When the world shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many of us found ourselves at home more than ever before. Almost overnight, we were working in our studies, our dining rooms, and even from the sofa. We were teaching our kiddos in the same places, and learning more than we would like to know about our spouses’ conference manners!
Or maybe there is another scenario. For essential workers, all you were hoping for at the end of the day was security and rest from long hours and uncertainty. Perhaps, you had a completely different experience, and your home was 100% supportive of the new normal.
In any case, you began to look at your home more closely. Whether it was with disdain or appreciation, is a whole other story!
As designers, the changing rituals of home present an exciting opportunity to re-think the way that we live. Are our homes ready for a hyper-digital life? For homeschooling? For hours-long conference calls? For multiple meals cooked daily? For keeping germs outdoors?
After coronavirus, our appreciation for a home that is both beautiful and functional has been amplified. Here are our predictions for the future of the post-pandemic home:
1.) Mudrooms Will Top Our Wishlists
Once the afterthought of many home designs, mudrooms will rush to the top of our wishlists. The post-Coronavirus mudroom will have a focus on isolation, cleanliness, and prevention. We are imagining an impeccably organized space with a full sink, storage for disinfectants, and of course, a full suite of laundering appliances.
“Coronavirus has made us extremely aware of all the germs we bring inside our homes,” says our Director of Residential Design, Gina Brown. “Mudrooms are where we leave all of that behind us. We are thinking larger rooms with thoughtful seating, so we’re comfortable while we remove shoes and clean pets’ paws.”
While a point of contention with many Southern hostesses, a “no shoes in the house” policy may take over. If that happens, we will have built-ins for house slippers. While we may not offer house shoes for guests, as is customary in other cultures, we may offer fresh socks before entering.
We are still considering how best to design this space for the modern family. Follow along on Instagram as we share some behind-the-scenes of our sketches.
2.) We Will See Secluded Spaces for Privacy, Prep, and Personality
While the appeal of an open-concept home will more than likely never go away, we do predict isolated spaces carved from more communal areas. We are already receiving requests for separate prep kitchens that are hidden from the main entertaining spaces. Usually, this design choice is made to conceal food preparation and catering equipment. Now, the request also keeps groceries and raw meats from contaminating eat-in areas.
With the entire family spending more time at home for work, school, and hobbies, personal space will become a must. We like to create separate reading nooks in bedrooms for homework, as opposed to needing an entire room. Transforming a guest bedroom into a hobby room will give homeowners the privacy they seek when they need a pleasurable escape (that doesn’t include the air travel!). Even mudrooms can become a spot for the pets to reside. Everyone in the home will want to have their own “zone.”
And we may find ourselves building more vestibules and anterooms to properly separate outdoors from the inside. This is already typical in homes with icier climates, where retaining heat is important. For those of us in hotter temps, vestibules are a new way for guests to transition from outside to our private spaces.
Don’t worry about the anteroom being too utilitarian. You can wow guests with dramatic geometric flooring, as we did here at our Willowick project. This pattern continues through to the main hall, connecting the outdoors to the intimate spaces within.
3.) Home Offices Will be a Must-Have
The famous designer duo, Charles and Ray Eames, are well-known for their iconic interpretations of the lounge chair. They are also recognized for their practical designs that emphasized necessity. “We don’t do ‘art.’ We solve problems,” asserted Charles, who felt that a good designer was like a good host, anticipating the needs of his guests.
After Coronavirus, good design will solve one of the biggest problems during lockdown: how do we work? And more than that, how do multiple people in a home work concurrently and independently?
Having dedicated work space or home office is essential to keep focus. For those of us who tried to make dining room conference calls work, we quickly realized that they didn’t. Distractions abound in the modern household. Avoiding them is key to keeping the focus work-related.
There are a few solutions. We recently completed a project with two home offices. We foresee this becoming more of the norm for dual-income families. Alternatively, allotting a larger room for communal space is a good option for quieter work moments.
“I love the thought of a large family library,” our founder, Laura Umansky says. “If you are purchasing new or renovating, I think this space is a good thing to look out for. You can have several areas for computer work and a quiet space for reviewing documents or taking calls. For those of us who work with our spouses, we’ll want large tables for joint projects.”
For families with teens, a workspace could be designed in the bedroom. Carving a nook out for plugging in multiple devices and holding textbooks pairs well with a table for hands-on projects. Depending on the existing space, this is a great opportunity to get creative.
4.) We Will Select Easy-to-Clean Materials
At the studio, we are big proponents of using build materials that are durable, sustainable, and easy-to-clean. We often recommend high-performance fabrics for clients with small children so that spills are erased with ease. You want fabrics that are easy to wash, and you want to wash them at least twice a year to eliminate dust and allergens.
To remove bacteria and viruses, we need to look at where these organisms thrive: the kitchen and bath. The ongoing debate between countertops in these areas will be settled with which material deflects germs best.
Let’s consider these. Marble is timeless and gorgeous, resistant to heat, and, sadly, famously high-maintenance. It is softer than granite or quartz and it is porous, which means organisms can grow quickly if not cleaned properly. For marble, proper cleaning is essential because damage can be permanent if not addressed promptly. Sealing marble is a bi-annual process if the space is frequently used.
On the other hand, quartz is non-porous. It won’t stain as easily as marble or granite, and it won’t allow bacteria or viruses to grow. It is the best choice for homeowners concerned about cleanliness. One con, however, will be its heat-resistance. You have to be careful with hot pans on quartz as it isn’t as durable with heat as marble and granite are.
In a recent article, Forbes writer Amanda Lauren, cites a study concerning the sanitary properties of copper versus stainless steel. The study asserts that the coronavirus survived on copper for a mere 4 hours, compared to stainless steel’s 72 hours. Not that we need another reason to love the look of copper, but this is a huge pro.
5.) We Will Fall in Love with Touchless Tech
Cleanliness is more than a virtue. Recent events have taught us it can be the dividing line between good health and life-changing illness. One of the CDC’s COVID-19 prevention recommendations is to wash our hands often. But what about the germs that thrive on the faucet and valves?
That is where touchless technology provides a beautiful solution. Kohler’s Sensate faucets are entirely hands-free. Using state-of-the-art sensor technology, the faucet is activated with a wave. It even features a wide-sweeping motion for cleaning large pots and pans. Monogram Appliances offers a wide selection of voice-activated appliances, like their ovens which can be pre-heated via mobile device.
6.) We Will Take Care of the Air
When Laura purchased her 1920’s Tudor Revival, she went into the project knowing mold would be prevalent. Just two weeks into the 10-month renovation, Hurricane Harvey hit. With its torrential rains and record-breaking floods, came a massive remediation job. The windows were barreling in water. Walls were soggy to the touch. The basement, an unusual space for Houston homes, was flooded. And after years of disrepair, the HVAC system was a complete mess.
Since then, Laura’s home has been stunningly remodeled. It opened as a showhouse and in 2019, was featured in Rizzoli’s On Style: Inspiration and Advice from the Next Generation of Interior Design. She doesn’t worry about her windows and her walls are built-to-last. She does still think about her HVAC system, and schedules regular maintenance.
This is something we all should be doing. While the verdict is still out on HEPA filters’ efficacy with the novel coronavirus, these kinds of air purifiers do clean away a variety of similar nasties: flu, measles, dust mites, mold spores, and pet dander. More tests are being conducted, but the outlook is optimistic that HEPA filters can trap and prevent COVID-19 from infecting our families at home.
For many of us during lockdown, home became full-time office space almost overnight. Dining rooms became classrooms. And all outside interactions either happened at a distance or over Zoom. If your home wasn’t fully functional for these activities, you probably felt it pretty quickly. And you’re more than likely wondering what you can do to make improvements.
Even with the opportunity for normalcy coming ever closer, the way we think about home will never be the same. As we slowly and in the best way possible, get back to our lives before coronavirus, we will continue to think about the changes at home. And we will share that experience with you on the Journal. Stay tuned.