- YO! Sushi mastermind applies his entrepreneurial skills to property development
- Manchester sees the first YO! Home up for sale
- Britain’s evolution from "a nation of shopkeepers to a nation of entrepreneurs"
Say the phrase ‘smart homes’ and most of us think of houses connected up with whizzy electronic devices. For entrepreneur Simon Woodroffe, though, the smart living concept has seen him create a home with moving parts, providing ingenious space saving solutions. A little push sees walls slide away, dining tables pop up from the floor and a king-size bed descend from the ceiling.
Woodroffe has some form in big ideas. He’s the man who brought sushi to the masses in the 90s – through his YO! Sushi brand – and micro hotel rooms in the noughties, with his Yotel concept. Now, with the YO! Home, he claims to have set out a new design for urban living.
It’s a delightful notion – like a cross between Batman’s batcave and a Bond villain’s lair. It also owes a debt to the complex scene changes seen at big stage productions.
"I was in theatre for many years, and I suppose that’s where the idea for the YO! Home came from," says Woodroffe. "If you look at the way the homes operate, they owe a lot to stage mechanics. The idea that one space can change in several different ways."
With the prototype already unveiled, the first YO! Homes will open in Manchester before the end of 2015. The city offers a prime location at a reasonable cost, says Woodroffe. Finding similar space in London would be much harder, making the units unaffordable for many. Manhattan, Shanghai, Buenos Aires and Tokyo – areas with fast growing populations and limited space to build – have also been earmarked by developers. According to the United Nations, the world’s urban population is expected to surpass six billion by 2045. In other words, living space is at a premium like never before.
"My idea behind everything I do, is to give everyone what wealthy people have," says Woodroffe. "We are all so exposed to life’s many opportunities that we want more, whether that’s an innovative designer home or a cool hotel for the night.”
Surprisingly, Woodroffe admits that he never does any market research, instead relying on instinct – a talent that has made him one of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs. Isn’t his latest venture a potentially big financial risk though?
"It’s considerably less risky than launching a conveyor belt restaurant full of raw fish in 1997, or even asking people to sleep in a 10sqm room with no natural light. Neither of these seemed like sensible business propositions. But they worked."
"We are no longer a nation of shopkeepers, but a nation of entrepreneurs," he points out. "It’s amazing to think that this tiny island in the North Atlantic is such a creative force worldwide."
So could this 40sqm two-room apartment be the blueprint of the home of the future? Only time will tell, but one thing’s for sure – if tomorrow’s world offers us descending beds and convertible cinema rooms, then sign us up immediately.
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