PORTO, Portugal — Architects, designers and an international color consultant took the stage on the opening day of Portugal Home Week to discuss what factors will determine how we live in our homes in the future, and some of the predictions could provide new product and career opportunities for home furnishings professionals.
With Manual Aroso from the University of Porto as moderator, panelists Paula Santos, Paulo Merlini, Fabian Pellegrinet Conte, Susan Fischer and Antony Cestra shared their forecasts for the home of the future, and their predictions underscore the growing awareness of the connection between the home environment and mental and physical well-being.
“In the 21st century, there are many reasons to think about the construction of houses of the future,” said Santos, vice president, Association of Architects. “The construction of a house is an economic, political and transforming action, and many economic policies revolve around the housing industry. As architects, we are creating new ways of living and designing houses that incorporate architecture, urbanization and planning that contribute to cities built with purpose.”
Merlini, founder of Paulo Merlini Architects, said that “a casa do future” would be driven by evolutions in technology and noted that humans have inherent biological preferences that can become part of home design and planning.
“Technology will lead us and take human error out of the equation,” he said. “And when we as professionals think outside of our architect’s boxes, we can begin to include elements that speak to our roots. For example, we have an innate attraction for green spaces that goes back to our early ancestors. When they saw green spaces and trees, that often led to water. Or when we coordinate the type of lighting we use with our internal clock, our brain responds in a positive way.
“When we create our ‘boxes,’ we need to include what we know from history,” Merlini added.
“For the house of the future, I think we will go back to our roots, while also understanding that interior design and architecture give us the ability to reflect the needs of our time,” said Fischer, an architect, and international color consultant at Unbox Color. “We will see things like voice-activated shower systems, AI-powered medicine cabinets that will remind us to take our medicine and smart beds in our homes.
“And there will be color in the house of the future along with biophilia and designing with nature,” Fischer added. “People will understand that color is just as important as the floorplan or construction plans when they design their homes.”
Cestra, senior associate architect and project manager for Rockwell Group, said that sustainability will play an increasingly important role in the future, adding that homes of the past will provide inspiration.
“Sustainability is utilizing what you have in the local environment,” he said. “The home of the future will include modern innovation, integrated technology, sustainable materials, modern comforts, a sense of identity and a touch of luxury, but they will use fewer natural resources. Construction methods that include 3D printed homes or modular construction show us new possibilities.”
Conte, designer and consultor, said that the pandemic led many people to ask themselves questions about what they expect from their homes.
“We demand much more from our homes than before,” he said. “It is important for our house to allow us to work, live and play in one space, but I think the house of the future has to be simpler and help us live better every day. I think more people will do an audit of their home, much like companies do, and ask what things will be used for. The home will become more organized, more logical and also more functional.”
Cesta noted that cultural norms also play an important role in the home of the future.
“In Italy, a house is passed on from generation to generation,” he explained. “In the U.S., many people change homes every five years. So how do we drive sustainability in the house of the future? The most sustainable building is one we don’t have to build from scratch.”
Merlini agreed. “Homes are built to protect us, and while we will never all be equal in what we can afford, we can focus on what our home has to give us,” he said.
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