Revolution at home

What will our homes be like in 2025, asks Masahiro Maruhashi of hi-tech bathroom pioneer, TOTO.

My homeland Japan is growing old and shrinking. By 2060, pensioners will make up over a third of a population that shrinks faster every day. Those of us young enough to work will probably spend even more time in the office. Japan isn’t alone. Societies across the world are changing – and our homes are evolving, too.

Rooms as we know them will soon be extinct. High property prices for first-time buyers and the cost of looking after elderly relatives will force different generations to live together. Traditional internal layouts with fixed rooms designed for a single purpose will give way to flexible spaces we can adapt to suit a wider range of activities; family dinner one minute, private study the next.

The line between private and public will blur to make it easy for older people to connect with the outside world. Indoor-outdoor spaces, communal gardens and meeting places – all accessible from within the private realm – will transform the way we socialise. Instead of being a planned event often taking place beyond your four walls, meeting people will become a fluid process you experience at home. For privacy, a sliding screen and understanding neighbours are all you require.

Our bathrooms will also undergo cultural revolution. In Japan, for instance, the restrictions of modern life –
limited space, time, energy and water – are already being balanced by a renewed interest in traditional onsen bathing. Urban professionals are demanding homes with functional rooms where they can perform daily bathroom rituals using hi-tech, multi-purpose sanitaryware that takes up less space than conventional models.

But they also want something very new: a separate bathing space where they can relax, read or socialise in a bath tub. I use the phrase ‘bathing space’ because these days the tub can be located in a bedroom, on a roof terrace, in an open-plan living area, wherever they fancy.

This bathing renaissance is transforming bath design. Until recently, the goal was for miniaturised versions
of the traditional tub. Nowadays, we are shifting towards domestic baths that are almost as deep as those enjoyed by the hedonistic citizens of Ancient Rome. At Toto,
we even created a tub that never gets cold for people who think Tolstoy reads better with bubbles. Languishing,
not washing, is the order of the day, and our whole home must be ready to adapt.

So must the objects we place inside them. As society changes, everything from furniture to bathroom fittings will be transformed.  Toto’s 1,000-plus engineers are constantly looking for new ways to ensure bathrooms evolve to suit changing lifestyles. For example, fuelled by the prospect of an ageing population, they invented an intelligent toilet which measures your blood pressure and sugar levels then sends the data direct to a doctor. Smart products like this, which allow older people to live in their own homes longer, will one day be common features in modern homes – unless we invent a robot to do the ageing for us.