The computer. The smartphone. The iPad. The iPod. The other computer. With every year that goes by, our collection of must-have gadgets gets a little larger. This creates a paradox, where the more Jetsonian devices we bring home, the emptier our houses become. Our laptops, tablets and e-readers are absorbing the movies, albums, encyclopedias and filing cabinets that once took up valuable real estate in our homes. So what are we doing with all of this extra space?
According to Heather Faulkner, a realtor with Re/Max, people are moving toward less defined and more flexible spaces, while they transition into lives with less clutter. “If you go into the showhomes they’ll have a den or flex room on the main floor,” she says. “So you kind of have your kitchen and eating area and then you have space where it’s up to you – you can make it into a den or an office or a dining room.” Flexible spacing allows homebuyers to decide how they want to fill the spaces, or if they want to fill them at all. As we begin to store more and more of our paperwork, media and entertainment digitally, Faulkner is seeing the desire for “more open, airy spaces in homes.” Interestingly, or perhaps predictably, the need for less shelving for media collections coincides with a trend toward open-concept living, with less definition between rooms.
Connie Kennedy, who has been selling condos since the 1960s, doesn’t agree. But she is also dealing with a different demographic. “You know, quite frankly, I don’t think technology has a lot to do with the space that people are wanting to buy,” she says. “I think a lot of people still have books. But I deal with a lot of retired people. You might find a different reaction from a realtor who deals with university students.”
Faulkner believes the shift is less about dcor trends and more of an overhaul in the way younger people use space, noting that the formal dining room is another casualty of minimalism.
The digital era has ushered in some changes that don’t revolve around aesthetics or perceived practicality. The need for a larger power supply is much less debatable than the need for more or fewer bookshelves. Older homes, dating back to the ’60s and earlier, have fewer outlets and very low power limits. “These homes would have originally had 60 amps for service,” says Faulkner. “It used to be 60 amps would be enough, because what did people really run power for in their home? They had their furnace fan, their stove and their lights.” Our power usage has crept up significantly since then. “Now it’s 100 amps,” says Faulkner. “If you have an older home that still has 60 amps, you’re going to be blowing breakers.”
The shift toward more open, less cluttered spaces isn’t just limited to our homes. Faulkner sees it as more of a complete lifestyle shift, affecting the way we live and work, inside and outside of the home. “For me, personally, as a realtor, the biggest change really has been the use of technology,” she says. “I think we’re only scratching the surface to [becoming] minimalists.”