Over the last 6 weeks, our team has had several discussions about home design in a post-pandemic world. How can our homes better serve us? How will our client’s needs change? And what is the role of design?
The pandemic has brought the importance of design at all scales to the forefront of our minds – from healthcare institutions and airports, down to the design of door handles and personal protective equipment. As architects focused on domestic spaces, we are embracing this opportunity to re-think how we design homes. During the time of crisis, our homes have served as our offices, schoolrooms, gyms, and most importantly, as our place of refuge. This pause has given us the time to become intimately familiar with our spaces, to embrace what we love about our homes, and to pinpoint with clarity the parts that need re-thinking.
With hygiene at the top of everyone’s mind, we will likely see more new homes that prioritize space for mudrooms and vestibules. This in-between space gives residents and guests an opportunity to remove dirty shoes or clothing and drop off keys, bags, packages, etc. to prevent spreading dirt and germs from the outside world throughout the house.
The proximity and connection between the mudroom and the kitchen will become important. For many of us, bringing in groceries has become an hour-long ordeal that involves disinfecting surfaces, unloading bags, washing produce, discarding of unnecessary packing, re-washing and disinfecting all surfaces, and washing the floors. (Overkill? Hard to say.) A mudroom allows for items entering the home to be unloaded and cleaned to minimize the spread of germs into sanitary spaces. Have a look at our Deja View project.
Ideally, mudrooms will be equipped with a sink for handwashing. We may also see powder rooms closer to the entrance of the home. In the same way that residents and guests remove their shoes when entering, it has become second nature to wash our hands when entering a home.
We may see a shift away from the open-plan layouts that have been at the top of everyone’s home wish list for the last decade. As designers, we have always embraced the opportunities that result from separating spaces. In this case, separating rooms is a functional solution for cleanliness and privacy. To prevent the spread of germs, spaces where food is prepared, should be isolated from spaces where groups gather. Further, if the home is serving multiple functions – office, classroom, gym – the option to close off a room for visual and acoustic privacy will become more appealing.
Overnight, our homes became our offices. If your home is not equipped with a designated office space, perhaps your makeshift office looks like a folding table, dining chair, and a lamp borrowed from another room. Or maybe you prefer the dining table, with access to windows and ample daylight, and – let’s be honest – the fridge. Either way, it’s evident that these solutions will not serve us well in the long term.
This pandemic has proven work-from-home to be a feasible solution for many businesses. The shift has been embraced by many companies as a potential long-term strategy for reducing the need for huge, costly office spaces. With that said, equipping our homes with designated workspaces will be necessary to step towards maintaining productivity and setting the boundary between “work” and “home.”
With gyms, recreation centres and public parks inaccessible – and the loss of our walk to and from the office/coffee shop/lunch/etc. – most of us are finding it challenging to get enough physical activity. If climbing the stairs isn’t helping you reach your daily step goal, maybe it’s time to consider a home gym. Prioritizing space to focus on our physical and mental health should not be considered a luxury. The desire for home gyms and yoga studios will grow in demand.
If you haven’t organized or purged in the last 6 weeks, are you really using this time wisely? If you hadn’t already hopped on the Marie Kondo bandwagon, then maybe the social media coverage of strangers’ organized closets and cupboards gave you the push you needed. (Did I really just spend 5 minutes watching Eva Longoria organize her spices?) There’s no denying the importance of a clean, organized space for productivity. A well-planned home optimizes storage with built-in solutions that offer a place for everything.
Storage demands will also increase in the kitchen – or rather, the pantry. Gone are the days of stopping in at the local grocer for the evening’s dinner ingredients. Rather, shopping once every two weeks means stocking up on pantry staples. A dedicated space for neatly stored pantry items makes cooking with dried beans a little less dull.
With summer around the corner and no indication of when our parks will open up again, our backyards will have to step up to the plate. This summer, our outdoor spaces will serve as the setting to enjoy that long-awaited patio beer, our outdoor gyms, our summer vacation, and possibly even a source of food. Recognizing the value of spending time in nature for our mental health, especially at this time of crisis, emphasis will be placed on the design of our outdoor spaces. We may also see an increased interest in gardening and urban farming – hobbies we may not have had time to pursue at the fast pace of life we had been living pre-pandemic.
Historically, the time of crisis has always spurred change. As architects and designers, we have used this time to think about design at a variety of scales, starting with the spaces that have kept us safe over the last six weeks. I believe this pandemic will give us the perspective and time to make decisions for our homes more wisely. With an emphasis on what matters most – our family life and our health – we hope to see a greater focus on spaces and design features that contribute positively to our quality of life.