How Technology is Changing the Rooms We Live In

The cartoon television series The Jetsons, screened in the 1960s, showed the characters jumping into helicopters to get to work. Conveyor belts met them on their return, propelling them into their favourite lounge chair.

Technology hasn’t followed this direction more than 50 years later, but it has changed the way homes, and in particular, rooms, are now designed. “We’re not jumping into helicopters at this point in time, but technology is making things around the house less visible and far more portable,” says architect Fiona Dunin, director of FMD Architects.

Household belongings, such as television sets, formerly required a substantial amount of space. “TV’s have in some ways become obsolete, with computers being the main content providers,” says Dunin. “There’s certainly no longer a dedicated room for the television set,” she adds. With the advent of laptops, it’s also more likely that the entire family chooses to work from a deep and comfortable lounge or armchair in a living room, rather than being tucked away in a separate study. “Children, or the parents for that matter no longer have a dedicated desk. Both could be working from multiple areas in a home, given everything is now wireless,” says Dunin.

In a house designed by FMD Architects, located in Clifton Hill, there’s a separate room at the front of the single-fronted terrace. Once this space may have been earmarked for a study. Now it’s a flexible area that can be used for a study/home office or equally a second living area or guest bedroom (a day bed is included). “The table in this room could be used as a workbench or as a dressing table,” says Dunin. Her own house, located in East St Kilda, is also an example of how technology has changed the way things are now designed. In the contemporary rear addition to Dunin’s home is a long bench to one side of the open plan living area. It’s often used as a place for her to work when she’s not in her city office. But she is equally likely to be found responding to emails within the deep window seat that forms part of the living area. “Rooms are becoming far more flexible. The idea of a dedicated room given over to one activity seems obsolete,” says Dunin. “But more people are now working from home and that means they’re also looking for a variety of spaces to be in,” she adds.

Ten years ago, Dunin saw a large drive towards expensive wiring systems, including technology that puts on lights or open blinds before the car is parked in a driveway. “People found many of these smart system quite expensive to install, and as importantly, complex to operate,” says Dunin.

Architect Nathanael Preston, a director of Preston Lane Architects, has also seen a shift in the way spaces have changed with technology. Kitchen island benches now have all the points for laptops and phones embedded into their surfaces. “Rooms are no longer dedicated to one use. It’s just as likely that the kitchen bench becomes the office,” says Preston. For the renovation of a double fronted Victorian house in East Malvern, Preston Lane Architects included a communal bench for the entire family to plug in their laptops. “It’s used intermittently, but it’s just as likely that the children are working in their bedrooms, or somewhere else in the house,” he says. As technology has ‘slimmed down’ (remember the bulky computers), there is also a move away from the need to screen these study or office nooks within a home. The same bench in the East Malvern house is as likely to provide room for the owner’s objet d’art.

Photo credit: Derek Swalwell with styling by Rachel Vigor

Lane has also noticed a significant change in appliances, such as the fridge, now equipped with technology that allows the owners to stock up when needed (via an inbuilt camera that’s connected to an APP). “People will go with technology if it makes their lives easier, but they’re certainly not using it just for technology’s sake,” adds Preston.

FMD Architects can be contacted on 9670 9671
Preston Lane Architects can be contacted on 9827 8902

About the Author: Stephen Crafti

Stephen Crafti has been writing about design and architecture since the early 1990’s and is a regular contributor to DesignBUILD. Inspired by the architecture around him in Melbourne, Australia, he was keen to share the things he saw, whether buildings, furniture, fashion or other stunning pieces of contemporary design. After many years of writing about his favourite things, and with numerous books and articles behind him, Crafti still delights in discovering and promoting exhilarating design. He is a regular contributor to several Australian newspapers and local and international design magazines.

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