Living in the Future

How will changing attitudes impact the way we live?

The way we live is changing and we are now demanding more from our homes. As a society, we’re moving away from the “single-use” culture of the past and looking for ways to create more sustainable lives. This isn’t only happening in the things we consume every day, it’s also becoming something we demand from our homes, the buildings we work in and everything we furnish them with.

How will the move towards sustainability impact our everyday lives? And how will this movement shape not only our lifestyles but also the way we interact with our surroundings on a daily basis? Could we all be living in houses made of cardboard boxes in 50 years? To find out, we’ve spoken to two experts about how they believe our cities and homes could change in the future.

The Future of Architecture

By Katie Treggiden

Buildings of the Future

We will see continued growth in the importance of sustainability and wellbeing in both new builds and adaptations of existing buildings.

I believe that in the future, there will be innovation around small-space living and the ‘tiny house movement’ as more people move to cities where space is at a premium and young adults find innovative ways to own their own homes.

I predict that in 100 years’ time the most significant change in architecture will be a shift in focus away from skyward gestures of ego, towards a more inclusive practice that finds lasting solutions for the 1 in 200 people who are currently homeless or living in inadequate homes and for the 46% of 25 to 34-year-olds currently unable to get onto the housing ladder. Just like inclusive design, this sort of architecture would start with building solutions that might only be needed by some but create a better world for all of us.

The UK Green Building Council is focused on ‘mitigating and adapting to climate change, eliminating waste and maximising resource efficiency, embracing and restoring nature and promoting biodiversity, optimising the health and wellbeing of people, and creating long-term value for society and improving quality of life.’ I think and hope we’ll see positive shifts in all those areas.

Cities of the Future

I think and hope the UK Green Building Council’s mission will become the norm for all new buildings and this will see a lot more eco-initiatives being incorporated into homes and offices.

The United Nations predicts that two thirds of us will be living in cities by 2050, and so-called ‘megacities’ such as London, New York and Tokyo already house more than 10 million people. By 2069 we can assume the population will have urbanised further, putting extreme pressure on space, and we can anticipate more single-dwelling premises too.

When Louis Sullivan, an American architect born in 1856, coined the term ‘form follows function’, he was actually referring to forms found in nature. It has become somewhat of a mantra for architects accross the world ever since, but many are now coming back to its original meaning and embracing more organic shapes, especially as we understand more about their role in sparking joy and supporting wellbeing.

I would also like to see the notion of ‘universal design’ (also known as ‘design for all’ or ‘inclusive design’) that is already popular in Norway, America and Japan to gain traction worldwide. Universal design brings the people, usually at the peripheries of design into the process very early on, resulting in solutions that might only be needed by some, but are better for everybody. It avoids the stigma and missteps associated with the 'special solutions for special needs' that typify accessible design, and ensures everyone’s needs are considered.

Building materials
of the Future

There is a lot of material innovation at the moment – largely driven by sustainability – and I think that will continue. Fast-growing, mouldable and entirely compostable, fungal mycelium is a really exciting material to watch for its use in cladding, temporary structures, and insulation.

Green & Blue’s bee bricks are another interesting innovation – they provide habitats for solitary bees – currently in decline due to loss of habitat and yet responsible for a third of what we eat due to their pollination activities.

I don’t think you’ll see the changes in skylines – most eco-features are quietly incorporated and not necessarily visible, noticeable or reflected in a building’s profile or silhouette. I would like to see more focus on making better architecture for everybody and less on the buildings that shape skylines.

New uses for
familiar materials

I think we’ll continue to see material innovation.

We’ve been experimenting with cardboard as a sustainable building material since Buckminster Fuller, an American architect prototyped a house in 1944 – attracted to cardboard’s low cost, flexibility, strength, sustainability, and recyclability. Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban, returned to the material in the 1990s; he built emergency shelters for Rwandan refugees and dwellings in Turkey and India from cardboard tubes and tarpaulin. He built a schoolhouse in China, a concert hall in Italy, and a cathedral in New Zealand, all out of cardboard, promising a life expectancy of 50 years for the latter.


Most recently, a Dutch collective called Fiction Factory, known for creating and building everything from furniture to houses, created cardboard ‘Wikkelhouses’ made from 24 layers of corrugated cardboard, which is glued together and then wrapped up in foil. Cardboard is clearly a material architects will keep returning to, and with the need for sustainable, flexible and temporary dwellings looking set to increase, it seems cardboard might become an increasingly viable option as a sustainable material.


The Future of Interior Design

By Tiffany Grant-Riley

Interiors of the Future

Smart homes have been a topic of great discussion in recent years and brands are exploring the ways in which technology can enhance our lives at home. So far, most home technologies are separate devices - look at the home hubs capable of controlling your lighting, heating and entertainment through voice control. Designers are taking it one step further now by looking at ways to integrate such technologies into the very surfaces of our homes.

We’re already moving closer to introducing smart walls into our homes whereby the wall becomes one giant trackpad enabling you to control all your appliances, entertainment and even paint colour, just by tapping the wall. Don’t put the tins of paint away just yet though, it still has some way to go!

I think our society needs to change its relationship with the way in which we consume.

Interiors will become integrated, multi-purpose spaces favouring precisely engineered modular furniture over single-use, large scale pieces. Botanical motifs currently seen in the houseplant trend will evolve into an integrated part of living, demonstrating the importance of biophilic design connecting us with nature. Indoor garden spaces might become a regular feature, particularly where green areas are rare.

Houses of the Future

It’s unlikely we’ll be living in futuristic space pods (she says) so the real difference will be in the way we apply new and time-honoured materials to our contemporary lifestyles. However, with an uncertain environmental future ahead, the way we live in terms of our environmental impact and also how continuing climate changes affect our day to day lives will undoubtedly force us to change the way we build.

The overall look of interiors won’t change vastly in the next fifty years, we’ll still be using natural materials and new composites, ideally with a higher level of sustainability, but I think the scale of new homes will have changed greatly.

Comprising of three stacked pods, The Living Unit London installation at London Design Festival, (LDF) 2018 explored the future of mini living designed by structural engineers OFIS Arhitekti and architects, AKT II. A somewhat stark example as a permanent solution, the pods had enough room for a kitchen, bathroom, bed and seating for two, accessed by a completely vertical ladder. As space was purposefully at a premium, the interior left little room for embellishment and additional furniture but did raise the question of how much space a person truly needs to live well.

Furniture of the Future

As the way we use our homes is continuing to change, traditional rooms such as the dining room will make way for home offices with more of us working remotely. Ergonomic furniture will take on a homelier, less office-orientated appearance to blend into the surroundings.

As we return to basics, natural fibres are enjoying popularity right now (think cork, bamboo, plywood and linen) and these will continue to play a part in our homes. The fact that they can be produced ethically with a low impact on the environment makes them a solid choice, especially as they become visually more refined as a material.

We’re living in pivotal times which, in terms of the progress of new products, is really exciting to watch unfold! If it can be recycled, grown from nature or continuously reused, we’ll be seeing it in our homes. Innovative composite and repurposed materials will also make their way into our daily lives. Some of them, like designer Robin Grasby’s new surface Altrock makes use of waste bi-products like marble, the ground powder and large chunks of which are set within resin to give the appearance of terrazzo.

British furniture designer and wood whisperer Sebastian Cox is turning his attention to mycelium furniture. In his lab, Cox has demonstrated how furniture can be grown using the underground root structure of mushrooms combined with timber. Bolt Threads, a Californian company have also developed a mycelium product, this time creating Mylo (TM), a leather effect fabric which is just as durable and tactile without the environmental impact on farming animals.

Cheaper materials known for their strength, like cardboard, are already being used for furniture, dubbed as quick and easy to assemble alternatives.

I wonder if cardboard furniture can move away from its crude form, enough to become an elegant piece of design that looks at home in its own right?

There’s a marked increase in the number of consumers taking more time to research the provenance of the products they buy, millennials in particular. They will shop around, wanting to know who made that chair, what sort of impact its production has had on the environment and if the company responsible has ethical values. With the intention of buying once, consumers are looking to invest in better quality, for life products to reduce their environmental footprint.

Consumer approaches towards sustainable design are changing.

Slow design is (funnily enough) overtaking fast consumption. A return to appreciating traditional craft and artisanal skills – as is evident in the rise of sites such as - marks a ‘new craft’ revival. Design brands have to become more transparent and accountable across all aspects of their businesses. Transparency and honesty are hugely important and the brands that survive will be the ones who can adapt to this new way of operating.

When we imagine homes of the future, it’s easy to conjure up interiors as an out of reach, utopia (or dystopia depending on how you look at it!). Ultimately however, what we will see a continuation of is how we humans need to make our homes sanctuary-like, with a greater connection to the environment.

Katie Treggiden

Katie Treggiden

Katie Treggiden is a craft and design writer with almost 20 years' experience in the creative industry. She regularly contributes to publications such as The Guardian, Crafts Magazine, Elle Decoration, Design Milk and Monocle. She has written four published books and the forewords to two more, established the award-winning design blog “Confessions of a design geek” and launched, published and edited the independent print magazine Fiera – her latest book, Weaving: Contemporary Makers on the Loom (Ludion), was published in September 2018.
Katie Treggiden

Tiffany Grant-Riley

Tiffany Grant-Riley is a freelance interior stylist, design writer and blogger based in Chatham, Kent. Established in 2014, her blog Curate and Display is a destination for minimalist, Nordic design and the slow living lifestyle. Combining her experience as a former stage manager and editorial stylist, Tiffany is slowly renovating her Edwardian terraced home, blending contemporary style with original features. Her style is pared back Nordic with a muted colour palette and a shot of black.

Her work has been featured in various publications including Stylist Magazine, BBC Homes & Antiques, 91 Magazine and popular Dutch interiors magazine, VTWonen.

in the future

Both our experts agree on the need to find sustainable solutions for all aspects of our daily lives. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll all enjoy living and working in spaces designed to not only work for us, but are built with the future of the planet in mind too. With a range of new, more eco-friendly building materials being trialled, the future might not be that far away.