Design Intelligence: The changing face of post-pandemic design
Defined home office spaces, like this design by Kristine Paige, serve as a dedicated workspace. French doors cut off noise from other areas in the home.
The home has become more important in our everyday lives.
People are working from home, schooling from home and shopping (even more) from home as the world continues to adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As spaces take on more purpose, interior designers say their services have been in more demand as their clients seek help to make the most of their spaces.
As home designs change post-pandemic, we wanted to see how designers are rising to meet the prospects and challenges of creating multi-use living and working spaces, where they think new opportunities exist within the home structure, and if this new way of life will see a decline in the ubiquitous open floor plan. Their answers follow.
What do you see as the biggest change in post-pandemic home design?
Libby Langdon, Libby Langdon Interiors, New York: The biggest change I see is folks who never worried about what their homes looked like before are really starting to care now, and I see that as great news for all of us in the home furnishings industry, designers, manufacturers, retailers and etailers. “Staying in” is the new “going out” and as the weather starts to get cooler, we will be moving life back indoors. Looking ahead to winter, now is the time to make sure your style messaging and design solutions are on point.
Penny Francis, Eclectic Home, New Orleans: The biggest change in post-pandemic home design is the increased interest in updating the home and the desire to have a healthy environment for the family to enjoy while having to be productive while working or schooling from home. The amount of time spent at home is greater than it’s ever been and having an opportunity to stop and reflect on the home and what brings happiness has become a priority. We see the desire for change to happen quickly, and we have to manage the expectations because there still are some delays in the supply chain. What we also have noticed with new and potential clients is the desire to make the spaces their own and now a reflection of how they live rather than imitating spaces.
Patricia Lockwood, Design Vision Studio, Palm Desert, Calif.: I think we can all agree that the practice of interior design is fluid with so many variables influencing the way people live. The biggest change in post-pandemic home design — which I see as a positive — is that clients are now far more in-tune with how they use the spaces in their homes.
Kristine Paige, Jackson Paige Interiors, Los Angeles: The biggest change we see in post-pandemic home design is creating comfortable and inspiring home working spaces. We have been adding and extending rooms to give each family member an isolated area in which to go to school and to the “new office.” We also see a continued trend towards home gyms. No one wants to go to bed in their bedroom or relax in their family room staring at a treadmill or Peloton. A bedroom is for rest and recovery: a family room is for relaxing and relating. In homes without the extra room, we’re recommending beautifully cordoned-off areas for workouts.
Erinn Valencich, Erinn V Design, Los Angeles: As a result of people working from home, office space and quiet space for calls is a priority. We are seeing a big return to the home office, which is no surprise, but also more enjoyable space for families and entertaining are more important. When people travel less, the home becomes the place to be. Backyard design, outdoor year-round entertaining and better dining rooms with increased seating are all more important now.
Shayla Copas, Shayla Copas Interiors, Little Rock, Ark.: Clients are more focused on the longevity and comfort of their furniture. Now that people are spending more time in their homes and using their furniture more, they are asking questions about fabric quality and showing concern about the longevity of the products that they purchase. Clients want to know that their furniture will endure their family’s lifestyle. They want to make sure the fabric can handle children or pets. Comfort is also a much bigger conversation right now. I’ve noticed that clients’ purchases are more influenced by comfort than price — that has been a definite shift during the pandemic.
Beth Dotolo and Carolina V. Gentry, Pulp Design Studios, Seattle and Dallas: The biggest challenge in post-pandemic design is that there will continue to be an increase in needs as we work from home. Everyone is in need of hybrid, if not full work and learning spaces, especially for their children. We recommend incorporating functional products, like white boards, for example, that can serve as a visual tool to your (or your kids’) tasks. Also, given that all need peace and quiet while we work, but want to keep an eye on our kids while they are learning virtually — we recommend installing acrylics. These ultimately allow for audible privacy, but ensure they are staying on track.
Genevieve Trousdale, Circa Genevieve, West Hollywood, Calif.: The desire to use EVERY room in your house. Before the pandemic, people tended to primarily only use only a few rooms. For the past eight months, we are using every nook and cranny of the home to motivate ourselves and discover changes of scenery under your roof. I believe in the saying “all that we have is everyday” so why not use the more formal living room or dining room on a regular basis? In Los Angeles, space is a premium.
Kristi Hopper, Kristi Hopper Designs, Dallas: Home revival! We’re working from home now and our children are in virtual school from the kitchen or dining room. People need more from their homes and are either renovating or moving. With interest rates at an all-time low, it’s a great time to buy a home — what an unforeseen opportunity in design! I’ve designed three homes for clients who moved post-pandemic.
David Santiago, Casa Santi, New York: One of the biggest changes I am seeing is [clients are] utilizing spaces that were scheduled for renovations at a later date due to the fact that we are all at home now. For example, gyms and art rooms for the parents and kids. I currently have works in progress and they’re not waiting for completion; they’re using them as soon as they can. The other would be home offices and utilizing spaces like dining rooms to multi-task. I love working in my dining room space.
What previously unused spaces in the home are people beginning to see as potential spaces for design?
Langdon: I’m seeing the return of the dining room. It’s not only a space for family dinners but also a place to work from home. I think people are also thinking about extended family members that they may be comfortable having over and the dining room is back in business, we will see this trend continue through the holidays and winter since a lot of people will not be traveling. Basements are taking on a whole new life now, they are doubling as gyms and home offices. I’ve been re-imagining some dark, depressing spaces with lighting, rugs and artwork to make them more functional and add some personality. Basements are also becoming getaway rooms for tweens and teens who might be wanting a break from their parents (AKA home schooling teachers) as spots to take a break, hop on their gaming equipment or just chill out.
Francis: Previously unused spaces like guest rooms, closets, laundry rooms, basements and second floor landings have become spaces used for design. Carving out that much needed space for work and school where everyone is not in the same room is critical. I have not been a fan of the open floor plan for many reasons. It makes it challenging to differentiate design when all the spaces are connected, you are never away from the kitchen; it’s the sounds, smells and the mess that comes with such a highly used space, and it is increasingly hard for families to have private time away from the hustle and bustle of the most used spaces in the house. Everyone gathered in one room at the kitchen table or counter doing homework or working is not productive. A floor plan with multiple rooms provides opportunity for privacy and organization.
Lockwood: We see this crazy time as an opportunity for future clients to really evaluate the way they live so that we can help them design the perfect home for their lifestyle. As a designer, unused “museum” rooms and dust-collecting guest rooms are a pet peeve of mine. Before we start the design process, we interview our clients on how they live to determine the best use for their space. Are they big TV watchers, do they need a home office, do they need a workout space, will they use all of their guest bedrooms? For example, in my own recent home remodel, I had two guest rooms but really only wanted one really deluxe guest room. The second guest room was converted into a media room, which gets heavy use especially during this pandemic. As a bonus, the closet in this room was reconfigured as an office niche with enough room for a computer and desk, as well as file cabinets. This room is now the perfect spot for me to have a glass of wine at the end of the day before binging on the latest show when I need a little “healthy” alone time.
Paige: Rarely and unused spaces are everywhere. We see closets, hallways and rarely used rooms as potential spaces to convert to workspaces and home gyms. There is also an increased trend towards home organization that assists in paring down one’s belongings to carve out openings. People are also converting or dividing their garages.
Copas: Outdoor areas are a huge priority right now. Since the pandemic, I’ve actually had clients change their design plans to make sure the outdoor space is completed first. People have always loved entertaining outside and having a nice outdoor space, but now more than ever clients want their outdoor area to feel like a retreat. Plus a lot of people feel a little safer outside especially when spending time with others. We are also seeing media room design pop up again and many of our clients want a refresh on their den areas. Basically anywhere they watch television has become extremely important to our clients.
Valencich: I see a lot of large hallways on second floors that could be converted to a home office or quiet study space. By installing some sliding doors, you can keep the space open but also have some privacy for noise, which is most important.
Dotolo & Gentry: Formal dining rooms! These spaces are rarely used, so we recommend flipping them for more practical uses. We have also flipped a Jack-and-Jill space for art, which allows both kids to have easy access to the space.
Trousdale: Garages, vestibules, hallways and nooks can be overlooked because residents are often prioritizing their budget with actual living and highly-functioning spaces. What a better way to come home than pulling into a Marie Kondo-ized garage and breezing through an unexpectedly fun, beautiful hallway leading to the heart of your home.
Hopper: With more family members at home 24/7, the need for productive space and privacy has skyrocketed. We’ve seen formal living rooms and dining rooms become prime opportunities for renovation and reinvention. I recently transformed a client’s dining room into an office with closed doors to provide a quiet space for work.
Santiago: One space that comes to mind is a living room we designed with a grand piano. This space has now become a focal point for the family for entertaining each other and extended family members. Music heals the soul, now within a beautiful, curated space.
What are your thoughts on open floor plans? Will they be as popular post-pandemic or will consumers want more defined spaces in their homes?
Langdon: I’m actually seeing a lot of open floor plans, but that’s just me, I feel like most of my clients like the feeling of large open spaces when they are inside rather than smaller tight rooms; there seems to be sense of freedom rather than feeling restricted. I get the sense that people would rather make a room like a guest room or small den do double duty as a home office or home schooling space because it can be contained, they want to keep the great rooms feeling like living spaces and a room to retreat to at the end of the day.
Francis: I believe pre-pandemic the open floor plan was becoming less popular, and now post-pandemic, it’s now more than evident that the interest in the open floor plan has declined. We are now evaluating homes and creating division in open spaces and adding walls to create rooms needed for privacy.
Lockwood: I am located in Southern California where open floor plans are extremely common. The trick is to create defined spaces within these open floor plans to enhance the functionality of the home for how the clients live. There are so many benefits to open floor plans so I am hopeful that this pandemic won’t have us reverting back to small rooms with more walls.
Paige: We definitely see a trend towards defining spaces again. As a firm, we began feeling it pre-pandemic, but it’s certainly grown over the last few months. Pre-pandemic, clients with wide open floor plans commented that they missed the idea of shutting off other’s activities (i.e. noise) in their homes. They don’t want to return to completely isolated areas, rather, they want the option of privacy (think adding French doors with drapery, room screens.) Post-pandemic, people are cocooning. Now, not only do they need private places to work, they want areas of comfort and calm. To the degree to which they are able, they want to escape a bit from other family members.
Copas: My clients still want open floor plans. I think spacious environments will remain popular, especially as we spend more time at home. I understand some might want defined spaces so they can separate from others for work or school, but ultimately I feel people want an open plan so they do not feel as confined.
Valencich: I think that open plans are intriguing, but we are seeing the need for defined “rooms” coming back. When you can’t have a quiet conversation in your home, it becomes frustrating, and large spaces become less usable when more people are home and trying to be efficient and effective at work or study.
Dotolo & Gentry: I think open floor plans have started to, and will continue to phase out. I am a huge fan of “semi” open floor plans, which provides space and distance but is not totally closed in on you. This compartmentalizes the home, but you can still have a sense of flow by using pocket doors, etc. This allows you to have privacy, but allows one to have flexible and adaptable spaces.
Trousdale: I think open floor plans will still be implemented to a degree. A layout of a home depends on the household’s lifestyle, not whether or not an open floor plan is in style. It is natural for a kitchen to be open to a breakfast room and sitting area. There needs to be a level of privacy between functions in general. Instead of hodgpodging gym equipment into a spare bedroom, make a dedicated home workout space, or if you have the room in your backyard, build a little annex. If both a husband and wife previously shared a home office, I can see a need for each to have separate rooms post-pandemic since we aren’t reporting back to corporate offices full time in the foreseeable future. I think it all boils down to efficiency — time is money. We need to be more inspired than ever to be efficient and we need to be more creative than ever to make money.
Hopper: There’ll be a rise in demand for private areas in homes—mostly home offices designed to provide a quiet space to work. Will our homes still feature open floor plans? Yes, I think so. We’ll never do away with our large, open kitchens and family rooms. Guest rooms and formal spaces, however, will give way to home offices and libraries better suited for studying and working from home.
Santiago: In some cases I think it’s important to define the space. On one particular project, we kept the traditional spaces defined: kitchen, dining room, etc., and did not knock down the wall for the open floor plan. Currently I am working on a project that I designed several years ago and will knock down a wall to create even more space for the open floor concept.