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Dublin: 25°C Sunday 14 August 2022

Would you like wallpaper that changes colour with your mood? Here's the future of home decor

Sarah Harford on how technological developments could change the way we think about our homes.

Image: Shutterstock/

The way we live is changing fast. Every fortnight in our Future Focus series, brought to you by Volkswagen, we’ll look at how one aspect of everyday life could change in the future. This week: home decor. 

WHETHER YOU WANT to put your own stamp on a new place or you’re just putting on a fresh lick of paint on the one you already have, redecorating can be an exciting change.

But it can also be a big investment when it comes to time and money, with the challenge of finding something that will work in your home and that you’re not going to end up hating in a few years’ time. So is there anything that could make the process a bit easier?

Interior designer, broadcaster and design lecturer at TU Dublin, Neville Knott, says that technology is going to be used more in the future in terms of coming up with ideas, creating designs, and finding new ways to enhance our spaces.

“If you’re spending money on your home and it’s something that you live in every day, you’re gonna want to do it right. Technology can help with that,” he adds.

High-tech tools

Tech has become a big part of the job for professional interior designers, with software and computer-aided design tools making it easier to visualise rooms, experiment with ideas and communicate plans with clients.

“These software packages now give a better idea of the space and allow you to be a lot more involved with the design,” Knott says.

“I think one of the fundamental things is people haven’t got a grasp on the volumetrics of their space – so when they go to buy a sofa or a cabinet, they’re measuring but they might not take into account the ceiling height, or what other elements are in the room might make it look smaller.”

Source: Shutterstock/fizkes

Having a professional computer-generated design may make it easier to plan what to do with your home, but if you don’t have a budget for an interior designer, there are still plenty of tools you can use to create your own design and overcome any spatial issues.

This includes apps that can measure your rooms and floor plans, or free online software to create your own 3D designs.

Alternatively, you can opt for an online interior design service such as Modsy, where you take a quiz to determine your style, provide a budget and a few ideas, and for $69 you’ll be sent back 3D renderings of a new design for your chosen room. If you like the design you can then buy items from the plan with just a few clicks.

Virtual experimentation

While 3D renderings may give a good idea of what your newly-decorated home be like, in the future we may have something a bit more interactive than just looking at a design on a screen.

With virtual reality, designers and homeowners could walk around a room and get an even better sense of the space, like in the recent BBC design programme, Your Home Made Perfect. In the show, homeowners could explore two different designs using VR headsets, and decide which one would work better for them, before building it in reality.

“Take that one step further into virtual reality and you’ll be able to position yourself in the room and experiment with things,” Knott says.

“In the future people you’ll be able to choose different colours, tables, chairs, lighting, explore the space a lot more and try new things in VR.”

While virtual reality decorating might still sound a bit sci-fi for most of us, augmented reality is slowly becoming a more accessible tool, with new apps that can help you visualise whether the red couch that looks great in the shop will look just as good in your house.

With the Houzz app, for example, you can see what the couch looks like in your sitting room by opening up your phone camera and superimposing a 3D image of the couch onto your screen.

Even retailers such as Ikea are rolling out new AR apps and online programmes so that you can ‘try before you buy’.

Design app Hutch goes one step further by allowing you to take a photo of your room and use AR to browse furniture and furnishings from various brands that you could put in the space. When you’ve completed your design you can purchase the items through the app and get them sent to your home.

“That’s where we’re really going to go with technology and interiors. And with augmented reality we’ll get much more creative,” Knott adds.

“It will allow people to look at the full spectrum of colours, look at different soft furnishings, lighting. We can position furniture, we can play around with ideas, and I think we’ll end up with more unique styles in people’s homes.”

Smart style

Smart homes are becoming a more common concept, with the likes of Google Home and Amazon Alexa enabling voice commands for different tasks around the house, along with other systems that will easily control temperature or lighting. But smart tech could also spread into other aspects of our homes in the not-too-distant future.

“We’re going to see smart technology incorporated into interiors too. It will be about adaptability and allowing people to have something that can change in their home,” Knott says.

When it comes to high-tech furniture, this could include TVs that retract into the ceiling or blend into the wall when they’re not in use, or robotic adaptable furniture that can be controlled remotely, like that which Ikea is developing for people who live in small spaces. The colours on your walls could also potentially be changed whenever you like.

“Larger commercial projects are already using wallpaper LED panels that are beautiful,” Knott says.

“So in the future you could have images, colour or static graphics. You can be sitting in a room with a beach or mountain surround, or just have something that looks like traditional wallpaper or a plain colour.”

Still can’t decide what to opt for? Well that could be a bit easier in the future too. Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2022, artificial intelligence will be so advanced that our personal devices will know more about your emotional state than your family and friends do.

It says that AI is allowing everyday objects to “detect, analyse, process and respond to people’s emotional states and moods”, providing more personalised experiences – which could be applied to your home interiors in the future.

“Technology is becoming more linked, with our phones and wearable technology analysing everything from our mood to blood pressure. So technology could adapt your space to suit your mood or state, the time of day or the time of year,” Knott adds.

“You could say that when you walk into a room the colours on the walls will change. Like creating spaces that will help energise you to wake up in the morning, or spaces that will calm you down and send you to sleep at night.”

New technologies are showing plenty of opportunities for the future of home design. While redecorating your kitchen in the next 10 or 20 years might still involve comparing different types of cabinets and tiles, there may also be some augmented reality, virtual reality, and new high-tech gadgets that will make the process a bit more interesting or intuitive.

“What’s being developed and coming out in the next couple of years is going to make it easier for people to choose designs and make decisions for their home, and also to have more smart technology embedded into their interiors. It’s going to be very interesting,” Knott says.

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