Traditionally, an interior designer's job is to help you find out what you want from a space and then work with you to create a personal decor solution that suits your room, style and budget. But in years to come, will interior designers be replaced by clever robots who can conjure up our dream schemes and know us better than we even know ourselves? Maybe — if the decorating tech that's on the horizon (or already here) is any indication.
The idea that designers will be null and void sounds far-fetched, but to some extent this is already happening. For years now, we've had "color-matching" services, where paint brands match and mix specific colors for us, from objects, swatches or via nifty apps (this customization process is one that used to only happen via the pros). But Nippon Paint (one of the largest paint manufacturers in Asia) has raised the bar with the recently-launched Paint New Happiness system, which allows you to connect to artificial intelligence that will trawl through your social media profiles, analyzing posts, pictures, and "moods" while harvesting personal data such as your age in order to design "the perfect palette of color for your life stage."
The firm's innovations don't end there; Nippon Paint has also developed Odor-less Aircare—a new anti-pollution paint, which promises to reduce the pollution in your living environment by absorbing harmful free formaldehyde from the air and converting it into water vapor.
"Having a safe and comfortable home in the future will extend beyond the visible decoration," suggests Dominic Harrison, a director at the London-based Foresight Factory, a consumer analytics company, specializing in trends. "I think we're going to see more and more innovations like this that promise to clean the air that we breathe in our home or to monitor air quality."
Sure enough, air monitoring devices are becoming commonplace in our homes and they're blending in beautifully. In Beijing, where air quality is typically poor, start-up firm Origins has recently launched a sleek product called the Laser Egg, a cutting edge device that monitors indoor air quality accessible via your smart phone. Unlike clunky gadgets of days gone by, the Laser Egg is good-looking enough to leave out on display as a decorative home accessory.
Another super-stylish air monitor that's making waves is Awair, which looks a bit like a retro radio with a smart wooden case making it a chic addition to any coffee table, nightstand or bookshelf. Awair monitors temperature, humidity, CO2, dust, and chemicals in your home and gives you personal recommendations for how to improve the interior air quality.
Customized Wall Decor
Wallpaper has remained pretty much unchanged for decades. Yes, we've progressed from screen-printed sheets to digitally printed rolls of paper and bespoke murals, but in the future, we might not need to apply anything to our walls in order to change their appearance (renters rejoice!).
"If you put the new Microsoft HoloLens headset on, your reality is customized to you," says Dominic Harrison. "You could feasibly have completely blank walls in your home and just call up TV screens, images, patterns and holographic representations of your friends and family members. You could live in a plain, padded cell if you wanted to but your walls could be constantly changing. That's possible today. It's got exciting possibilities for immersive, enriching media—gaming, entertainment—and perhaps a small number of people will go so far as to remove all the decor from their homes and live in an Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality mash-up world!"
Tech journalists got excited recently when Google filed a patent for a new projection system that can display images on a wall painted with photo-reactive paint, fueling rumors that Google has secret plans to turn our walls into massive screens one day. Other tech brands are exploring ways to turn the surfaces inside our home into digital screens, too, such as Sony, who launched the new Xperia Touch earlier this year—an interactive projector that turns any flat surface into a high-definition touch-screen. So, perhaps "wallpaper" as we understand it today will soon be a thing of the past…?
Intelligent, Adaptable Windows
Window dressings will look dramatically different in the future. No more fiddling with curtain rings or wiping blind slats, the windows of the future could have intelligent "treatments" built-in as standard.
Chicago-based designers Jacques Laramie and Eleanor Sandford won a Red Dot Award for their innovative Enlighten veils concept—energy-independent (solar-powered) intelligent window "shields" designed to seamlessly fit any window and create a custom interior atmosphere thanks to an adaptable shield that adjusts according to the weather to efficiently manage light and heat inside the home. The project is now into the development phase and the designers envisage "self-aware skyscrapers capable of adaptively regulating their interior atmospheres based on the external environment." It makes shutters and window film seem a little passé!
Another personalized window treatment to appear on the scene recently is KUFtwist—a new take on louvre blinds controlled by a simple twisting mechanism. Designers Kia Utzon-Frank and Fay McCaul teamed up to create this flexible blind made of Italian cotton fabric embedded with small clear perspex rods that are covered with Dichroic film, which changes appearance depending on where it is viewed and how the piece is lit (check out a video of them in action here, which helps to see how these work). Reminiscent of iridescent tropical fish that shimmer and change color in a moment, this clever solution could be controlled via an app on your phone and, in the future, by a Smart Home Assistant such as Alexa.