Canada is currently in the midst of a residential revolution, with a massive boom in condominium developments. According to 2011 census figures, over half of all new builds are dedicated to condos.
As in most developed nations worldwide, the Canadian construction industry is responding to density growth in major cities and, in looking to avoid urban sprawl while keeping housing costs affordable, downsizing is the goal for many.
This has implications on social norms, metropolitan infrastructure and the housing sector at large, but it also has a major impact on the interior design sector. According to Elaine Cecconi, co-owner of interior design firm Cecconi Simone, it is not only the housing that is getting smaller.
“Every major furniture retailer now has a line that is apartment or condo sized,” she says. “There’s so much product out there for small-space inhabitants that it’s become more of the mainstream, I would say, than a trend in the furniture industry.”
While housing and furniture are both getting smaller, however, there is an element of sacrifice that is a part of this new ‘micro-condo’ craze, with rooms that were becoming commonplace in homes, such as studies, cinema rooms and dens, taken completely out of the picture in the pursuit of a more urban way of life.
This loss of space has led to the reemergence of highly functional, flexible, utilitarian furniture and layout plans. Cecconi admits this function-first mentality is only going to grow as more and more people look at downsizing as a viable option.
“Townhouses are getting smaller and narrower, so the same principles apply, whether you’re designing a 650-square foot one-bedroom den in a tower downtown or a 1,200-square foot townhouse,” she says. “You have to be really adept at utilising space in an efficient and functional way.”
While many in this industry have suggested that the downsize boom is sure to bust, Jim Danahy of retail consulting firm CustomerLAB predicts that as the Canadian population continues to grow, the prevalence of smaller living spaces is only going to increase.
“The move toward smaller, less overstuffed furniture and more modern designs is here to stay,” says Danahy. “As the overall population moves from the large, 5,000-square foot McMansion in the suburbs, even if it’s to a decent-sized three-bedroom condo or home, the need for more compact furniture is still going to be there.”
The shift is in full force. It is now up to interior designers and planners to continue to cater to this booming trend in order to avoid urban sprawl and livability standards.