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Cocooning: Home is where it’s at

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A global trend towards staying in instead of going out is affecting how people live and perceive their living spaces. By Bonny Fourie

The comfort and safety of home is becoming increasingly alluring for South Africans, who are starting to mirror their international counterparts by “staying in” more as opposed to going out.

The habit has given rise to the term “cocooning”, which is defined as removing yourself from normal social environments which can be busy, noisy, or even dangerous, and taking comfort within your own home.

The global trend is affecting not only how people live, but how they view their homes, and its growth in South Africa is becoming apparent by the types of features being included in house designs, and the choice of upgrades made in existing homes, says Dawn Bloch, area specialist in Kirstenhof and Zwaanswyk for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty.

Citing a study by UK market research firm UK Now, she says 73% of millennials prefer to exchange regular nights out for evenings of home entertainment, and rather save money for special events and occasional big nights out.

“The study further found that, of the general adult population surveyed, 69% has a similar preference for home entertainment, with this preference declining with age to 45% for over 65s.”

A 2016 online survey across 17 countries, conducted by market research institute GfK, showed on average a quarter of those entertain guests at home either daily or weekly. A third entertains monthly, while fewer than one in 10 people say they never entertain in their home.

Another highlight of the survey was that people living in households with children and youngsters in their 20s are more frequent hosts than those without children.

However, it is not only those with children who prefer staying in to going out. Research from Mintel shows that 28% of young American millennials, aged 24 to 31, drink at home because they say it takes too much effort to go out. Overall, the research found that 55% of American consumers prefer drinking at home.

“In addition to being perceived as more relaxing (74%), cheaper (69%), and personal (35%), nearly two in five (38%) home drinkers are choosing to drink at home to better control their alcohol intake,” the report says.

“We rarely go out,” says 40-yearold Marc Rall, who lives in Cape Town. “Apart from it being too much hassle with young children, we don’t like driving around at night for safety reasons.

“We do entertain at home occasionally, just with friends and family, and if we have to go out it is only to one of their houses, which are all less than a kilometre away from home.” Despite her young age, Paige Ellerson, a 21-year-old from Durban, is proud of her “home body” status.

“I go out in the evenings only if I really have to, such as attending friends’ birthday parties or events. “My boyfriend and I prefer to spend time at home with our families as it is safer and takes way less effort than getting dressed up and driving to one of the clubs or restaurants. It is also much cheaper.”

With the cocooning trend gaining momentum, statistics from around the world indicate there has been a significant growth in home industry product sales, with today’s consumers wanting to spend more time at home, and willing to spend more for products that will help enhance their home lifestyle, Bloch says. 

“Technology in the form of easy-to-install home security systems and smart home integration enable us to create safe havens over which we have increasing control, especially with app-based systems that allow us to remotely access features like lights and entertainment systems.

“And, with the advent of entertainment giants such as Netflix and various streaming options, people have access to all the current offerings from the comfort of their homes.”

Bloch says as a result, it is clear to see how home design is evolving accordingly with more multi-use and communal spaces and increased flow between indoor and outdoor living areas.

Kitchen innovations and leisure features are big for buyers 

MOVIE MANIA Entertainment features like
home cinemas are becoming more popular.
Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Home entertainment and leisure features are becoming increasingly popular in South African homes as people spend more time staying in.

More homeowners are having entertainment features installed and converting rooms into communal spaces such as home cinemas and games rooms, says Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty’s Dawn Bloch.

“We are also seeing many new homes, even compact units in complexes, built with pizza ovens, braai rooms and snugs.” Indoor fireplaces are also a popular feature, says Mark Lewis from Just Property in Constantiaberg.

He adds sound systems that allow music to be piped to areas in the home are also attracting buyers. Kitchen innovations are “big at the moment”.

“The home cooking trend as  entertainment  has blossomed with reality TV cooking shows popularising a cool or designer kitchen.” Buyers are attracted to homes with communal areas such as estate club houses, pool areas, tennis courts and gyms, as they do not need to maintain them themselves, says David Jacobs, a regional manager for the Rawson Property Group.

“For the homeowner, depending on family needs, the focus is now on audio and visual entertainment spaces (cinema rooms), man caves, less garden space and more open-plan space that connects the indoors and the outdoors.” Outdoor space must have a braai and entertainment area with seating, he says. 

Glenn Goldberg, property consultant at Jawitz Properties Atlantic seaboard, says buyers want indoor/outdoor flow to entertainment areas and pools and great views and privacy.

“All upmarket homes have, or are moving towards, the open-plan concept of designer kitchens forming part of the formal reception rooms. Sometimes the kitchen becomes the focal point of such entertainment areas.

“Designs have also moved to the kitchen area flowing directly onto the patio/pool entertainment areas. Media rooms with high-spec electronics are becoming common in many upmarket homes.” His colleague Sandra Scher says, however, that while there is a trend towards homeowners wanting home theatres and entertainment areas, buyers on the Atlantic seaboard are not requesting or prioritising these as must-haves.

“It is usually something they will install if desired.” Homes that already offer such features and are well-priced in the current market could sway buyers who are not asking or looking for such features, she says.

Jacobs agrees, saying buyers could be swayed by such features, although which ones depends on their priorities and needs. “For example, the mother in a home may prioritise space in the kitchen and open-plan living areas so it’s easier to watch over children.

“The male figure may consider his man cave and the entertainment area a winner.” Although there is a major move towards cocooning, Lewis says extra home entertainment features do not have marked impact on home value.

“Most electronic systems and installations are removed and retained by owners when selling. If not, at best these may add 0.5% to a valuation.”

Save money by entertaining at your place this festive season

DUNKING DELIGHTS Hosting a fondue party is an affordable way to entertain at home. Picture Angela Pham

The festive season is already in many’s sights, but people often forget how costly this holiday period can be. It may, therefore, be wise to take up the cocooning habit and consider a “no-spend” November in which they enjoy a quiet month at home instead of going out on expensive weekend adventures. 

“There are plenty of ways to enjoy the weekend without needing to step out of your front door. That’s why it’s so important to find a property that you love spending time in,” says regional director and chief executive of Re/Max of Southern Africa, Adrian Goslett.

Re/Max suggests some cost-effective ways for people to entertain at home:

Host bring-and-braais: South Africans’ favourite pastime also happens to be one of the most affordable ways of entertaining.

During November, the weather could not be more perfect for an outdoor gathering. “Invite friends over for a bring-and-braai’. The only thing you’ll need to provide is the fire, some cutlery, and the “gees”.

“If you don’t have any outdoor space, fry some boerewors on your stove, buy some rolls, switch on the rugby and host an indoor braai.”

Throw a blind tasting party: Another way to lure people to your place is to invite them to a blind wine-tasting. In this case, the only things you’ll need to supply are the wine glasses.

Each guest is invited to bring their own bottle of wine which they hand to you upon arrival. As the host, you cover the labels of the bottles and fill everyone’s glasses with mystery wine.

“Guests then rate each bottle and try to guess the cultivar. “At the end of the night, the labels are revealed and the ratings are tallied to reveal which bottle was the crowd favourite.”

Chocolate or cheese fondue nights: While it’s not the social norm to ask your friends to bring ingredients for a meal you will share together, it is widely acceptable to ask them to bring their favourite dunking treat for a chocolate or cheese fondue.

All you will need to supply is a fondue set, some chocolate or cheese, and a splash of milk. For homeowners who cannot stand the idea of spending a month in their current home, Goslett says it might be time to consider what else is out there.

“Given a different home more to your liking, you might find the idea more appealing,” he says. 

Price is key: Extras not vital

FUTURE When the market improves, buyers will focus more on entertainment areas. Picture: Andy Giraud

Home design features that support the cocooning trend are being seen in more modern homes, but until the market improves, buyers will still focus on little other than affordability, says Mark Lewis from Just Property. “The trend is evolving and growing, and more home entertainment features are evident. 

However, in the current market with prices stagnant or depressed, buying decisions are made on affordability.” In this market buyers want to see more value for money and place greater emphasis on space and their basic needs, says Rawson Property Group’s David Jacobs.

“When we move forward in a sellers’ market, they will be in a commanding position and buyers’ needs will change. Demand for social and entertainment areas will take centre stage.” 

Long-term value: New lifestyle

CHILL Home entertainment areas allow for cheaper and more relaxed socialising. Picture: Dave Lastovskiy

Making certain home improvements – such as creating entertainment spaces – can offer instant gratification and longterm value, and need not need a huge overhaul or involve major renovations.

Summer is a great time to add a built-in braai or put a pergola over your patio to create the perfect outdoor chill spot, says Tony Clarke, managing director of the Rawson Property Group.

“Improvements like this not only enhance your lifestyle, but can also boost your resale value, not to mention making festive entertaining more enjoyable for everyone.”

A comfy entertainment area can make a great alternative for watching the game with friends without having to worry about a scary bar bill or overpriced snacks.

“Eating and drinking out over the holidays can become pricey very quickly, so being able to entertain at home can end up saving you a lot down the line,” Clarke says.

Missing out is in: Going out is out

HOME BODY Cocooning is seeing people embrace the joy of missing out. Picture: Stella Rose

It appears that Fomo, or the Fear of Missing Out, is being overtaken by Jomo, or the Joy of Missing Out.

Although Jomo relates largely to disconnection from technology and social media, it is also being seen in the fact that more people are “cocooning” instead of going out.

Coined by Faith Popcorn, futurist and founder of leading marketing consulting firm BrainReserve, the term “cocooning” has been adopted worldwide.

Fuelled by enabling technology it looks set to stay, says Dawn Bloch of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty. “While the fact that we increasingly feel the need to insulate ourselves from negative aspects of the world is concerning on one hand, the positive consequence is that we are spending far more quality time with loved ones than in the past.” 


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