Homeowners going technology-free in shared living spaces
The future is here … at least the future as depicted in the 1989 hit film Back to the Future Part II. In the film, a future 2015 is imagined with a world series winning Chicago Cubs team, kids riding hoverboards, and large flat panel televisions with teleconferencing capabilities over the fireplace in the McFly living room. It’s amazing how closely the films’s 26 year look into the future has become a reality. The Cubs came close to winning it all last year, hoverboards that don’t actually hover became the hit gift this holiday season, and flat panel 60-inch smart TVs with video chat capabilities are hung above the fireplaces of several living rooms. The flat panel TV revolution was quickly embraced whole-heartedly by the design community and homeowners. Why? Flat panels helped them achieve three goals. First, the flat panel enabled removal of the bulky television with its even bulkier television furniture piece from the living room. Second, it returned the visual focus and furniture arrangement of the room to the fireplace. Third, the flat panel eliminated the need for the “great room,” a driving factor in remodeling throughout the 1980s and 1990s. While replacing the family portrait or seascape oil panting over the mantle with a large rectangle of black plastic and glass didn’t necessarily match the design aesthetic of the home, it pretty quickly became an accepted look of a 21st century living room and even led to a new tradition of continuing the fireplace trim work upwards beyond its traditional border of the mantle. Unfortunately, the communal tradition of families watching the television together has rapidly vanished as laptops, tablets, and smartphones have become the preferred delivery method for most individuals’ media and entertainment needs. With the portability of devices and the ever-expanding universe of entertainment options, there’s no longer the need for a single space for everyone to get together and share one common entertainment choice. In fact, in many ways the reverse is now true: more and more homeowners are requesting areas that are free of televisions and computers.Whether it’s a formal living room, a light-filled sunroom, or a smaller reading room, there is a trend within residential design to carve out technology-free spaces and create areas for engaging conversation and family gatherings. While not quite a return to the 20th-century great room, there is certainly a noticeable shift to either add or carve out an area of the home where once again family members can ask each other the age-old question, “How was your day?” As a husband and father of three young children, I’m looking forward to a future where I can continue to sit around the fireplace with my family, drinking hot chocolate and hearing the wonderful stories that they have to tell. If you’re thinking of transforming your own living spaces to make them more family-focused, conversation-friendly and technology-free, the Meadowlark design team would love to talk to you!