Home Design Meets The New Normal

Updated: May 27

With fewer opportunities to leave our homes, the pandemic has forced renters and homeowners to take at second look at their living spaces, which now also serve as offices, gyms, classrooms, storage lockers and art studios. You might not have realized, but there is a very long and interesting intersection between architecture, health and design that inspired many of the most sought-after design trends featured in our homes today. If we know anything about history, it’s that it tends to repeat itself, which is why we expect to see these design trends remain long after the lockdown ends, adding to the evolving world of interior design.

Safe and Stylish Surface Materials Surface materials are steering in a new direction due to increased awareness of germs and how we can avoid spreading them. By and large, home designers are predicting an uptick in copper and ceramic surfaces, specifically for faucets and basins in bathrooms and kitchens. Both have killer (literally — for viruses and germs) antibacterial properties, and viruses like COVID-19 only live on these surfaces for a few hours compared to one-to-three days on stainless steel, says New England Journal of Medicine. Not only are copper and ceramic surfaces antimicrobial, they also evoke an atmosphere of warmth and tranquillity while adding elegance and luxury to any space, according to Architectural Digest. If you're beginning a remodel or upgrade and are looking to sell soon, these are certainly things to consider.

The Adaptation of Smart-Home Technology

A smarter home can be a safer home,” says Jonathan Collins, Research Director at ABI Research. Disinfecting high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, remotes and toilets has become a daily routine for many of us, but what if we can minimize risk by minimizing touch? More than two-thirds of Americans are already using voice to control their devices, and voice control device shipments are projected to grow globally by close to 30%. With increasingly available and affordable choices of smart home devices, this is, and will continue to be an upward trend in home design.

  • Smart toilets. A toilet that opens the lid for you on approach, flushes and closes the lid as you walk away, and sanitizes itself. A toilet that even knows your playlist. These are some of the features found in the Kohler Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet. It might sound strange that a toilet can play such a large role in design, but ensuring your toilet is ready exactly to your liking doesn't seem so different than creating custom light and sound settings for different occasions, according Hadley Keller, founding editor at Architectural Digest's AD PRO.

  • Touch-free faucets. Once considered only necessary for public restrooms, touch-free faucets are becoming more popular in the home. Known for reducing cross-contamination, touch-free faucets offer the additional advantage of saving water. Most have a battery-operated sensor, and plenty are designed to retrofit your sink that formerly housed a standard faucet, making self-installation a possibility.

  • Motion sensor light switches. Light switches are some of the most touched surfaces in our homes, which is why many people are searching for an alternative. Combined with its role in energy use reduction, walking in and having the lights go on automatically might be the "new standard", says John Centra of CentraRuddy.

Reimagining Home Entryways With Mudrooms

Hygiene is the new luxury. At the fear or spreading germs, people are adapting to a new and more complex routine upon entering their homes - remove mask, remove clothing, remove shoes, sanitize and wash hands - causing a new demand. Mudrooms.“I would rather imagine an intelligent mudroom as a physical and mental portal to the home,” says Kulapat Yantrasast, founder and principal of WHY, an interdisciplinary design firm based in Los Angeles. Better known as a luxury pre-pandemic, designers predict that mudrooms will become a top priority in new homes and renovations, and foresee layouts of new builds being arrange to accommodate mudrooms in the home's highest-traffic entry point. If you're not looking to move or building a new home, it might be time to change the role of a closet or rethink an unused sitting area.

If you live in an urban city where your space is limited (we're talking about you, New York City), no worries. Interior designer Stacy Mcclellan explains how to maximize the space we do have.

The Collapse of Single-Purpose Rooms

The term "WFH" saw its day in the sun in early March when the acronym reached "peak popularity" on Google Trends. Although the search interest has gone down, working-from-home is very much here to stay. With large companies that employ thousands, like Google, Facebook and Twitter, announcing a WFH policy until the end of 2020, we're becoming intensely aware of our home's suitability as a workspace. Architect Maitland Jones believes residential design will take cues from office and college campus design, stating college campuses are no longer building single-purpose spaces and the boundaries between where one sleeps, socializes and studies are diminishing.

If you're working-from-home for the foreseeable future and want to transform your space into a multi-purpose fortress, these are some tips on how to achieve an ergonomic home office set up:

  • Give yourself a natural light source. Find the right location in your home where you can benefit from adequate lighting for virtual meetings - just make sure it isn't behind you casting a heavenly shadow.

  • The chair is kind of a big deal. Invest in pieces such as an office chair that allows for mobility and height adjustment for the sake of your mental health and your neck.

  • Don't sacrifice form for function. Just because this may be temporary doesn't mean you don't deserve to work in a beautiful office. Paint the walls in an inspiring color (we will cover color trends and moods in a sec). Mount wall shelves and invest in a few desk accessories that are as eye-catching as they are practical.

If you're having trouble focusing while working from home, read our post How to Boost Productivity While Working From Home.

Partial Outdoor Space

After spending months indoors, stepping out for fresh air is beginning to feel like a luxury. If you're lucky enough to have outdoor space to call your own, you're not feeling the same pain we are. Due to increased amount of time spent inside, homeowners and renters are naturally reconsidering their must-haves, adding some form of personal outdoor space to the list - and architects are going straight to the drawing board, giving us a taste of what might come next in the development world. In a tight city, where every square foot is expensive to build, it can also be done with, say, French doors in a living room” and a Juliet balcony, said Paul Whalen, partner at Robert A.M. Stern Architects.In a way, the whole living room, or whole dining room, could sort of feel like an outside loggia.

Aside from the general pleasure of being outside, connection to nature has a positive impact on our health, reducing stress and giving us the ability to think clearly. The industry is seeing more homes with urban and indoor gardens. Besides the eye-candy you get from a good pop of green in a neutral room, biophilic designs offer a wide-range of benefits:

  • Cleaner air, as plants purify and humidify the air around them.

  • Stress reduction .

  • Health benefits of less frequent colds and sore throats when you have plants inside.

  • Something to nurture. Cheapest therapy ever.

  • Added texture to a room.

And it doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming. A sunny windowsill with kitchen herbs like basil and thyme, low-maintenance succulents, a window box, or a living wall is a fantastic way to feel more connected to the outside and bring the outdoors in.

Colors That Emulate Reassurance and Productivity

Have you ever wondered how colors begin to gain traction and popularity? According to Dee Schlotter, color marketing manager at PPG Paints, color trends directly reflect consumer attitudes. With months of uncertainty, grief and anxiety, consumers are likely to gravitate towards colors that instill comfort, reassurance, calm, and even productivity. These are the colors we will be seeing more of in homes, according to experts:

  • Earth tones. Circling back to biophilic design, colors that resemble nature are proven to improve productivity and reduce stress. Architect Colin Haentijens of The Knobs Company suggests hues such as Shaded Spruce, Ripe Pumpkin, or Aquatic.

  • Shades of blue. Experts say that the color blue has the ability to generate positive emotional responses in the body and create soothing environments. When paired with a warmer color, a balance of energy is achieved. Try Dew Not Disturb, Spirit Mountain, or Sidewalk Chalk.

  • Orange, yellow and red. The use of these 3 colors are exciting and help bring energy and productivity to a space. Expert Paul Heintz warns that they should be used in small doses, otherwise they might be overwhelming. His favorites include Golden Crest, Red River and Pueblo Rose.

  • White. If you're looking to keep it neutral, designers recommend a "bright white" to keep your focus and stay productive.

The complicated history of health and design continues to transform the way we live, inside and out of our homes. And while it might seem stressful now, we remain optimistic at the fact that once this is all over, our homes will not be going back to normal, but back to better.

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