Downsizing is the word! I write a weekly syndicated column called Small Spaces for Creators Syndicate and when I started writing a decade ago, the subject was not quite a "hot" topic. But right now it is THE topic in home improvement, interior design and the architectural circuit. Americans have downsizing on their minds and the trend is spreading, in part due to the worldwide economic woes and in part because we are all waking up from what were wasteful and selfish environmental practices.
Obviously our bank accounts are dwindling. Our investments are on a hunger strike. The future for Baby Boomers like me is not looking anything like I thought it would look ten years ago. Millions of us Boomers and millions of our kids - the Echo Boomers, Millenials or Gen-Y-ers or whatever you want to label them - are staring at a shrinking lifestyle. Ten years ago everyone sought designer products from eye glasses to cookware bought in chic stores that gave out stylish bags. Now the cool purchasers are picking up products designed by well-known people for Target and WalMart where you can live better and pay less! Pretty quickly it will be those that can create a certain look for less that will be celebrated on the streets of America. Waste and greed are out.
At the recent NAHB International Builders Show in Las Vegas Eliot Nusbaum, Better Homes and Gardens Executive Editor of Home Design presented the results of the Next Home Survey along with reported trends from a nationwide network of field editors, the magazine's Home Improvement Challenge and editorial coverage. "Not surprisingly, we continue to see a 'cents and sensibility' approach when it comes to buying or improving a home, with practicality and price being top priorities," says Mr. Nusbaum. Americans want smaller and more energy efficient homes. 36% in 2009 (32% in 2008) of a sampling made up of new home buyers and current home owners indicate that their next home will be smaller or 'somewhat' smaller than their current home.
This Baby Boomer grew up in one of those 1,000 square foot post-WWII suburban floor plans with 1 1/2 baths and no great room in view! Generations lived in homes that ranged from 850 square feet up to about 1,400 square feet. The funniest part of what is happening now is that the Gen-Y group or Millenials tell information gathering groups that they do not mind living in really tiny space. Like we are talking 400 to 880 square feet! Chicago's The Streeter offers luxury high-rise units under 600 square feet; the River Oaks apartments in Houston average about 880 square feet and at least one Washington, D.C. condo is less than 400 square feet. Of course such small places have been common in Manhattan or London for generations, but that this trend is inching across the entire country is what is notable. However the kids demand amenities: Wired for every possible electronic device, communal exercise and game rooms, planned social events, and door-to-door laundry service. Real life for this generation takes place outside of their small home anyway.
Everything from our bank accounts to our homes to our sense of security is shrinking! Get ready for the new normal - smaller!