[Part 1] The meaning of "Time spent at home," from the perspectives of interior and home appliances
[Part 2] Furniture and interior demands reflected on changes in work style
[Part 3] How can we enhance "wellness" after the pandemic?
Research & Development Group, Hitachi, Global Center for Social Innovation – Tokyo
Product Design Department, Leader Chief Designer, Satoshi Sukeguchi (host): design manager of home appliances and home solution division.
Product Design Department, Product Designer, Tomohiko Sato: oversees the design development of refrigerators.
Product Design Department, Product Designer, Mai Seki: oversees the design development of vacuum cleaners and air purifiers.
Value Creation Project, Service Designer, Satoko Hinomizu: oversees solution creation for cities.
Value Creation Project, Service Researcher, Mei Takada: studies urban development, work style and ideal office environments.
ACTUS CO., LTD
Visual Merchandiser, Ms. Yuki Okada: oversees the design supervision of Hitachi's refrigerator project.
European Furniture Buyer, Mr. Rei Noguchi: responsible for the buying of European furniture and product development.
Indoor Plant Buyer, Mr. Kazushi Tokumasu: oversees lifestyle and indoor plant brands.
Bringing exterior objects inside the house
Our third topic is "wellness." Since the pandemic, we've all been spending more time at home and finding new ways to work. However, working from home also poses its problems, such as finding it difficult to switch on or off and lack of exercise from staying inside all day. I think furniture and interiors have begun to reflect our desire to refresh our minds and bodies. What do you think about this?
Mr. Tokumasu, ACTUS
The sales of room fragrances are sharply on the rise. When you're outside and take off your mask when no one is around, you realize that all kinds of smells exist in the city. I'm sure you have experienced this. As we're constantly shutting out smells as we go about our business, when we come home, we want to relax with nice scents. Recently, we've seen a demand for this increase. When I'm talking with a customer at the store, I've noticed that their reaction toward essential oils and fragrances using natural ingredients has changed dramatically. As I mentioned at the beginning of the discussion, a demand for ornamental indoor plants has also been increasing. Being in touch with real, living nature helps to stimulate your mind. I think many people have come to realize how important greenery is during this time of confined living.
When you're inside the house all day, the information that you get through your eyes is limited. The reason why the people living in Nordic countries are good at incorporating art and posters in their lives is that they feel the subtle changes in their emotions that decorating the house with different colored objects according to the mood or season brings. Until now, we depended on outside elements, like seeing art in museums. But right now, people are trying to do the same but inside their houses. I think the pandemic has triggered this kind of change in Japan.
The lines between inside and outside are blurred.
Compared to commuting to work, working from home has more freedom in terms of time and space, so it's a flexible way to work. However, I think we're all starting to feel the negative effects of it too, like lack of inspiration. Going outside has become a rarity, so we utilize and embrace the occasion to receive stimulation. It's a chance to come across something wonderful. I think this kind of serendipity will be essential in urban living going forward.
I used to feel that weekdays (days commuting to the office) were "ordinary days," and holidays were "special days." But as my stay-at-home period extended due to the pandemic, the days when I would occasionally go to the office have become "special" and I was like "Since I'm going out, I'll cherish this occasion to do this and that." I noticed that my understanding of a special day and an ordinary day has flipped.
Another impression that I get from working from home is that the boundaries between inside and outside have begun to blur. Recently, I've heard of laundromats with coffee shops attached to them. While the children play, the mother irons. Even when you're outside, you can spend time like you're at home. I think this is an interesting system.
Ms. Okada, ACTUS
In the past, a client came to us with a request to "redesign the interior of a car like a room" as a travel planning proposal featuring Vanlife (*). Instead of outdoor furniture, we used ordinary furniture that would be used inside a house and proposed a styling where you can travel as if the room itself is moving. And they loved it.
* A term coined from the word "van" and "life." It's a lifestyle in which the interior of a van with a large cargo area is redesigned into a house or office, and used as a base for living, work and outdoor activities.
Because of the pandemic, people feel uncomfortable staying in hotels and the like with other people. But they still have the desire to travel. And they want a sense of privacy. I think this concept of Vanlife, which ticks all those boxes, gaining in such popularity signifies the fact that the lines between inside and outside are blurring.
What can we do to achieve the Perfect Relationship Between Work and Life?
Lastly, let us hear your thoughts on the "Perfect Relationship Between Work and Life."
I think that if you're surrounded by things that give you comfort and that you like, your productivity will improve and you'll be able to work with a more positive mindset. What is a design that can both bring comfort to people and make their heart palpitate with joy? I think coming at things from this perspective will be essential from now on.
Working from home can stress you out because it's like a mosaic of where you work and do chores. So it's important to curate a living environment with minimum stress. For example, by cleaning your room as a way of wrapping up your day, you can switch yourself off. I think ideas like this are necessary for creating a better life.
From the perspective of urban development, we need a system that can enhance the connection between the people and community. Starting with a system in which you can easily launch a pop-up store (*) anywhere within the community for example, creating a catalyst to change your work style and life will be necessary.
* A temporary store that opens for a limited period.
With the boundaries between private life and work blurring, I think mindsets toward accepting working environments where everyone can work comfortably and irregularities are growing. However, from hearing all your thoughts, I've learned that experiences to feel something real, like scents and nature, are needed. I would like to keep working on urban development that provides authentic experiences, something that makes people want to go out more.
Mr. Tokumasu, ACTUS
On the flip side of the effects of the pandemic, people are spending more time with their families and our lives have gotten richer. We would like to continue this as it is, without forgetting the "good changes." For example, when there are plants inside the house, you feel something real. Once you experience this, I'm sure people will crave for more, like the desire to enjoy a good meal again. I strongly believe this, and I'll continue curating lifestyles.
Mr. Noguchi, ACTUS
I think there are various factors for new designs to emerge, such as economy, history, climate and culture. I'm sure a design created under a specific era will still be interesting when we look back in ten years. I think designs and customs born during the pandemic hold discoveries that people will feel attached to. It's something that goes beyond the boundaries of clothing, food, housing and work. I think this is a very interesting time for consumers.
Ms. Okada, ACTUS
I'm delighted that people are starting to focus on the interior of the house as working from home becomes more common. I'm happy that they finally noticed its importance. I offer customers designs that bring playfulness to interiors by decorating and displaying things inside their homes. I think communicating the joy of interior design to many people will lead to creating the perfect relationship between work and life.
We were able to have a fruitful discussion that touched on time at home, work style and wellness from the perspectives of interior design, home appliances and urban development. Thank you so much for your precious time.
ACTUS CO., LTD
With the goal of enhancing quality of life in Japan and widely promoting the concept of a "beautiful and mindful way of living," ACTUS CO., LTD provides premium-quality products and services related to all aspects of food, clothing and housing through their broad range of sales channels. Their businesses span from the import and sale of European furniture and development and sale of their in-house label's furniture and sundries for their interior store "ACTUS," management of restaurants, cafes, and retail stores, renovation as well as interior design curation, design and construction of public and commercial facilities.