What happened to... Home Futures

The bed

To mark the Home Futures exhibition, guest authors take stock of some of the changes that the contemporary domestic interior has endured in the last two decades. What happened to the TV, the telephone, the bed? Explore more of these essays in the official exhibition catalogue.

Rising house prices and rapidly growing urban populations have forced many people in cities to reduce their living space – a steady retreat from single occupancy, home ownership and private gardens to the fat-share, the bedroom, and, ultimately, the bed. Where once an inhabitant moved between a variety of different rooms with different purposes, the bedroom has now developed into a space for rest, work and leisure.

As high rents make even living rooms a luxury, the bed has become the essential, multipurpose fulcrum of many people’s lives. A bed and laptop replace a sofa and television; a bed and some plates, resting on laps, replace a dining table and chairs; social activities that once happened in communal spaces segue from bedroom to bedroom. Meanwhile, the remote, digital working enabled by the internet – along with the growing casualisation of work – have replaced the traditional office with … yes, a laptop on the bed. The site of conference calls and late-night emails, the bedroom-as-workplace offers convenience but also isolation and confusion, as homeworkers seek to create boundaries between work life and home life.

Acknowledging today’s compact, fluid living conditions, furniture companies have rediscovered an old-fashioned archetype: the daybed. Recalling (ironically) the leisurely comforts of Georgian drawing rooms or Ottoman divans, the daybed is being reissued as the versatile solution to living–working–sleeping on the same spot. Some prefer more ingenious, transformable solutions to the problem of shrinking domestic space. Low-cost DIY projects and ‘hacks’ incorporate new functions and concealable units into bedroom furniture. There are also highly mechanised solutions. Ori, an automated living unit created by MIT Media Lab and designer Yves Béhar, allows you to move a wall or conceal the bed at the push of a button.

In the flexible, multipurpose spaces of the contemporary home, the bed can be adapted, enhanced, folded away or displayed as the central, pivotal object upon which most of the day’s rituals will take place – which one just depends on what time it is.

—Laura Ridpath

Related exhibition

Home Futures

Explore today’s home through the prism of yesterday’s imagination. Are we living in the way that pioneering architects and designers throughout the 20th century predicted, or has our idea of home proved resistant to real change?

Find out more

Home Futures

Alongside original essays by leading voices in the field, this richly illustrated book features more than 200 colour images, organised in six thematic sections exploring privacy, the smart home, compact living, self-sufficiency, nomadic lifestyles and the idea of the home as an idyllic landscape.