Interior Design matters... It matters because good design is not just about making a pretty or suitable, well-functioning environment, it is about creating living spaces that nurture our bodies, souls, and support our well-being. As such, during the current global pandemic, we have all been face-to-face with the reality of long periods of quarantine at home, and what limitations and frustrations (current and future) have been brought into vivid relief.
As we have all experienced the realities of lockdown at home, it has become abundantly clear that our homes really do need to be our havens, and need to support our needs and way of life like never before. Most of us are challenged by trying to work, to seek privacy and ways to relax in spaces that are shared by multiple generations who also have unique needs. Multiple, simultaneous zoom calls and on-line chats and meetings make the former open concept spaces a little more tricky to navigate as a whole family unit. We are looking towards a future that will, most likely, require us to have highly “multi-tasking” spaces, that give us places of sanctuary and privacy, but also the ability to live and work in harmonious shared environments. Homes will need, ideally, to incorporate a great deal of built-in design features that provide increased sustainable living standards and self-sufficient functions.
There are 5 primary design trends that I’d like to highlight in considering design trends that evolve out of the pandemic. The primary shifts I see in residential design are: Sanctuary Spaces, Home Offices/Virtual Classroom spaces, Home Hygiene and Sanitation features, Green Spaces, and Self-Contained Technologies for sustainable living.
Sanctuary Spaces: The need for Privacy
We have been riding the design “wave” now for many years of the all-encompassing “open concept” floor plan. As a residential designer, I have renovated countless homes to create a fluid, open space where the kitchen opens up onto the Family Room, and where there is no (or little) separation between kitchen, family/tv room, and dining area. Although very comfortable, and often very convenient for living, we may see a new turn towards more enclosed, separated areas. I’m sure many parents can attest to the myriad difficulties of trying to participate in multiple, serious Zoom calls and meetings while their toddlers or young children are near. Young students also need their own spaces to learn (on-line or otherwise), relax, and play. Our new, hard working home must cater to all our needs.
Having a pleasant, quiet “sanctuary” space has become more important than ever–to recharge, meditate, decompress or simply to be alone. In interior design terms, this means designated reading “nooks”, small alcoves for yoga and/or mediation, or your own version of “man or woman cave!” You can create your own sanctuary space rather easily, and with little financial investment. An alcove or end of a room can be separated off by an attractive curtain, or even an easy-to-create, low-impact barrier or dividing line of potted plants.
Home Office/Classroom Space
Since not everyone has the luxury, or the square footage within their homes to have multiple rooms designated as office or classroom ready spaces, it is helpful to have a few pointers about how to incorporate the critical elements that will make your home work space both look and function as well as possible. Good lighting is on top of the list of essentials. We feel best, and tend to be our most productive when we have several different types and light sources. For example, in a room where there might be activities ranging from client calls, zoom meetings, to your elementary schooler’s arts and crafts, varied lighting will make all the difference.
Overhead lighting, in the form of recessed downlights, or a central mounted flush fixture give great ambient, or overall lighting. Task lighting, in the form of desk lamps (or your video camera ready “ring light”) are important for your arts and crafts, detail work, and lighting up your work surface. Finally, decorative lighting can be a huge “game changer” in terms of how you feel in a room. A few, beautiful sconces (wall mounted lights) can bring a warm glow and sense of security to a space that may otherwise feel cold and lacking distinction or character.
In addition to quality lighting, efficient storage elements and “a place for everything” is another key design element to create ease and efficiency in your space. Built-in cabinetry or free-standing bookshelves with storage below tend to create wonderfully flexible storage solutions. For school aged children, having designated storage spaces helps build independence and good habits, too! Lastly, smart technologies (and especially voice activated technologies) are easy to use for generations of all ages. Very young children up to those in their 80’s and beyond can learn to use the voice activated systems, which ultimately frees up time and enhances productivity for everyone in the household.
Home Hygiene and Sanitation
It goes without saying that home hygiene and sanitation systems are becoming increasingly important features in the home. With global health concerns, and the possibility of on-going (even if intermittent) home quarantines, the quality of our air and water is essential to our well-being. From self-cleaning toilets to indoor air purifiers, the next generation of home owners will likely look to invest in systems that both clean and maintain cleanliness of the air and water within the home. New water filtration systems, self-cleaning plumbing fixtures (especially faucets and toilets), and voice activated smart technologies are flooding the marketplace.
Additionally, new light technologies, such as Ultraviolet lamps (which kill bacteria and viruses on surfaces) are certain to become the norm in most residences. Additionally, there are vast quantities of antimicrobial and germ resistant materials and carpets that significantly benefit our interior air quality. Good health and well-being also extend, of course, to the realm of mental health. The dynamics and stress of living through a pandemic can become (at least, in part) less burdensome if the daily workload can be lessened. Investing in a few of these latest self-regulating systems can surely improve one’s overall quality of life.
Visually lush and stimulating, air quality improving, and peaceful–greenery in the home has everything going for it! As our need for outdoor spaces (or at least the ability to bring the outdoors in) grows, so do the variety of design options for plants and flowers in the home. Vertical gardens and indoor garden “plots” can be seen everywhere now.
Herb gardens in wall-mounted boxes, tiered, bookshelf- like shelving units for plants, and hanging gardens can be seen in home design magazines and in on-line sources everywhere. Plants and flowers not only bring a deep sense of peace and serenity, but both filter the air and produce more oxygen. The self-sufficiency inherent in growing what you eat also has true appeal, especially as substantial amounts of produce can be grown in a relatively small raised bed, or even in an interior greenhouse or enclosed hydroponic garden. Patios, outdoor decks, rock gardens and natures capes are also wonderful outdoor design and hardscape elements that can make our access to and appreciation for the beauty and enjoyment of the outdoors even greater. Creating these intriguing and lovely outdoor spaces can make having to “shelter in place” not so bad!
Self Contained Technologies
As we are encountering a changed world, where being able to live comfortably at home for long periods of time may become our new normal, we will embrace the science and new technologies that can make self-sustained, and self-sufficient living more viable. Solar panels can provide our homes with truly sustainable, low-cost energy. Geothermal systems can create heating and cooling in an entirely “green”, 100% self-sustaining form. As mentioned previously, establishing a garden creates an amazing opportunity for self-contained living, and far less trips to the grocery store! We can’t forget the usefulness and importance of our “low-tech” sustainability methods as well. For example, composting eliminates waste, reduces the carbon footprint, and becomes an endless renewable energy source (fertilizer) for your garden.
The future is here, and there are beautiful ways to prepare for it!