In January, we identified the 10 interior design trends that would rule 2020. While we predicted statement tile, organic shapes, and cane detailing, what we couldn’t foresee was how the COVID-19 pandemic would fundamentally transform our relationship to home.
As we clock seven months of lockdown, we reached out to designers to see how the pandemic has reshaped our interiors so far. What are clients prioritizing, and what new trends are emerging as a result? What’s becoming clear is that 2020 has brought a renewed focus on function and flexibility on top of aesthetics as we navigate a new normal.
1. Heavy-Duty Home Offices
For many, working from home has gone from a rare perk to a company mandate as traditional offices remain closed. As interior designer Jessica Helgerson reports, "Our office has been designing home offices for decades, but who ever thought our clients would actually work there—I mean really, really work there, five days a week, week after week, month after month?"
Previously, Helgerson explains, most clients looking for a home office envisioned it as a much more casual space to pay bills, check emails, or look up a recipe. Now, home offices are souped up with large work surfaces, comfortable task chairs, and expanded storage space to support much heavier usage.
2. Remote-Learning Spaces
With school transitioning to Zoom as well, having multiple designated workspaces at home is becoming essential to reduce distraction. Whether it be a room converted to a home office or a remote-learning nook within a larger area, clients need clear workspaces for everyone in the household.
"Now, many understand the need for having a dedicated space with boundaries (and probably sound-rated acoustic doors) to achieve deep work," says architect Matthew Hufft in a post on what he describes as the future boundary. "The home office may not be a big oak–clad traditional space, though. New furniture may allow these spaces to become more like objects or pods, floating in a backyard or attached to a garage."
3. A New Focus on the Foyer
Entryways, foyers, and mudrooms are getting extra attention these days as people become more cognizant of maintaining sanitary areas and clear divisions between outdoors and in.
"A renewed focus will be placed on thresholds, such as the foyer and mudroom—those spaces that allow one to enter from the outside world, take off their shoes, and wash their hands," says Hufft. "Of course, these spaces are not new per se, but we will see a renewed emphasis on their design. They 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."
4. Biophilic Design
From large windows and sliding doors that bring the outside in to greenery and nature-inspired colors, design that enhances our connection to the environment will be key to boosting mental and physical wellness as we hunker down in our homes.
"A stronger connection to nature during this time has become essential, especially for city dwellers," says designer Nina Blair. "For homes to be places of refuge and safety, we should choose colors that promote peace, wellbeing, and this connection to nature [as well as] textures that are less about display and more about comfort and cocooning."
5. Hotel-Inspired Amenities
Since travel and vacation plans are still largely on hold, homeowners are looking for ways to make home feel like a retreat, prioritizing spa-like bathrooms and places for relaxation that take cues from hospitality design.
6. Creative Partitions
With most of our daily lives confined to the home, the importance of having separate spaces for different activities has tempered the rise of totally open floor plans. Screen walls and other dividers will help define spaces for flexible use.
7. Multiuse Bonus Rooms
Homeowners are taking advantage of underutilized basements, bedrooms, and garages, recasting them as bonus spaces for working out, watching movies, and other activities that keep the family entertained during a pandemic.
8. Outdoor Entertainment Areas
With restaurants, bars, and other venues becoming tricky to navigate—if not shut down entirely—our homes and backyards have become community hubs for loved ones to hang out at a responsible social distance.
"Home outdoor living spaces fill a void of missed outdoor experiences and enables safer get-togethers with friends and neighbors," says principal Thomas Schaer of SHED Architecture & Design.
Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention, and the pandemic’s impact on interior design can be best summed up as a deepened focus on well delineated, adaptable spaces.
"It’s forced us all to rethink the importance of home," says Blair. "It was always somewhere we lived, but in recent times we’d lost connection to what it always used to do: sheltered us, protected us. Homes had become possessions to show off, or bases to spend our times elsewhere. That all changed this year. All of this underscores the profound importance of design [that’s] not just about the surface, but the function and the meaning."
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