Buying furniture for the home is undoubtedly one of the homeowner’s most exciting tasks. At the same time, it is one of the most time-consuming. When choosing chairs, beds, mattresses, tables, shelves, etc. We have to take into account various factors, such as: budget, style, composition, warranty, and, most importantly, ergonomics. It is this factor that directly affects our health and comfort, and it is here where Colombian furniture-designers and producers have the greatest opportunity to redefine and innovate in these new products’ use values.
By 2025 millennials and Generation Z will represent 59% of the world’s population. They are diverse, hyperconnected, fickle, and the greatest challenge for companies. Not only do the companies have to rethink their communication, dissemination, and marketing channels, they must also be constantly reinventing and generating products and services that adapt to the needs and wishes of this wave of young consumers. According to the Maphre Foundation, millennials have a distinctive characteristic — a high-level awareness of taking care of their mental and physical health. Their posts on social networks makes it clear that they prioritize good eating habits, get a lot of physical activity, and care for the environment, facts that serve as a signal for industries to assist them in devising comprehensive solutions that captivate them and Generation Z, which also displays these behaviors.
According to Portafolio magazine, the people in these age-groups in Colombia are inclined to acquire and inhabit spaces ranging from 538 ft² to 807 ft² that have specific characteristics, which simplify their lives, socioeconomic strata number three housing in the Colombian population classification.
According to Dr. Sandra Forero, president of the construction union, 1,040,000 homes will be constructed during 2020, of which half of these will be of VIS (low income housing); furthermore, Corredores Davivienda stated that this segment of the economy will grow 3.1% this year (Semana magazine publication), which is a positive for the furniture industry because construction drives its growth. It is worth remembering that in 2017 the industrial production of furniture nationwide reached 1.71 billion, and its growth was 0.98%. According to the Subdirección de Apoyo Central – Sede Bogotá y Procolombia, sales of furniture were distributed as follows: 40% — living room furniture, 33% — bedroom furniture, 12% — kitchen furniture, and 8% — office furniture.
From this it is easy to understand Colombia’s interest in international brands. One of these is the multinational IKEA, which announced a couple of years ago that it will come to our country in a strategic alliance with Sodimac. IKEA expects to open its first store next year.
New social and labor dynamics have made the use value of our furniture take precedence over its aesthetic value. Most of the chairs that we have in our home offices (because work has migrated there) do not encourage correct sitting posture, which provides evidence that we culturally adapt to our conditions, and that our spaces are thought to be transitory and not sedentary.
The reality of this new daily life must take into account the preservation of the mental and physical health of current and future consumers. It will demand that the industry that designs and manufactures furniture focus on products that transcend the trends of fashion and styles. It must generate multifunctional furniture solutions that merge with the biodynamics of the user without neglecting aesthetic value and environmental responsibility in their manufacturing processes, and fit like puzzle pieces in our modern living spaces.
There are also several investigations that link poor body posture not only to various physical health problems but also to mental health issues. Pablo Heinig, an electrical mechanical engineer and co-author of the book, The Industry of Free Time, gives an example in his TEDx Talk at a conference in Cordoba, Argentina (see video from minute 13:39) arguing that habits are established from a certain corporeality. In the case of furniture design there are innumerable opportunities to develop products that, in addition to promoting proper rest, could contribute to overcoming problems that are now becoming more recurrent, such as sleep disorder and anxiety. It may even eliminate bad habits such as tobacco consumption, or enhance productivity in workspaces.
Finally, because of the need for developing new furniture solutions for future challenges, in a time when working from home is a reality for a large part of the population, it is important to react to the emerging demand for chairs designed for the care of the spine and the general health of users. As such, I suggest that those of us, who work in these types of spaces and can reach a large audience, must assume the responsibility of honestly guiding not only the industry but also the final consumer. Our knowledge will allow them to adapt and find mutual benefit in the relationship between themselves and their furniture. I want to close this post with three recommendations from Dr. Miguel Farfán, Orthopedist and Traumatologist, which could be of great assistance when choosing chairs for the home office:
1. Choose a chair with a high back, ideally with a headrest.
2. Make sure that the chair has ergonomics for your back, and that it is adjustable in height.
3. See that the chair has adequate cushions to do your job in the most comfortable way possible.
I would love to know your opinion. Please tell me what design element issues have been evident during confinement, and not only at the furniture level — for example, “How is the lighting in your home?, “Is it hurting your eyes working from home?, “How have the fittings of your kitchen furniture behaved now that you need to use them more often?” Please share whatever you would like. Thanks for reading!