No matter the industry, it is tradition to sit down, look back on the year past and reflect on how everything has progressed. While this used to be an evening of generally positive or at the very worst mixed feelings, for the last few years, it seems like we haven’t been able to catch a break.
Today, we’re catching up with our friend 2022, to figure out how the interiors industry has been shaped by last year’s events. We’ve kept the good, the bad and the ugly, so you can have a 360 view on what’s really going on behind the glitz and glamour.
The world of architecture and design gathered around Ukraine
On 24 February 2022, Ukraine was invaded by Russian military forces after months of escalating political confrontation. In the wake of atrocities, fear and the biggest displacement of people in Europe since the Second World War, the architecture and design community rallied to support Ukraine through this time. Many organisations ceased to operate in Russia, and others donated substantial amounts of furniture and temporary infrastructure for refugees.
Despite the international community’s efforts, the war rages on, and one of the war’s casualties has been the historic and contemporary architecture of Ukrainian cities. It is the majority of the world’s desire to stop this war, and we can only hope the suffering of troops and civilians comes to a halt as soon as possible. For more information, visit the EU’s site.
The news of recession, inflation and rising gas prices made everyone shudder
In defiance to the EU’s and USA’s response to the Ukrainian invasion, Russia withdrew some of its energy supply to these regions, ultimately resulting in unstable gas and electricity prices and a rise in the production, shipping and sale costs of products. This has now led to inflation and steeper bills for the direct consumer, which is putting many nations’ economies on the verge of recession.
As one can imagine, the threat of recession and the rising costs of materials and home products have direct effects on the architecture and design industries in the UK and Europe. On one hand, commercial and residential clients have less disposable income to fund big projects or projects altogether, which leads to a decrease in work for designers and studios. On the other hand, materials, furniture and the energy costs behind projects are on the rise, which is shaping the scope and outcome of the projects that do come through. As we’ve seen through previous economic upheavals in 2008-2012 and the 2020 pandemic, recessions affect interior designers gravely, so many players in the industry are bracing themselves for a difficult year.
Supply chain hiccups continue to delay progress
Unfortunately for the interiors industry, the world’s economic downturn is compounded with supply chain issues, which only exacerbate costs in design projects. Every manufactured product in the world depends on hundreds of different processes working together; from the creation of foam to protect the product to the person working in the transportation of it, every component must work seamlessly to provide stable supply chains that work on regular time frames.
Since COVID-19 hit and regulations disrupted labour and resource collection chains three years ago in Wuhan, China, the ripple effects are still being felt, with the added issues of gas prices and other elements we have covered above. Where a sofa used to take 6 to 8 weeks to arrive, some vendors have increased their lead times to 6 months and even a year, given the current circumstances. While interior designers have limited ways to deal with such a geopolitical problem, we recommend specifying products as soon as possible, building great relationships with suppliers, and trying to buy in-stock products.
TikTok cemented itself as a social media player
For the last two years, the video-sharing app TikTok has attracted enormous amounts of attention, monthly users and time spent on the app. As a result, we’ve seen many interior designers join as creators and use their platform to publicise their own work and also educate users on the magic behind interior design projects. The hashtag #InteriorDesign currently sits at a whopping 18.6 billion videos and TikTok, and we’re certain this number will only continue to grow with time.
The metaverse hype cooled off
In late 2021, with Facebook announcing its rebrand into Meta, the idea of a virtual metaverse seemed like a reality about to erupt at our doorstep. For a time, cryptocurrencies, digital real estate, NFTs and avatars were all we could think about. Now, some time in, these ideas are still popular, but we can definitely feel a mainstream loss of interest.
In the interior design world, we can see a similar pattern emerge. After Meta’s new rebrand and the promise of a more embodied internet, many started thinking about the possibilities of interior design in this virtual new space, and how the metaverse could help interior designers and suppliers show their ideas and creativity. In an applicable sense, digital showrooms are an example of this idea, but increasingly, their value is being questioned now that in-person sourcing has returned. Despite these doubts, the survival of the interiors industry during the pandemic shows us that preparing for e-commerce or virtual solutions is not a waste of time, rather, it is an opportunity to increase business and resilience as a company.
Buy Now Pay Later came under scrutiny
At first, the Buy Now Pay Later (also “BNPL”) concept seemed to predict a revolution in how Gen Z and millennials purchased high-price products including interior design purchases. The premise is simple: buy anything you want, and pay in instalments without applying for a credit card.
As this method of payment became popular across the world via ads, influencers and word-of-mouth, regulators started taking notes on how this impacted the debt levels of consumers – especially vulnerable, low-income communities. Because of these concerns around the ethics of BNPL, national and international regulatory bodies are looking to introduce legislation within the next few years.
As of today, we can already see the consequences of companies adopting BNPL options in their direct-to-consumer efforts. Bloomberg reports that young buyers are quickly racking up debt and are defaulting on their payments, making online delinquency levels rise across Klarna and other platforms. If you were thinking about getting involved with a BNPL provider, perhaps wait to see future regulations.
Hybrid workplaces continue their metamorphosis
In the corporate and creative world, hybrid workplaces have become the norm, with more and more workers expecting to work from home at least a couple of days a week or month. The benefits to this pattern are endless. From a talent acquisition standpoint, potential talent pools are inevitably enlarged and better convinced to join, as for many family-work conciliation is a necessary part of their job.
As a result of this, many offices have had to adapt their designs to different patterns of working. Instead of maximising spaces to sit down, work at the computer and not move for hours at a time, new offices must be designed to create innovative and collaborative spaces from which to ideate. This is because silent, deep work time can be done from home, but the serendipitous outburst of ideas can only happen with face-to-face contact. Many companies are investing in better team-building and meeting spaces, from which in-person and remote workers can join. Interior designers will have fun with these concepts for years to come!
AI has entered the chat
For a long time, creative roles were thought to be beyond the reach of AI, as they required that special something only humans could provide. We’re afraid that’s no longer true.
Interior AI is changing the industry. Still in its infancy in terms of technology and rollout, Interior AI allows designers to upload 2-D images of their spaces, and try out different style options. While the physics behind the app are not 100% there, its accuracy in terms of style and finish is astounding. For more information on this app, check out Business of Home’s in-depth review.
Trade shows came back in full force
Although some trade shows did risk it in 2021, many have been extremely cautious up until this year. Many exhibitions and conferences are back on track, and we couldn’t be happier about it. For more information on next year’s exhibitions, check out our newsletter exclusive “2023 Interior Design Events and Trade Shows”.
Designers wellbeing came to the forefront
According to the Well Designed Organisation, 84% of interior designers cite anxiety and stress as some of the biggest problems in the interior design industry. While some level of pressure is totally normal in any role, the levels at which interior designers appear to operate are alarming.
Thankfully, more and more people are taking a stand and coming up with solutions. Here at Portaire, we’re passionate about giving you more time so you can reduce admin stressors, and finally focus on what matters most. We’d love for you to check us out, but if your stress levels go beyond the readily solvable, do contact your GP, reach out to your family and friends and learn more on Mind.
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