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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

3 home trends that should frighten the furniture industry

Bill McLoughlin

3 home trends that should frighten the furniture industry

September 23, 2016
Tucked into the agenda of Progressive Business Media's recent NEXT Conference was an innocuous sounding presentation on the Home of the Future, by architect and interior designer Heather McCune. It was informative, entertaining and frightening, or should be to anyone who is in the business of selling furniture for inside the home.
Among the findings offered by McCune were the following three trends that could well explain why furniture sales continue to lag despite what should be improving housing and economic numbers and why they might get worse unless the industry responds.
  1.  Great rooms remain high priorities and the kitchen island is growing. “The kitchen Island has become the social space in the home. It’s where people hang out,” McCune said. Some homes now have double islands, a work island and a social island. Remember when that was the kitchen or dining room table? As importantly, islands are growing larger and encompass seating on both sides. That’s not great news if you’re in the table and chair business.
  2. Master baths are growing in size and becoming more spa-like. In many cases this space now nearly matches the bedroom in square footage. Correspondingly, master closets have become the big new area of spending, again cutting into the square footage of the bedroom. Where do dressers and armoires go in that configuration? Are they even needed in homes where master closets replace the need for free-standing furniture? Is tomorrow’s bedroom suite a bed and two nightstands?
  3. Traditional living rooms are getting squeezed by other social areas; outdoor living spaces, expanded kitchens, even wine rooms. “The living room still exists, it’s just not called the living room,” said McCune. “Increasingly we’re seeing them positioned as hearth rooms. They’re much smaller in scale and very intimate.” Where do overstuffed recliners and large sectional pits fit in this scenario? We’ve talked about scale as an urban or Millennial phenomenon but this finding suggests a much more extensive rethink about furniture scale and configuration.
There is however some very good news for the furniture industry, particularly if you’re in the outdoor category. Outdoor living spaces have replaced flooring as the number two area of spending, according to McCune. The desire to create outdoor spaces that offer a seamless transition, both physically and visually are in growing demand. “Indoor-outdoor spaces are no longer being incorporated only off great rooms,” said McCune. “Think indoor-outdoor office or living rooms.”
This is not to suggest that every home will reflect these trends or that more traditional homes and room sizes will go away. Trends are never as unidirectional as that. Instead, it should open a dialogue around traditional assortment strategy, scale and function. If there was ever a time to analyze the amount of retail floor space allocated to traditional suites, product sizes and configurations, this is it. It’s also a good time to begin planning product for tomorrow’s home.
We’ll have a lot more to say about this in the coming months. Stay tuned.

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