Making Room: Housing for a Changing America

Opening soon at the National Building Museum, presented in partnership with Citizens Housing and Planning Council, Resource Furniture and Clei.

In the middle of the 20th century, housing development was driven by the needs of nuclear families, the leading demographic at the time. It’s no secret that shifts in lifestyles and demographics have changed American households. But has our housing supply kept up? Quite simply: no. The desire for sustainability and a better use of space demand a better solution. As the National Building Museum points out:

  • Almost 30% of American households consist of adults living alone, a growing phenomenon across all ages and incomes
  • More and more, adults have to pool resources and share dwellings to find suitable living conditions, causing an increase in roommate situations
  • We face a crisis in affordable housing, placing an unprecedented burden on low-income families. More than one in four renter households (11.4 million) spend more than 50% of their income on rent.
  • Multigenerational households are on the rise. Young adults are staying home longer or moving back in with their parents. Adults are opening their homes to their aging baby boomer parents and immigrants often prefer to live in larger, multi-generational households.
  • 87% of adults aged 65 and older want to stay in their current home and community as they age. Yet housing is often poorly adapted to changing needs, resulting in poor health outcomes for our seniors.

Good news! A strong push to propose exciting, flexible answers for these evolving lifestyle needs from developers, architects, and interior designers, allied with housing advocates, policy makers, and activists. Introducing Making Room: Housing for a Changing America.

Making Room showcases how architects, designers, developers, planners, policymakers, and the general public can leverage intelligent design as an integral tool to meet housing needs. The focus of Making Room is a full-scale home named the Open House that embodies these ideas.

The Open House is designed by Italian architect Pierluigi Colombo of Clei, the designers and manufacturers of high-quality wall beds represented by Resource Furniture. The 1,000-square-foot dwelling is installed in the exhibition’s galleries for visitors to experience and explore. The hyper-efficient layout features movable walls from Huffcor and multifunctional furniture from Resource Furniture and Clei. The Open House demonstrates how a flexible space can meet the needs of a variety of today’s fastest-growing and underserved households.

It will comprise two distinct living spaces that could be used independently or combined to form a larger residence. On its own, the smallest space could be configured as a micro-apartment. To showcase how this space seamlessly adapts to accommodate three entirely different living arrangements—roommates, an extended family, and a retired couple—the interior furnishings will be changed twice before the exhibition closes in September 2018. The roommates scenario will be displayed at the exhibition’s opening.

In addition to the Open House, the exhibition will highlight cutting-edge projects that housing entrepreneurs (architects, designers, and allied housing advocates and policy makers) are taking to expand our housing options, including:

  • Micro-apartments in New York City
  • Shared housing experiments in the D.C. area
  • Backyard accessory cottages in Seattle
  • Tiny houses that are helping the formerly homeless in Austin
  • The boom in cohousing communities

To learn more, visit https://www.nbm.org/exhibition/making-room/