Post-pandemic residential design trends are reshaping interior design and transforming our relationships to our homes.
Picture credits: Rumah Fajar by Tommaso Riva, Chelsea Waterfront by Cunningham Captures
Since the beginning of the pandemic that has irreversibly changed the world in more ways than anyone could have ever imagined, the relationship to one’s home has, too, taken on a new meaning. For many, working from home has become the norm and the expedited transition to a digital way of working and learning has fundamentally shifted the perceptions of distances and possibilities of staying connected.
In residential design, the shift in the notions of safety, functionality, and well-being is driving the emerging design trends in 2021. As homeowners are forced to rethink what qualities are important for them in a home, the changing priorities are pushing designers and architects to consider new design strategies for the future of residential design.
Towards Biophilic Design
As people begin to look towards more remote locations as feasible alternatives to the hectic city life, remote locations have taken on an added meaning of offering respite and safety away from the crowds. Even in urban environments, the importance of weaving together the indoor and outdoor spaces continues to be a common thread with residential clients who are seeking connections to nature even when they are confined to the indoors.
For the Bali-based designer Maximilian Jencquel, a stronger connection to nature has become essential to more of his clients since the pandemic. “For them, the requirement is wanting to be connected to nature, and maybe also wanting to sit out the pandemic in an idyllic environment,” suggests Jencquel. Co-founder of the London-based interior design firm BradyWilliams, Emily Williams, concurs with this global trend, “With the value shown in outdoor spaces, a large consideration is multifunctional outdoor furniture for dining and lounging. An emphasis on water features and playing with outdoor lighting all help to add to the ambiance and make your outdoor sanctuary enjoyable all year round.”
Features like large windows and sliding doors that serve as immediate portals to nature are also seen as key elements that can enhance connections to the environment and boost mental and physical wellness. A shift from a more enclosed building design to a design that opens up in nature and breaks up the indoor and outdoor spaces into smaller, more integrated components additionally serves to forge connections with the outdoors.
A good example of this approach is architect William Heffner’s design of his second home in Montecito, California that does just that by breaking up his home’s layout into smaller components and using local stone to build walls and clad the buildings.
“We went for the feel of a “compound,” explains Heffner. “We broke the house into separate elements so it wouldn’t feel so much like a “normal house.” You have the sense of staying at a resort.”
Focus on Wellness
With the increased relevance of nature in residential design and its benefits related to health, home-based fitness and wellness spaces are also seeing a rise in demand. Since vacation and travel plans are largely on hold, homeowners are seeking ways to make their homes feel like retreats and requesting home-based facilities typically seen in hospitality design. Spa-like bathrooms, home gyms, and even saunas are making their way to the tops of the wish lists of many home-confined clients. “There is a push towards features in a home that is less about the display and more about comfort and cocooning,” notes the New York-based designer Nina Blair.
Along these lines, calming and nature-inspired colours that are promoting peace and well-being have become highly desirable. Emily Williams also sees a greater demand for specialist paint finishes and distressed or layered textures that add an element of interest while maintaining the overall calming mood. In short, as the outside world becomes less accessible, natural materials, tactile textures, and objects are becoming more important, inviting homeowners to experience and use them.
Working from Home
Home offices and remote learning spaces are seeing much heavier usage, as many companies continue to encourage people to work from home. To that extent, home offices are not only growing in size but also becoming more multifunctional, hybridised, and versatile. Designers see their clients request large work surfaces, expanded storage space, and even multiple home offices to help them juggle a tricky work/life balance.
Maximilian Jencquel sees this trend potentially continuing even beyond the pandemic, as remote work is becoming more widely accepted: “There will be more flexibility in the work environment because now people are learning that they can work remotely, and for this, we need to be prepared. Prepared to design spaces and tools that allow for this fluctuation.”
Design for Safety
As people are becoming more cognizant of maintaining clear sanitary areas, entryways and foyers are becoming not just transitional zones within a house, but also functional safety thresholds. Architect Matthew Hufft describes these spaces as boundaries, saying that these rooms are not new per se but will require a renewed emphasis on their design. “These spaces will grow and become much more functional. And the awkward request for a guest to remove their shoes will no longer be awkward… it will just be the accepted norm.”
Maximilian Jencquel similarly sees these transitional spaces expanding their function beyond buffer zones and serving more as portals that heighten the “sanctuary” result. By allowing to experience a home as a journey that incorporates natural elements, like water in Jencquel’s project Rumah Fajar, designers can create a feeling of leaving behind the chaotic street life and entering a distinctly personal and safe setting. Read about some safe-haven properties in this pandemic here.