Furniture makers big on small sizes
Aug 26, 2012 / 9:39 am
The pint-sized units inside the glass condo towers popping up all over urban centres aren't the only things getting smaller.
"Every major furniture retailer now has a line that is apartment or condo sized," says Elaine Cecconi, co-owner of interior design consultant firm Cecconi Simone.
"There's so much product out there for small-space inhabitants that it's become more of the mainstream, I would say, than a trend in the furniture industry."
Census figures for 2011 released in February show multi-unit dwellings, a category that includes condominiums, making up roughly half of all new housing stock, a category traditionally led by detached homes.
The numbers also indicate that Canadians are flocking to urban centres. Toronto's population jumped more than 17 per cent over the previous census period in 2006.
This condo boom, fuelled by lifestyle changes and efforts to curb urban sprawl, is in turn revolutionizing the furniture retail business.
As our cities become denser and space becomes more limited, there's a growing demand for compact, space efficient and multi-use furniture, says Cecconi.
Storage units with fold-out beds inside.
Adjustable tables that drop down from dining room to coffee table height. These modern, European-style furnishings are booming in popularity as designers and retailers respond to dimishing physical space.
Renters like Meagan Kashty are having to purge many of their belongings to squeeze into smaller living spaces.
Kashty, 24, says she will be trading a room in her parents' spacious Oakville home for a bachelor unit in downtown Toronto next month.
"I have this gorgeous kitchen table with chairs but I can't bring it with me," says Kashty.
"There's no space for it. I'm going to basically be eating off of TV trays and coffee tables."
Compact furniture is also growing in popularity in Calgary, says Cecconi, thanks to the building boom that's underway there.
But the prevalence of tiny condo units isn't the only thing driving the desire for space-efficient furniture.
Compact furniture is also increasingly popular in the suburbs, partly because people are drawn to the aesthetics and functionality of modern furniture, and partly because families outside of major city centres are also downsizing their homes.
"Townhouses are getting smaller and narrower, so the same principles apply, whether you're designing a 650-square foot one-bedroom den in a tower downtown or a 1,200-square foot townhouse," says Cecconi.
"You have to be really adept at utilising space in an efficient and functional way."
That means despite predictions by some experts that the condo craze is a bubble headed for a burst, the demand for space-efficient furniture is well positioned to endure.
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