How we live – then, now and in the future

The way we live has evolved over time as our living and lifestyle habits have changed and technological innovation has gathered pace. Here, we look at how the way we live has evolved over the past 100 years…

1920s - 1940s
A home of your own

After the First World War and back when mobile phones were beyond the realms of even science-fiction, there was a housing revolution defined by the idea of building ‘homes fit for heroes’. Aided by industrial relocation and road-building programmes, many were built in rapidly growing suburbs.

A move to the suburbs saw the construction of larger, often semi-detached or detached homes with gardens; a far cry from the overcrowded, urban, and often unsanitary conditions that had characterised housing for working families before 1914.

A typical house would have had a small hall, a living room and a separate kitchen downstairs, plus two or three bedrooms upstairs. The biggest change was the invention of indoor plumbing, meaning that homes could have bathrooms, and people no longer had to go outside to use the loo.

Growing incomes and increasingly affordable mortgages also contributed to a remarkable rise in private home ownership.

Suburban living

The end of the Second World War saw another period of furious house building, to fix the damage caused by six years of conflict. Under the post-war government, lots of new council houses were built.

The focal point of the 1950s’ home was the recently launched television set, which became popular after the Queen’s coronation was televised in 1953, with families gathering on the sofa to watch the news and evening’s entertainment. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, fridges became a standard feature in many homes keeping food fresher for longer.

With more developments being built in suburban areas, it also meant that many people had gardens for the first time and so gardening became a new hobby for the masses, and not just one enjoyed by the upper classes.

1960s - 1970s
More mod cons

1960s high rise home

The 60s and 70s were defined by ongoing housing shortages. In many areas, the solution was to demolish Victorian terrace housing and build high-rise tower blocks. Many will remember these as poorly built failures, isolating individuals and splitting communities.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. Living standards generally improved for the majority with the introduction of new white goods, such as freezers, washing machines and tumble dryers. Gas and electric central heating also became popular, with radiators replacing messy coal fires. Double glazing was introduced too, meaning homes were warmer than they’d ever been.

Houses were also a bit more open plan in design, with merged kitchen and dining spaces becoming the norm. More relaxed lifestyles meant formal separate dining rooms started to become a thing of the past. 

1980s - 2000s
Open-plan living

1980s home

Never had people in the UK had more disposable income, and this was reflected in their homes, with the introduction of more gadgets than ever before. Personal computers, games consoles, microwaves and cordless telephones became the norm in most homes.

During this period, the kitchen also became the hub of the home; a place for people to cook, eat, drink, entertain and work. This meant that new houses tended to have bigger kitchens, with fitted units and appliances, breakfast bars and combined living areas. No longer were homes built with separate rooms for separate purposes, as the concept of ‘open-plan living’ really took hold.

The idea of a home for life became thing of the past as people began living more nomadic lifestyles, moving further afield from the place they grew up in for university, work or a change of scene. This resulted in a change in home furnishing trends, with cheap and cheerful flat-pack Ikea furniture replacing traditional solid wood pieces. 

2010 - present
The smart home

Smart home

Today, our homes are more connected than ever. Until recently, the idea of controlling a thermostat with a mobile phone or letting your fridge order groceries would have seemed like complete madness. Today, thanks to the 20.4 billion connected devices expected to be in circulation globally by 2020, this kind of innovation is helping to usher in the era of the smart home.

Innovations like Amazon’s Alexa and the Hive smart thermostat have been making their way into public consciousness over the last few years, changing the way we interact with our homes.

Looking to the future, how we live will almost certainly be based around smart devices, linked to our mobile phones. Featuring connected smoke detectors, security cameras, remotely operated locks and leak detectors, this smart technology is likely to have a significant influence over home insurance. Thanks to the advance warning they provide about leaks, break-ins or fires, they could even contribute towards fewer claims.