Urban renewal


The rapid increase in urbanisation is having a profound impact on the furniture market.

83% of the UK population now live in urban areas, a rate that has been growing at around 1% per year for the last decade. This is a global trend and the UN estimates by 2050 66% of the world’s population will live in cities (compared to 50% in in 2011).

With the demand and prices for property in urban areas rising, people are moving into smaller, rented apartments creating greater demand for compact and multi-functional pieces of furniture. IKEA recently previewed a collection of space-saving furniture inspired by life in space, to cater for the future needs of urban, small space living.

Furniture that doubles-up as storage space is also becoming increasingly popular. Manufacturers are forced to think outside the box and offer multi-functional, space-saving, stackable solutions. For example, The London Wall Bed Company use innovative design to make the most of living space by allowing beds to fold away. Wall beds can fold up into storage units, completely changing the look of a space by creating more room. Argos have released a new furniture rangefor small space living, including a cleverly designed desk that folds up to become a compact storage cabinet when out of use.

Furniture rental services such as Feather in the US andPepperfry in India are also on the rise. These services tap into the roving nature of urban millennials, as well as their demand for portable and versatile products. Renting can be a cost-effective alternative to purchasing outright, particularly with the high cost of living in some cities. There is also the added benefit of allowing consumers to experiment with styles and change items relatively easily. 

Urbanisation will create both winners and losers - the gardening market has experienced growth in recent years due to companies innovating to bring the garden indoors or into smaller spaces. The businesses which will lose out are those that fail to create solutions-focussed products with the versatility required in a rental market offering restricted spaces. In future we expect technology and design innovation to enable a single piece of furniture to undertake several uses (e.g. coffee tables that charge devices wirelessly when placed on them). Solutions that keep gadgets/cables neatly hidden away, or even removes the need for them, will help create streamlined living rooms of the future.

Naveed Javaid