Maximizing Tight Quarters
Furnishings makers capitalize on small space living trends.
Small space living may not be all tiny homes, but make no mistake, consumers are gravitating toward smaller living spaces, and home furnishings companies are acutely aware of the trend, bringing products and entire collections to the forefront designed to accommodate this demographic.
Whether empty-nester Baby Boomers downsizing or budget-conscious Millennials buying first homes, smaller living spaces are more prevalent today than a decade ago, a trend that doesn’t appear to be changing soon.
The uptick in smaller homes, however, doesn’t mean consumers won’t have money to spend on furnishings. The two generations where this trend is most prevalent have the bulk of the spending power — $3.2 trillion for Baby Boomers and $1.4 trillion for Millennials (the largest demographic). Does this mean we’ll see a shift back to the larger homes of previous years? That’s not likely, at least not in the near future. A recent statistic from the National Association of Home Builders says that three out of four Millennials are first-time homebuyers, and they tend to purchase smaller properties.
So how are furniture, lighting and decor companies leveraging this growing trend?
It makes sense that smaller spaces would command smaller home furnishings, and while scale is important, functionality, durability and design are still the focal points for most consumers, and manufacturers have been mindful of that when creating new lines and products for these consumers.
For Twin Star Home, known for its electric fireplaces, TV consoles, desks and other casegoods, the company keeps multi-functionality top of mind during product development. “Functionality is a theme for us when we are developing furniture. You will see many pieces that are multifunctional and perfect for small spaces,” Lisa Cody, Vice President of Marketing at Twin Star Home, says of the company’s offerings. “We consider how and where a piece of furniture is going to be used; we let the consumer guide us.” From side tables that charge electronics to a wine cabinet that can fit a fireplace unit, the company is focused on products that tout form and function. And Twin Star is not alone in focusing on these characteristics.
Universal Furniture rolled out Spaces at April’s High Point Market, with a sharp focus on the Millennial consumer. According to Director of Marketing Neil MacKenzie, the Millennial lifestyle — from smaller living quarters to travel and the retail experience they covet — has been taken into account in the product development of the Spaces collection. The pieces include such features as nightstands with USB charging and under-bed storage, along with proper scale and a style that will resonate with this customer.
“Millennials want to spend money on things that will last,” MacKenzie says, noting that durability is high on the list of features this demographic is looking for.
While multi-functionality and storage are important, other ways to deliver stylish home furnishings that pack a punch include creating lines that can be used in different ways. For Hooker Furniture, that includes such pieces as a line of sleek mirrors that open to provide hidden storage; the Friendship table, which is sized to function as a dining table or a desk; or a chaise style power sleeper that includes storage and has a removable arm for easy transport.
Although scale is important, says Jeremy Hoff, President of Hooker Furniture, “The key is creating unique function and storage without lowering the perceived value of the pieces. When you do smaller scale well-made and good-looking, it sells really well.”
A Grand Perception
Furnishings scaled to fit smaller spaces can go a long way toward creating the illusion of a larger space, but there are other ways to provide the feeling of space, even in a smaller footprint.
Take lighting. According to Jeffrey Dross, Corporate Director, Education and Industry Trends at Kichler Lighting, scale is not the only consideration when lighting small spaces. “One of the trends we continually monitor is what’s happening with architecture, the changes and flow of space architects use in new business.” Older houses may have 8-foot-tall ceilings, while newer construction may have 10-foot ceilings. While Dross continues to see open concept home design, it’s necessary to assess a room’s dimensions when placing lighting. “Lighting needs to come naturally,” Dross notes. “It should fit the specifics of the portion of an open space.
“A small floor plan with a taller ceiling can look smaller. By using cove lighting or sconces at the appropriate level, you can ignore the extra height above your head,” he continues.
Creative use of accents can also maximize a consumer’s smaller living space, says Jackie Paulsen, Director of Marketing at Surya. “When I think about small spaces, I think about products that have multiple uses,” she says. “Poufs, for example, aren’t like a big, bulky coffee table. They can be picked up and moved from room to room, and if you put four poufs together, you technically have a coffee table.” Poufs, and large floor pillows, add a decorative element to a room and offer transportable seating options for entertaining.
Creatively merchandising rugs — runners rather than full-size rugs down the sides of a bed — accessories and smaller scale furnishings at retail or in a design showroom can help customers envision pieces they might not have considered as small space solutions. By anticipating this consumer’s needs, small spaces can be a category with a big upside. “It’s important to have a product offering that meets the needs of this Millennial customer,” says Universal’s MacKenzie. “We’re trying to begin that conversation so we can offer something of value.”
From functionality to scale, these home furnishings are designed for smaller spaces.
The Ciao Bella Friendship table is inspired by the small farmhouses of the French and Italian countryside. Shown in Timeworn Gray finish, this table can function as a desk or for dining, perfect for small spaces. www.hookerfurniture.com
This industrial-style bookshelf unit from Twin Star Home features metal legs, distressed wood accents and an electric fireplace inset, providing multi-functionality for a small space. www.twinstarhome.com
From its new CosmoLiving collection designed for Millennials, this framed natural wall art from UMA displays large tropical leaves and is housed in a gold rectangular frame. The flowing palm leaves imagery is designed to evoke a relaxing feeling.
These Stanton nesting end tables from Zuo Modern in contrasting black and white tops are designed for a smaller, modern space. They collaborate well when nested but provide extra functionality when scattered about a room. www.zuomod.com
The Architectural Hexagon Top coffee table from Jonathan Charles can be taken apart to form five individual tables, making it ideal for entertaining in small spaces. www.jonathancharlesfurniture.com
With smaller dining areas, a full-sized pendant — the Annette from Kichler Lighting — can add interest to the room and not overwhelm the space. www.kichler.com
With sizes from twin to king, the Symmetry Lift storage bed from Durham Furniture’s PerfectBalance line has a hydraulic suspension lift. www.perfectbalancefurniture.com
The Tanner nightstand from Universal Furniture’s Spaces collection features one drawer supported by a sleek geometric, stainless-steel base. It also has a lift lid with power and USB ports. Walnut finish. www.universalfurniture.com
Designed for urban living and smaller homes, Bernhardt Loft features textural distressed pine in a palette of muted gray and brushed white as seen on this sideboard from the collection. www.bernhardt.com
The Amsterdam pouf from Surya features a distressed finish and comes in four colors. Constructed of a chenille/polyester blend with a wood frame, the pouf is compact enough to move around a small room when not in use. www.surya.com