Convenient living with social and digital connections

There’s growing demand for a temporary home that meets modern expectations of living in an urban context in every respect. And the hospitality market is changing accordingly. New models are emerging for people who need to be flexible in terms of time and place and are open to new living concepts like apartment houses and co-living projects. Fresh offerings are required for this demographic – a growth opportunity for interiors brands to open up new markets.

Mar 08 2021

Today the place we call home is perceived as an overarching part of our lives that encompasses both the need to retreat and social activities, indoors and outdoors, entertainment and home working. However, integrating the home office into the traditional living environment isn’t the only challenge that the interiors industry will face in future; the sector will also have to develop models for “a new way of living” that seek to provide solutions for phenomena like urban densification, demographic change and growing mobility. 

Urbanisation is a megatrend that not even a pandemic can reverse – at most, it might put a damper on it. According to Cities in the World: A New Perspective on Urbanisation, a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) from June 2020, the number of people living in cities grew from 1.5 to 3.5 billion between 1975 and 2015. By the year 2050, that number is expected to climb to more than 5 billion people.

At the same time, the share of single households continues to rise; in Germany, for instance, it will increase from 42% today to 44% by 2035, according to a study by US real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield (April 2019). And that doesn’t just apply to young target groups, but to older people as well. As housing in conurbations becomes scarcer, rental housing’s share of the real estate industry is growing. 

The trend towards remote working is gaining ground along with digitalisation and is currently experiencing dynamic growth due to the pandemic. In conurbations, the market for providing flexible office space is growing and will become more widespread on the outskirts of major cities too. But mobility isn’t limited to local work circumstances, it’s also leading to a continual exchange of staff, experts, freelancers, students and scientists across the globe. Because of digital nomads, there will in future be less mobility between home and the office but greater mobility between cities and countries – because it’s becoming normal to work from home and be at home in the world. 


These are some of the factors that will change not just our world of work but many aspects of our private culture too – the way we live in our own four walls. As a result, it won’t just be the real estate industry and urban planning that will have to seek answers to these developments in future, but the interiors sector as well. 

Co-living: convenient living with added value  

One of the most widely discussed approaches right now follows on from the sharing concept that has already proved itself in other areas like co-working. But the idea of sharing owes its fascination not just to the sustainability aspect or such pragmatic benefits as saving costs and space, but to the idea of generating added value: through inspiration, networking and the experience of community.  

Communal facilities and co-working spaces, co-living and modern flat shares: there are many ways to share spaces. In a managed apartment house, residents can share an office (or even a workstation), the fitness room, the lounge, the café or the roof terrace, as well as the various service offerings.

The forms co-living can take range from a room in a big co-living apartment with a shared kitchen and bathroom all the way to a thinktank community of like-minded entrepreneurs, from modern student hostels and micro-apartment concepts with different standards of furnishings and shared space offerings – usually in new builds or newly developed neighbourhoods – all the way to deluxe serviced apartments. 

All-in package: furnished accommodation with social and digital connections 

But the growing popularity of micro-apartments in recent years is probably due not only to the housing shortage or rising costs for inner-city accommodation, but also to the ideal of modern living: urban, loft-like and stylish. Co-living is its most attractive when it permits uncompromising individuality paired with social connections – unrestricted by fixed times for working, eating, sleeping, sport, socialising or partying. 

According to the new Europe Co-Living Report from CBRE (October 2020), Berlin is Germany’s most important target for international operators, even though, says CBRE, the market is still at the start of its development. Nor does the global commercial real estate services firm expect the corona pandemic to have a negative impact on the co-living market, because the possibilities for social distancing in combination with good digital infrastructure, co-working areas and cafés facilitate homeworking without resulting in complete social isolation. 

A new symbiosis between living and service, apartment and facilities 

Co-living concepts create additional housing for highly mobile people who, as a rule, are accustomed to a lifestyle in which living and working overlap. It’s for them that the real estate industry and interiors sector are developing new models for “furnished” accommodation.

Existing office and residential space is being converted, and in urban areas more money is being invested in new ideas for flexible lifestyle concepts. A multitude of innovative rental concepts will increase demand for top-quality and functional furniture and furnishings in the next few years. Rental furniture is playing a growing role too, and has to meet new standards of quality and longevity. 

A different kind of communal living: long and short stay apartments plus co-living & co-working areas  

The more centrally located a co-living facility is, the more multifaceted the apartment building’s usage concept tends to be. That’s why major cities are seeing a growing number of residential towers containing not just apartments but office space, restaurants, shops, cinemas and gyms as well. Work, leisure and home are combined under one roof, usually with exclusive long and short stay apartments available as a private unit. 

Long and short stay apartments represent a new category for the interiors business. Brands from the office sector are offering private lines with a cosier feel than classic office furniture. At the same time, living in the office or a hotel is being discovered as a viable option for implementing flexible working models, continuing education courses and Work 3.0, although executives, expats, digital nomads, commuters, newcomers and students have very different requirements when it comes to concepts for managed urban living. 

Professional interior design and a quality experience 

As a rule, well-appointed shared spaces like long and short stay apartments are fully furnished and ready to move into. Generally speaking, an all-inclusive lease covers all maintenance and utilities costs, furnishings, wifi and streaming services, with additional options like co-working spaces, cleaning, laundry and mail services, fitness facilities or even regular events. Comfort, attractive furnishings and good infrastructure are equally important quality criteria when it comes to deciding on an apartment – but even so, the emotional aspect of an appealing interior design is probably often the decisive factor. 

When it comes to implementing co-living offerings, a great deal of importance is attached to an on-trend interior because the Instagram effect among social media savvy target groups is crucial to building an image. At the same time, a stylish interior design, longevity and flexibility aren’t all that matters when it comes to furnishing a long or short stay apartment. It’s about identity too – both in the sense of giving the interior design a palpable character and in terms of being open for the cultural identities that the temporary occupants bring with them.

Author: Frank A. Reinhardt

Read more about the other trends in the imm Trend.Briefing 2020/2021 here

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