When the pandemic forced people to move most of their lives to their homes, it also caused them to rethink how those homes were designed.
The home suddenly became the setting for many functions that people used to do out in the world—work, school, exercise, and so on. People are expecting much more from the spaces they live in, and that’s changing the way they want those spaces built.
Will they be long-lasting changes? Only time will tell.
But moving forward, we expect home designers to place more emphasis on these five things.
1. MULTIPURPOSE SPACES
Increasingly, people need their homes to incorporate shared spaces for interacting with family and closed-off areas that allow for focused work or private reflection.
Think about it: An open-concept floor plan is great for bringing people together, but it’s an acoustic nightmare if someone in the household needs to get on a Zoom call.
However, people only have so much square footage to work with. That means adaptability is key.
Well-placed sliding doors or moving walls can provide the flexibility to convert a large kitchen or living room into a smaller workspace or classroom as needed. Ideally, each sectioned-off space would have an outside window that brings in natural light.
Dual-purpose furniture, like hidable desks or benches that provide storage, is also becoming much more important.
2. HOME OFFICES
With so many people working remotely at least part of the time, there’s a rising need for dedicated offices (one for each person, in many cases) within the home.
A survey by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) found that demand for multiple home offices doubled between 2020 and 2021.
We already mentioned how sliding partitions can create an enclosed work area when needed. But designers will also need to carefully consider things like the placement of electrical outlets so that people can power their technology.
There’s also a growing call for cork walls that can help absorb sound and specialized window films that can let light in but cut down on screen glare.
And many remote workers want to make a clearer distinction between their work and home lives. Some are going so far as to turn outdoor sheds into functional workspaces to mimic the experience of “going” to work and leaving home behind.
3. HEALTH AND WELLNESS
This is not the first time a health crisis has inspired changes in home design. For instance, sleeping porches (screened-in decks usually located next to second- or third-floor bedrooms), once common throughout the southern U.S., originally came about in the 1890s as a way to give tuberculosis sufferers a chance for fresh air.
And after the last major pandemic in 1918, many people started adding powder rooms near their home’s entryway so that anyone coming in could easily wash away germs.
Similar trends are emerging now. Many people want their foyers to be transitional spaces where people can leave items, take off their shoes, and wash/sanitize their hands (or grab a mask on their way out).
Touchless faucets and toilets are becoming more popular in residential homes, as are voice-controlled appliances and lighting. After all, the fewer things people touch, the fewer things you have to clean.
Demand is also rising for guest rooms that can function as quarantine spaces, with a dedicated bathroom and perhaps even an outside entrance to a porch or patio.
4. HOME GYMS
Part of that new interest in health and wellness has been illustrated by homeowners’ push for dedicated fitness areas. With commercial gyms closed during the pandemic, many people improvised by converting a bedroom, basement, or garage into an exercise space.
In the AIA survey, the demand for an exercise room within the home saw a sizable increase between 2020 and 2021.
Designers are being asked to accommodate everything from weight benches and Peloton bikes to yoga spaces and virtual golfing rooms.
5. PRIVATE OUTDOOR SPACE
Being stuck inside for months on end inspired many people to place new value on outdoor living and getting closer to nature.
A report from June 2021 found that during the pandemic, 17 per cent of Canadians made home renovations—and the area that got the most attention was the backyard.
In some cases, that meant screening in porches and adding patio heaters or fire tables to allow for safer year-round socializing.
In others, it involved adding gardens so that people could grow their own vegetables (thus avoiding trips to crowded stores with potentially empty shelves).
Going forward, some sort of connection to the outdoors will be a must-have for many homeowners.
HOW IT ALL MIGHT WORK: A CONCEPT HOME FOR THE FUTURE
Wondering what this all might look like in practice?
Researchers set out to discover what Americans wanted in their post-pandemic homes by conducting a pair of national surveys in the spring and fall of 2020.
The results were used to create a concept home called Barnaby.
Aimed at a four-person family with two kids, Barnaby is a two-storey, 2,600-square-foot house with four bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms.
The innovative design includes features such as:
- A front foyer closed off with a glass door to allow guests to arrive in stages
- A family entrance from the garage that leads to a mudroom with a large drop zone and a powder room for cleanup (with optional shower facilities for frontline workers)
- Two dedicated home offices that are separate from the bedrooms
- A first-floor bedroom with its own bathroom and door to the front porch (can be used as a guest suite or to quarantine ill household members)
- A large front porch and a second covered outdoor space in the back
- Flex space in the garage to allow for a home gym
Click here to take a virtual tour of the house.
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