Before the pandemic, when someone wanted to grab a latte, they almost always traveled to a coffee shop. When they had a chance to exercise, they drove to the gym. When it was time to go to work, they went to the office.
Now, a lot of these activities are taking place within the home, which is re-defining the way people look at how their homes are designed and what is in them. As a result, companies in many industries, including home building and design, are learning how to adjust to consumers' evolving lifestyles.
We sat down with Jennifer Cox, Consumer Insights Manager at Whirlpool Corporation, to discover how homes are changing as a result of increased consumer interest in trends such as health and wellness, and multigenerational living.
Are you seeing a heightened awareness around how home design can affect consumer well-being?
Absolutely! Well-being can mean a lot of different things - it can be about mental, physical or financial health, safety or even environmental factors. Even before COVID-19, we were seeing consumers becoming more aware of their own well-being, and restrictions and health concerns caused by the pandemic made people more aware of all facets of well-being and how their home can help support them.
As life shifted to an "everything happens at home" model during lockdowns, we've seen people looking for more multifunctional home designs to support all of the activities that happened at external places before the pandemic. For example, consumers are desiring spaces like private home offices and home gyms. And, while they want some spaces to be more flexible to meet the needs of what they are now doing at home, they're also looking for areas of their home to be more of a sanctuary or a comfort zone, such as their bedrooms, where they can temporarily escape. We're also seeing an increase in expanding the home with outdoor living spaces such as patios, decks and kitchens.
What role do kitchen appliances play in fostering wellness in the home?
Kitchen appliances can help reduce the stress and time people spend in the space. If our appliances can do more for the consumer, it can free them up to do other things. For example, our dishwashers with an expanded third rack allow you to fit even more in your dishwasher to run fewer loads, which could leave fewer dishes in the sink for hand washing. A combination microwave and oven can help reduce clutter in the kitchen by replacing two appliances with one, and frees up countertop space, which can be a major source of stress.
What features are today's consumers prioritizing when it comes to healthy homes?
Consumers are always looking for anything that's easy to clean but it's especially true now with the heightened awareness of healthy homes. This includes appliances that are easy to clean inside and out, such as ranges with a Steam-Clean option that help remove everyday spills and prevent manual scrubbing. For laundry, we're seeing more emphasis on the sanitize cycles, as well as the overall cleaning ability of the washer including the PowerWashⓇ cycle on select MaytagⓇ washers, which is great for sturdy, extra-dirty loads that need intense cleaning.
Multigenerational living is on the rise - how can designers create kitchens, laundry rooms, etc., that suit the needs of multiple generations?
The pandemic has accelerated multigenerational living, especially among Asian and Hispanic cohorts. One survey1 showed that 22% of respondents have moved in with friends or family during COVID-19, and this number is as high as 38% for Millennials.
We've been looking at how we can design products to better suit these growing multigenerational needs. For example, the WhirlpoolⓇ Top Load Washer with 2 in 1 Removable Agitator enables consumers to customize their laundry routine to fit their lifestyle, allowing them to care for their clothes the way they want. There are also compact, all-in-one washer/dryers that would be well suited for smaller spaces like an in-law suite.
For older homeowners wanting to remain in their homes as they age, what accessibility concerns should be addressed through design?
There are already a lot of things that are being done to support accessibility concerns. Most ranch-style homes, for example, have a single level so residents don't have to navigate stairs. For multi-level homes, small details are important to improve accessibility, such wide walkways and doors, and non-slip flooring. And, while digital solutions may not always appeal to older consumers, there's a lot in this space that could help with accessibility such as sensor lighting that automatically comes on when you enter certain areas of the home, making it easier to navigate.
Other digital solutions such as remote monitoring could also be a solution for helping older consumers age in place. For example, being able to monitor and control your wall oven, and even enter your own cooking instructions through a mobile app helps make it easier to get dinner on the table - especially if someone has trouble reading a cookbook. Plus, the KitchenAid Smart Oven+ Combination Oven offers a SatinGlide™ Roll-Out Extension Rack for Smart Oven+ Attachments that make it easier to cook with large or heavy bakeware. These types of features can give consumers more control, and help them feel more comfortable at home.
How do you expect the rising demand for multigenerational living to shape homes moving forward?
Homes will be expected to be more multifunctional. Spaces and products will have to continue to evolve to support the needs of various generations living in the home, and allow each of them the flexibility to live comfortably. This could result in people wanting a more traditional home with more defined spaces vs. the open floor plans that are so common now. This would allow people to better define spaces and help them create a clearer separation between home and work life.