Nation ditches open plan layouts, eats outside all year round and grooms while working, new John Lewis report reveals


Today, John Lewis & Partners has published a report entitled “The Flexible Living Report: Redefining The UK’s Homes For a New Chapter in Twenty-First Century Living”, which reveals how our homes have been carved up, redrawn and modified over the past six months to help us live more flexibly, as we have sought space to work, exercise, play, cook and be on our own. 

Until lockdown, nothing had shaken how we use our homes so much since the rise of open plan living, which began in the seventies. Although sparked by urgent needs in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, this new perspective on a modular, flexible approach to living within our own four walls, is here to stay. Insight from a survey of 2,000 people has revealed that one in five of us have reconfigured an open plan space to accommodate multiple activities throughout the day; such as working, exercising and home-schooling. Well over half (57%) expect to work from home in the future, and more than one third of those who took up a new hobby during lockdown have made space for it in their home, with a further fifth planning to make a permanent space to continue their new hobby. Three quarters of those surveyed who said they were saving for their home during lockdown are now planning to spend up to £5,000 to make improvements..

The top things we’ve bought to adapt our homes to new uses
Customers have been snapping up dressing tables (+400%), futons (+22%) and bunk beds (+60%) to maximise bedroom space – with one in five saying they have had to work there.  Sales of carpet cleaners (+433%) are up as a result of the extra mess at homes. Plants (+419%) and artwork (+35%) have been our go-tos for jazzing up the backdrop for video calls but we have also fallen back in love with letter writing, seeing a rise in sales of calligraphy pens (+406%) as well as notebooks and journals (+207%). The love of banana bread baking may have abated but customers have moved on to more difficult baking challenges: sales of macaron mats (+358%) and madeleine pans (+50%) are up. But, we are burning off the calories with at-home workouts as fitness machines (+122%), yoga accessories (+45%) and foam rollers (+43%) are in high demand.. 

Changes UK households have made to their homes 
Repurposed a room for a home office (e.g. a dining room or bedroom)28%
Set up an area for you or someone else in your home for hobbies such as painting, puzzles etc21%
Created spaces where you or others in your home can be on their own20%
Reconfigured an open-plan space to allow for multiple activities throughout the day20%
Made a home gym area and/or yoga space17%
Created a dedicated space for home-schooling15%
None of the above46%

More ‘Me Time’ found by creating spaces to be alone
As a result of spending so much time with others at home 24/7, the quest for privacy is reaching new heights. John Lewis research found that one in five of us have created spaces in our homes for ourselves or others to be alone. This could be as simple as a cosy chair in a hallway, a comfortable cushion on a window seat or adding candles and houseplants in the bathroom for ‘me time’. 

The remote working revolution has now become an everyday part of life and seen every room in our homes  turned into a new place of work with a third saying they work from their sofa and nearly one in ten saying they have worked from their bathroom.  Nearly 1 in 10 also admitted to indulging in a little grooming while working from home.

The report found more than half of us (57%) expect to work from home in the future with nearly half (48%) doing so for two or three days on average per week, and 13% expecting to work from home five days per week.

As a result of this huge lifestyle change, more than a quarter said they have repurposed a room into a home office. This has driven a change in shopping trends, with sales of office furniture soaring. Small designer desk sales are also up  73 per cent while string furniture is also in high demand, with sales up 65 per cent. 

Those surveyed said they have bought books and bookshelves (26%) plants (19%), wallpaper and paint (16%), and  ‘statement artwork’ (13%) to make their work spaces look ‘more attractive on camera’.  

Spaces customers have worked from at home
Dining room33%
Home office/study33%
Guest room19%
Outside space (garden or park)16%
Conservatory or sunroom12%
Out building (such as a shed)10%
Holiday home7%

Outdoor entertaining lasts all year round
Lockdown shone a light on our outside spaces fast making gardens and balconies coveted areas. Customers invested more than ever in bistro sets and outdoor sofas, and as winter approaches, patio heaters and outdoor lighting are set to surge as we look to keep outdoor spaces in use for entertaining at a distance. Outdoor heaters (+331%), fire pits (+140%) and outdoor lighting (+172%) will make spaces more inviting during the colder months. Two-thirds of customers say they have been using their outside space for dining al fresco this year and sales of BBQs and pizza ovens (+229%),which became this summer’s sell out hit, confirm this.

Customers seeking more design inspiration with virtual services
Many customers have wanted professional advice to tackle the layout of their homes and make them more flexible. In response to this, John Lewis launched its virtual home styling consultations in April and has since carried out nearly 3,000 appointments. It seems the living room is the room most people want to change with 60% of virtual appointments focused on redesigning this space.  Next week, John Lewis will  launch a new, quarterly magazine ‘At Home’ to give customers inspirational and affordable advice, and solutions for making changes to their homes.

Johnathan Marsh, Partner and Category Director, Home commented: “For many years now, modern life has been so busy that it felt as if people spent more time away from the home than within its walls. Before the pandemic began, open plan living provided welcome moments of togetherness for families and friends in otherwise hectic schedules. Lockdown has changed everything. There was immediate pressure to adapt open plan designs to maximise space for work, exercise, home-schooling, play and dining. Modifying spaces in this way has brought about a change in mindset, with customers reflecting on the full potential of their homes to serve multiple functions. While we continue to adapt to the new normal and local lockdowns we expect to see customers continuing to evolve their homes as they seek to make the most of their space including dining outdoors in winter.

“At John Lewis we’re investing more in our Home products and services, creating compelling, meaningful designs and services for the next generation of customers and how they want to live. We have been expanding our hugely successful virtual home design appointments, recently began testing a rental service, and are now introducing our new ‘At Home’ magazine filled with inspirational ideas from leaders in the field of  interior style and design.”