MI­CRO LIV­ING Amy Brad­ford

ELLE Dec­o­ra­tion’s looks at how the prop­erty crisis and tech­nol­ogy are con­spir­ing to scale down our idea of home

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Style News -

When an in­te­ri­ors trend ap­pears as a big sell in the an­nual Ikea cat­a­logue, it’s safe to say it’s hit the main­stream.

Which is why the 2017 edi­tion’s fo­cus on com­pact (read: ‘cramped’) liv­ing has alarm bells ring­ing in my head. Among the sug­ges­tions from Ikea’s liv­ing ex­perts are buy­ing a sofa that dou­bles as a bed; hang­ing your chairs on the wall to save space (it’s ‘wall art’, you see); and pack­ing in a mi­cro fridge be­neath the sink of your three-foot-wide kitchen (which, be­ing com­posed mostly of boxes and shelves on wheels, feels as pre­car­i­ous as can be). Pre­sum­ably the lat­ter holds the same Pot Noo­dles and cans of Coca-cola that you lived on as a stu­dent – for that is what this is, stu­dent liv­ing for the per­pet­ual ‘ kidults’ that Lon­don’s spi­ralling prop­erty crisis is forc­ing us to be­come (not that the prob­lem is unique to us; Ikea is Swedish, af­ter all, and pub­lishes the same cat­a­logue in ev­ery ter­ri­tory). And it’s not just young sin­gle­tons who are feel­ing the squeeze, ac­cord­ing to Ikea: it coun­sels young fam­i­lies to pack a bunk bed into their liv­ing room (‘a stylish set-up that lets kids be kids and adults be adults’) and even empty nesters to re­joice in the in­ti­macy of small, cosy cor­ners (per­haps they’ve down­sized, like the gov­ern­ment asked them to). The mes­sage is clear: shrink­ing liv­ing quar­ters are the fu­ture we all face.

A sur­vey by Opinium Re­search for the cap­i­tal’s Fifty Thou­sand Homes cam­paign re­vealed some dis­turb­ing facts. Forty-two per cent of the twen­tysome­things polled were put­ting off start­ing a fam­ily be­cause of soar­ing hous­ing costs. Four out of five of the 520 re­spon­dents were con­sid­er­ing leav­ing Lon­don al­to­gether. If they do, they may well be hit with huge trans­port costs in or­der to get to work back in the city. Per­haps, if they’re lucky, their fi­nances will stretch to one of the new ‘co­l­iv­ing’ de­vel­op­ments that are spring­ing up across the cap­i­tal, such as The Col­lec­tive (thecol­lec­tive.co.uk), a place where ev­ery­thing ex­cept the bed­rooms is com­mu­nal, or We­live, the new con­cept from col­lec­tive workspace pi­o­neer Wework that will soon al­low lucky work­ers to re­side in pods above their of­fices. The same tech­nol­ogy that lib­er­ates us to work flex­i­ble hours at home is also erod­ing the bar­ri­ers that used to sep­a­rate work from leisure.

Over the past few years, this mag­a­zine has doc­u­mented how fast-paced lifestyles and the re­ces­sion have prompted peo­ple to spend more time at home, re­treat­ing from stress and strain. In the long term, could the ‘mi­cro home’ phe­nom­e­non change that? Spend­ing your down­time in a tiny space where there’s no op­por­tu­nity to en­ter­tain friends is hardly an at­trac­tive prospect. Maybe we’ll de­velop richer so­cial lives, as we ven­ture be­yond our own four walls. But we may sacri­fice closer, deeper bonds in the process. We can’t blame Ikea for want­ing to put a pos­i­tive spin on a de­cline in our col­lec­tive for­tunes, but if this trend con­tin­ues, they should be as wor­ried as we are.

‘Ikea en­cour­ages you to buy a sofa that dou­bles as a bed and hang your din­ing chairs on the wall (it’s “wall art”, you see)’

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