Oliver Herwig • 13.11.2018

or easy living

Why we want to live our everyday lives like when we’re on holiday. About the desire for simplicity and all-round service, which can be inferred from many homes.

Already rather strange. So you have been invited round to friends (or more likely acquaintances), and it feels like being in a hotel. Actually a really good one, with a bellboy and a reception, where three friendly members of staff immediately ask in  English whether everything is OK. In any case there is a hint of holiday in the air while you are being led through the apartment: The walls are beige, the tables cream-coloured and the sofa fabrics in natural tones. On the table there’s a photo album of Angkor Wat or Athos, minimalist features such as mocha-coloured vases, each with a large bloom, otherwise very few personal items. A room to while away a few hours, not a traditional home. A bit too tidy, a tad too cool and ubiquitous. Everything has its place and nothing seems excessive. Of course, this can be the result of a long time spent thinking or being a good interior designer, but after a while it feels as if we could actually step outside for a drink onto a roof terrace with views over Rome or Macao.

It’s not an isolated case. Over the last few years, a creeping hotelification of our lives can be observed (and experienced). Everything that we have grown fond of from Rio, Rome and Rimini, we bring back piece by piece into our own four walls – they are things, but above all moods. As different as the home-hotels actually are individually, three characteristics recur continuously: Simplicity, a sophisticated simplicity, which often appears casually emphasised. A high level of comfort, which is usually only noticed with a second glance (such as through Dolby surround-sound also in the bathroom and pinpoint lighting in the hallway) as well as a preference for well-designed things, or should we just say: Design. Overall it’s not only an interior style, it’s a way of life that breaks fresh ground.

We have travelled, we have good taste and we can also afford a few things. This is probably the «Transformation Economy», which was written about by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. Their thesis: We buy happy experiences, because we already have everything else: «When we buy experiences, those purchases make us happier than when we buy things.» 

And we tend to have these experiences less in everyday life, but preferably when we travel. And central Europeans have had plenty of practice at this. The Swiss Federal Statistical Office reports that in 2016 «every person living in Switzerland on average took three trips with overnight stays and 10.2 day trips». Moreover, two-thirds travelled abroad.

Happy moments of effortlessness

Granted, one of my recent personal happy moments is a B&B with a view over the rocky coast of Polignano a Mare. The rolling waves, the cool breeze, the fresh air in a room, which in principle consisted of only a bed and a high ceiling. The wardrobe was a forged angle, where clothes dangled, everything else disappeared into a container, which somehow migrated into the bed. More furniture wasn’t necessary. Things could also be as relaxed as this at home. The luxury of simplicity, fired up by a few days by the sea. An investigation by the Boston Consulting Group from 2014 shows that of the $1.8 trillion spent, almost 55 percent was on luxury experiences. They are often also blueprints for one’s own life.

It can particularly be attributed to one magazine that half the world has decorated their homes in colours somewhere between cocoa and mother of pearl: The wallpaper*-style from the 1990s has now become ubiquitous and flows back into the living room via our travels. «Whether it’s brown, green, ochre or mustard – combined with natural materials such as wool, velvet or natural wood, the colours can be used to create a snug atmosphere, which goes well with cold times of the year», says Dagmar Haas-Pilwat on RP-Online. It actually sounds as if a hotel was located here. One like the Bayerische Hof in Munich. The «south German» author Franz Kotteder describes the EUR 15,000 suite there as follows: Designer Alex Vervoordt focussed «on muted colours between beige and grey and works a lot with natural materials like stone and wood. He also seems to love wooden furniture, which looks a bit like it has been created from the wrecks of century-old sunken galleons.» And then the journalist quotes the interior designer Vervoordt from Amsterdam, whose aim is «to generate peace. People should discover peace and quiet in their hotel in this exciting city.» Materials that are close to nature are well-suited to this. Such natural culture can be found in the most varied facets. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a luxury resort, even affordable overnight accommodation such as MotelOne shows through its clever combination of design and ruthless reduction that one can definitely live in the hotel room and the hotel lounge with its seating islands, whereby above all the group with Arne Jacobsen’s «egg chair» has become the brand symbol of the chain. This is usually accompanied by a comfortable leather sofa landscape. Stefan Lenze, Managing Director and Head of Development, confirms the development: «Our design is becoming increasingly individual, artistic, luxurious and therefore also has the experience factor.»

Pictures as the ultimate status symbol

That’s OK, but what does all of this have to do with completely normal living? We are just on the move more frequently. Actually continuously. On business or we simply throw our weekend bag over our shoulders and head off to the airport. This feeling flows back into our own four walls. And with it the pictures that we post ourselves or find on Instagram and other platforms. Their permanent presence characterises our view of what we consider beautiful and normal. Previously a psychology of acquisition applied. A holiday was woven into our everyday life through souvenirs. Through real things. The suitcase was stored in the cellar, we unpacked its contents into the washing machine or in the front of the fridge. It’s precisely magnets that top the list of the most popular souvenirs, even before handicraft, key rings and «typical national clothes», says one of the latest statistics (Statista). Various trashy souvenirs are added to this (the small Eiffel tower, the snow globe with the Matterhorn or the leaning tower of Pisa on the front of underpants) together with alcohol. But what happens when the last Ramazotti, Burgundy or Limoncello is empty, the magnets are stuck on and the loved ones back home have been supplied with pasta, cheap sunglasses and sandals? Then the desire returns and the cinema in our heads begins. Can you still remember: The room over the cliffs? The breeze, which floated through the entrance hall? The lobby with a view over the palm trees?

It’s precisely magnets that top the list of the most popular souvenirs, even before handicraft, key rings and «typical national clothes», says one of the latest statistics (Statista). 

In 2017 over 54 million Germans were travelling, they spent a total of EUR 73.4 billion, slightly over EUR 1,000 per person and trip (Statista). We are investing in experiences and pictures, also because every holiday lingers on social networks. An Instagram picture here, a great tweet there, and gigabytes of data on the mobile phone and PC. Pictures have become the hardest status currency. The change in the home goes hand in hand with this. The light, airy feel of leisure time is flowing into everyday life – with clear fabrics, light furniture, light colours and perfect technology. Finally, it’s all about atmosphere.

Living according to the plug-and-play principle

Are hotels the new measure of interior design? Definitely, because our impressions of living have changed. Combined with well-designed interiors and immaculate service, a market is opening up that blurs the lines between the standard old-fashioned hotel room, ultra-individual Airbnb and one’s own home. The «serviced apartment» offers long-term overnight accommodation with the advantages of a hotel (laundry, cleaning, anonymity) and the benefits of one’s own home (individual, cosy, genuine retreat). The share of this category on the German hotel market is three percent, reports the «Allgemeine Hotel- und Gastronomiezeitung» (General hotel and catering newspaper), but it promises great potential for growth. At the same time the future researcher Stephan Jung also forecasts that Generation Y will change jobs about 17 times and move home 15 times. This means that «Moving and living has to function according to the »plug-and-play principle«.» Therefore it’s much more noteworthy how we as permanent travellers are changing our perceptions of home. The worlds of images fluctuate between ostentatious carelessness, invisible comfort and service, which reads our desires from our eyes. This means all-round care, as was previously provided only with Mummy – without lifting a finger, if possible with a butler and chauffeur service. In Hamburg Lars Hinrichs, the founder of Xing, built the «Apartimentum», a highly networked space for life and living for the expats of our time. Hinrichs rents out «cubic metres of quality of life». The personalised hotel shows how flexible we have become at home. Work here and live there. Multi-locality is the name given by sociologists when an increasing number of people have several places where they live at the same time, and they are not only engineers with an apartment in Bern, who work in Basel, but also tradesmen in Saxony, who work at Berlin Airport. In some metropolises only just about 18 percent of households still live in traditional families. All the others potter around as atomised workers of Generation easyJet. We can now just as much do without libraries as wall units, but not without sockets and WLAN.

In some metropolises only just about 18 percent of households still live in traditional families. All the others potter around as atomised workers of Generation easyJet. We can now just as much do without libraries as wall units, but not without sockets and WLAN.

«Communism is Soviet power plus electrification of the whole country», said Lenin in 1920, today living is broadband plus electrification of the whole world. It’s correct. Anyone who moves away, comes back changed. And because we are travelling increasingly frequently and further away, it soon won’t be easy to say where exactly we stand with the change. However, one thing seems certain: We are increasingly living in several places. And they then might as well look like a serviced apartment. The main thing is that there’s good reception.

Illustration: Josh Schaub