Why Future Homes Will Be More Adaptable [Future Of Home Living]

Why Future Homes Will Be More Adaptable [Future Of Home Living]

PSFK chats with Susan Szenasy, editor in chief of Metropolis, on the next big trends in reconfigurable design.

  • 28 july 2013

As part of our Future of Home Living Series, PSFK Labs reached out to experts to get their take on the changes we’ve identified that are driving the evolution of the home. We recently caught up with Susan Szenasy, Editor in Chief of Metropolis magazine. A new book about her writings is to be published in Spring 2014. Read our chat with Susan below to hear more about how are homes are becoming more customizable.

With regards to home design, what are the sustainable design innovations that you find most exciting?

I’m most hopeful about the demise of the McMansion and a more modest way of living. But what is more important to the environment than the design of individual houses is a move to cities by young people who want live near the action and not isolated in some little house on the chemically dependent lawn. Denser living, near transit (not cars) is better for human beings (no frustrating traffic jams, more walking) as well as for the environment that supports our lives.

We’re interested in the idea of adaptability as it applies to urban lifestyles. How can reconfigurable and flat pack design be used to accommodate a wider range of living styles? What are the key challenges/considerations?

When re-configurable flat-pack modules are used to create personal space–not some bland, utilitarian boxes that we associated with prefab–then we’ll be seeing some very interesting living spaces developing. We’re looking for personal expression everywhere, the idea of creating space that is just right for you who may have a dog, your friend who’s bringing up a kid, or me who works all the time, is pretty exciting to think about.

How can design and material choices be used to combat the challenges that noise and air pollution pose for urban lifestyles?

Design choices have everything to do with making our environment healthier, including reducing noise and air pollution. The sound of everything, including the keyboard on which I write is designed as and kind of feedback mechanism. How to think about sound design in the larger, systems context when everything around us makes its own sounds. Should we not design things with the whole system of hearing in mind? As for air pollution, especially indoor air pollution, designers in the commercial fields are  working to find out the chemical content of the materials they specify, so that they don’t  brew a chemical soup of toxins in the interior environment. I see less of this happening in residential design, where healthy products are key to everyone’s well being, especially when you consider little kids growing up surrounded by toxins. Residential design needs to catch up with contract design in this regard.

How important is light to the way people experience a physical space? What technologies are driving innovation within this area of design?

Light is key to our experience of any space, including the interior. It helps us see, to learn, to understand space, to navigate it safely. Sunlight is essential in our vitamin D deficient culture. Bringing natural light in through the design of well placed windows and openings is key; filtering that light’s heat is key to how we use sunlight in the interior (having windows is not enough). As for artificial light, there are now very smart LEDs that can render color beautifully, light up spaces really well, lamps with dimmers that that control the powerful light emitted from LEDs that are the most energy efficient light source we have.

What do you see as the next big trend(s) in urban living and why is this important?

Urban living is all about the rich resources of culture, food, people, services, products we can have access to in one compact space. All these resources connect us to each other and to the vast store of human knowledge that makes us unique among species, and gives us the power to make all of life on earth healthier, more pleasant, more connected. Small living spaces, in active neighborhoods where services and other resources are within walking distance are planned in every city today. Places designed to connect to nature through green roofs, small pocket parks, benches under trees, bike paths, streets where young an old, able bodied people and disabled can navigate easily, mass transit serving longer distance travel all work to make a rich life of constant change and variety.

What are three things (products, services, interior design solutions etc.) you’d put in your perfect home or apartment?

My perfect home is a retreat, a quiet place where as Eliza Doolittle says, is “far away from the cold night air, with one enormous chair…” and a great lamp.

Thanks Susan!


PSFK has announced the latest in a series of trend reports. Following studies into retailsocial mediagamingwork and mobile, the PSFK Labs consulting team have generated the Future of Home Living report. That report manifests as a free summary presentation, an in-depth downloadable PDF and an exhibition in New York City that runs to August 16.

RSVP below to take a tour of the exhibition at 101W15th.


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