Who shares a house with people who are not family? Young people just getting started? Fictional characters in classic TV shows such as Friends and the Golden Girls? Well, yes, but not just them.
More people are spending more years of their lives single than ever before. The age at which people first marry, among those who do marry, is at an all-time-high in the U.S. and other places, too. The percentage of people who remarry is sliding. A record number of people is likely to stay single for life.
The rise of single people is fueling the dramatic increases, over the past half-century, in the number of people living alone. Just about every other living arrangement – except for nuclear-family living – is increasing, too, including the number of people who are sharing a home with people other than immediate family members.
Ikea recently asked people to describe what they would want out of a shared living arrangement. More than 7,000 people from 147 countries responded. The participants in the survey are not a representative sample of any of the countries, so the results are more suggestive than definitive.
Here are the people’s preferences, as reported by Co.Design:
The people considered most desirable as house-mates:
Single women and couples with no children
The people considered least desirable as house-mates:
Teenagers and small children
The most important reason for wanting to share a house:
To be social
The biggest concern about sharing a home:
Possible lack of privacy
The ideal number of people in a shared house:
Between 4 and 10
The spaces people are most interested in furnishing and decorating:
Their own private spaces
The spaces people are less interested in furnishing and decorating:
The spaces people are most willing to share:
Kitchens, work spaces, gardens.
The spaces people are least willing to share:
Bedrooms and bathrooms
Many of today’s newly-built shared living spaces are not houses but apartments. In cities, towers and skyscrapers sometimes house hundreds of small apartments. The tiniest versions of the apartments, sometimes called micro-apartments or apodments, are typically designed for solo living. What’s shared are spaces such as gardens, gathering places (sometimes rooftops with pools and barbecues), meeting rooms, and spaces for working.
Professionals who create co-living spaces need to attend to more than just the kinds of matters that Ikea asked about. Importantly, their designs should make it easy for people to run into each other spontaneously over the course of their everyday lives. Long, narrow hallways, like those in impersonal hotels, are unlikely to do the trick. Cohousing communities have been especially adept at using spatial design to facilitate social interaction, as I’ve discussed in How We Live Now and elsewhere. (You can see some pictures here.)