooms of the future, according to the survey. Instead, they concentrated on "techno-furnishings to make life easier."

Where industry elders imagine the merger of living rooms and dining areas into splendid "great rooms," the FIT kids see place mats with fiber optic messages. The professionals predict a heavier reliance on micro-fibers and a push into green fibers. The students call for self-warming fabrics. The lighting industry folk point to computer-automated smart controls. The FIT gang looks toward fiber optic "window-scapes" whose feature scenes can be changed to hide poor views or, potentially, to suit a particular mood or occasion.

Since these budding designers will in 20 years' time become a huge market at the peak of their spending power, odds are they're the ones to listen to on this score.

Maybe the home of the future isn't going to be "more, more, more." Maybe it's simply going to be more intimate.

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