John Lewis reports on changing shopping habits for the living room

The living room has replaced the kitchen as the heart of UK homes, according to a new study by John Lewis & Partners.

‘The Things We Do In Our Living Rooms (And The Things We Wish We Didn’t’ report reveals that the role of the living room is changing. The department store group said insight from 3,409 shoppers shows that over half spend most of their waking time in this room – nearly twice as many as spend the longest in their kitchens.

While TV watching remains the main activity done in the living room (with 96% of those surveyed having done so in the past month), this space now has more purposes than ever before.

The research uncovered a list of 25 activities which shoppers had done in their living rooms in the past month. It included sleeping (68%), entertaining (63%), ironing (27%), nail painting (21%), working (19%), dancing (19%), changing outfits (13%), exercising (12%), applying makeup (9%), meditation (6%) and making cocktails (5%).

With half of the UK workforce set to work remotely by 2020, this trend is already putting living rooms under pressure to perform. Almost one in five (19%) said they had worked from their living rooms in the past month, rising to nearly one third (30%) for those with families. Even those who aren’t doing paid work in this room are working in this space, with two-thirds having done ‘life admin’ in the living room in the past month.

In response to this, John Lewis said it has seen a shift in demand away from traditional desks with lots of storage in favour of more style-led pieces, with sales of this type of desk up 80% year on year. There has also been a huge growth in office chairs which have a softer, more homely feel rather than technical ones. Sales of these chairs – with wood rather than metal legs, and fabric rather than plastic or mesh seats – are up 125% year-on-year.

Nearly one third of respondents said they now do things in their living rooms that they wouldn’t have done five years ago. Around one in five (19%) said they had started eating in theirs, while 15% said they are now more likely to have a nap in this space, and 5% said they would now bring a duvet in to sleep on the sofa.

John Lewis head of design for home Pip Prinsloo commented: “We want more from our living rooms than ever before and the changes in how we live are strikingly visible in this space. From reflecting our personalities, being a space to work, exercise and much more, our living rooms have never been quite so alive, flexible and unique.”

What’s hot and what’s not?

Home buying director Johnathan Marsh said: “When it comes to decorating our living rooms, around half of shoppers (48%) who are planning to redecorate this year expect to be bolder in their choices. Over the past year, nearly one third of customers have bought brass, copper, velvet or marble items for their living rooms, and pink is replacing grey as the new neutral colour to decorate with.

“Demand for three-piece suites has all but diminished and been replaced by statement sofas and accent chairs which enable us to express our personal styles. Sales of modular sofas are up, as they are perfect for open plan spaces that have been the biggest architectural change in this space in recent times.

“When it comes to accessories, households are adopting the US trend for gallery walls – but we’re not making galleries with clip frames, which have dropped so much in popularity that we will stop selling them this year.

“Customers are choosing round mirrors over rectangular ones, and opting for the latest tech. Sales of smart speakers are up 35% year on year but mantel clocks are down by 30%. Sales of curtain tie backs are down 20% on last year, as customers opt for smart blinds and wave headed curtains.”

So what do John Lewis customers call this multi-purpose room? According to the retailer, ‘the younger you are the more likely you are to call it the ‘living room’ as two thirds of millennials do. The older you are, the more likely you are to call it the sitting room. Those who are middle-aged (35-54 years) are most likely to call it the lounge. Despite TV watching being the activity that nearly all of us do in this space, only 1% of those asked call it the TV room – and just as few call it the drawing room’.

Everyone asked in the survey had one living room habit that they wanted to change. Two-fifths want to eat less on their laps, or while watching TV. Nearly one-fifth want to do less ironing, and nearly as many want to get out of the habit of answering their phone while eating or watching TV. One in seven want it to be used less as a playroom and one in 10 wish they watched less TV.

John Lewis has created an interactive installation called ‘In Residence With…’ at its London flagship shop on Oxford Street, which showcases five different living room spaces. Five experts – Sonia Solicari, director of The Geffrye Museum of the Home; artist Morag Myerscough; TV presenter AJ Odudu; editor of ‘Happy News’ Emily Coxhead and John Lewis home design stylist Jacqueline Dalgarno have each added their unique touch to one of the five living rooms, and will be hosting a series of events and workshops in the space from March 18.

John Lewis & Partners operates 51 John Lewis shops across the UK (37 department stores, 12 John Lewis ‘at home’ stores, and shops at St Pancras International and Heathrow Terminal 2) as well as johnlewis.com.

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