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The Millennial home economy: Consumer homes into work spaces

John Lewis has highlighted the way in which consumer’s homes are changing with a new report showing that the living room, as the heart of the home, is also known as the place in which many of us work and also work-out, and the furniture we fill it with is quite different from just a few years ago.

The report, called The Things We Do In Our Living Rooms, is based on insights from over 3,400 shoppers and shows that over half of those people spend more time in this room than any other.

Watching TV remains the main activity done in this room (96% of respondents have done so in the past month), but there are actually 25 activities that focus on the living room. They include sleeping (68%), entertaining (63%), ironing (27%), nail painting (21%), working (19-30%), dancing (19%), changing outfits (13%), exercising (12%), applying makeup (9%), meditation (6%) and making cocktails (5%).

The increase in the number of people using the living room as a workplace comes as half of the UK workforce is set to work remotely by 2020. Almost one in five (19%) said they had worked from their living space in the past month, with this figure rising to 30% of those with families. Even those who aren’t doing paid work in this room are working in this space with two-thirds “having done life admin” in this room in the past month.

And the retailer said that this change in working lifestyle is affecting the furniture that we buy, with items that are practical for a working day taking their place in the room but also needing to look good and to blend in. The company has seen a shift in demand away from traditional desks that have lots of storage in favour of more style-led desks, with sales of this type up 80% year-on-year.

There has also been a huge growth in office chairs which “have a softer more homely feel rather than technical ones.” Sales of these chairs with wood rather than metal legs, and fabric rather than plastic or mesh seats are up 125% “as people look to create office spaces which blend in so they can forget them when they’re not working.”

And while it might seem that the living room has been evolving onto a much less formal space for many years, nearly one third of respondents said they now do things in their living rooms that they wouldn’t have done as recently as five years ago. Some 19% said they had started eating in theirs, while 15% are more likely to have a nap in this space nowadays, and 5% said they would now bring a duvet in “to snuggle up on the sofa.”

So, we already seen how all of this is affecting office-relevant furniture, but what about other pieces that sit in a living room and the colours and styles that we chose?

Home Buying director Jonathan Marsh said: “When it comes to decorating our living rooms 48% of shoppers who are planning to redecorate this year expect to be bolder in their choices. Over the past year nearly one third of customers have bought brass, copper, velvet or marble items for their living rooms, and pink is replacing grey as the new neutral colour to decorate with.

“Demand for three-piece suites has diminished and been replaced by statement sofas and accent chairs which enable us to express our personal styles. Sales of modular sofas are up, as they’re perfect for open plan spaces that have been the biggest architectural change in this space in recent times.”

And when it comes to accessories, households are “adopting the US trend for gallery walls but we’re not making galleries with clip frames,” which have dropped so much in popularity that the retailer will stop selling them this year.

Customers are choosing round mirrors over rectangular ones, and opting for the latest tech. Sales of smart speakers are up 35% while mantel clocks are down by 30%. Sales of curtain tie-backs are down 20% as smart blinds and wave-headed curtains prove more popular.

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