Opinion research survey 2012 How do Germans live?

Open floor plans, large eat-in kitchens or a combination of home and office? A current study of the ways Germans live has shown that what lifestyle magazines point out as a trend has, in fact, very little to do with reality.

2011_studimo 2011_studimo | © interlübke How do Germans furnish their living space? Which room do they like best? Which criteria determine their choice of furniture? A current representative study commissioned by furniture manufacturer Interlübke and conducted by the TNG-Emnid Institute answers these and other questions. The opinion research survey “Germany At Home – How Germans Live in 2012” polled 1000 people older than 14. Here are the ten most important findings:

1. The home ranks higher than the car

Homes are of great significance in Germany: 68% of the respondents said that a good apartment is very important – more important than leisure time (58%), the car (37%) or a vacation (33%). This is an interesting finding because cars have long been regarded as Germany’s top status symbol.

2. The typical home averages 96 square meters

The average German lives in 96 sq.m. (1033 sq ft). However, this figure surely varies in big expensive cities such as Munich, Hamburg or Frankfurt, where high prices account for housing shortages and thus, most probably, much smaller living spaces.

1976_studimo 1976_studimo | © interlübke

3. The kitchen is just a kitchen.

The trends that lifestyle magazines have been trumpeting for years have apparently little to do with the way people actually live. Most Germans use the rooms of their house in a traditional way. Only 9 percent of the people surveyed work in the living room and 51 percent use the latter for its original purpose. Still, 40 percent have a small dining area in the living room. The concept of the eat-in kitchen – so highly touted in the nineties – doesn’t really seem to have prevailed. Seven out of ten participants stated that they only use the kitchen as a place to make their meals.

4. No place like the living-room

Germans like it cozy: 61 percent feel best in the snug comfort of their living room. When asked what piece of furniture is an absolute must in this room, 95 percent named the sectional sofa, followed by the TV set (88 %), paintings (88 %) and plants (86 %). Most participants also feel that a living room should have a wall unit.

5. Where you live says who you are

Germans are not particularly interested in lifestyle trends. When it comes to home decor, 95 percent trust their own taste. The majority believes that a home is an expression of the owner’s personality – along the lines of “Where you live says who you are.”

1950er_Series123 1950er_Series123 | © interlübke It is no surprise then that, when choosing furniture, most people (83 %) seek advice from family members. Less than half find inspiration in lifestyle magazines and only 24 percent will entrust an interior designer with the choice of furnishings.

6. Forget the brand name – furniture must be functional and durable

Most Germans buy their furniture based on two key criteria: functionality and a long life span. Only once these requirements are met, people think of other factors such as price (89 %), environmental impact (81 %) or the look and design (66 %). Contrary to the way consumers buy clothes or a car, the brand name has little influence on the purchasing decision. Only 14 percent is interested in owning well-known brand furniture.

7. White and lots of light, please!

2012_bookless 2012_bookless | © interlübke Dark colors and woods such as oak or walnut continue to lose (38%) their appeal – a marked turnaround from 20 years ago when almost half of the people preferred natural dark wood grains. Nowadays almost a third of interviewees would prefer an apartment with a white color scheme and lots of light. Daring brightly colored walls are out: only 14 percent of interviewees would want a multi-colored look in their homes.

8. Wallpaper: an endangered species

Most senior citizens – almost 80 percent - still consider wallpaper classy. It’s quite another story with the younger generation, though: only 35 percent of those aged less than 30 still decorate their houses with wall coverings.

9. Happy with their homes

Generally speaking, Germans are known to have a penchant for whining non-stop. When it comes to their homes, though, this is certainly not the case: eight out of ten interviewees feel their apartment is almost perfect. This means an increase of 24 percent compared to 23 years ago.

10. Traditional roles

Germans are not exactly what you’d call progressive when it comes to the distribution of roles and allocation of chores within the family. Cleaning and cooking continue to be a woman’s job in over half (55 %) of German households while repairs remain men’s responsibility (68 %)

Following along the lines of the comprehensive housing studies conducted by Alphons Silbermann, the new poll also shows how taste has developed historically and points to certain trends over the years. Cologne sociologist Silbermann (1909 – 2000) investigated German habits and lifestyle as early as 1961 and then again in 1989. Now, though, 24 percent more people are satisfied with the way and place they live compared to 23 years ago – an interesting finding. We asked Klaus-Peter Schöppner (TNS Emnid), who had collaborated in the 1989 Silbermann survey, the reasons for this change.

“On the one hand, the country has become wealthier. On the other, the range of architectural possibilities and furniture choices available in the market have become more varied and at the same time more tailored to the customer’s individual needs. In addition, the number of single person households has been growing and the trend is towards smaller apartments. Living alone, it is much easier to be happier satisfying your each and every wish than when living with many other people and having to make compromises.”