Be the Star of Your Next Zoom Meeting With These Showstopping Backgrounds

Just like that, your kids’ LEGOs are out of the picture.
Text by

As we approach the 10th week of sheltering in place, most of us have figured out how to look good—well, okay, presentable—on camera as meetings have migrated to Zoom, Google Hangouts, and the like. Get dressed, for one (showering is optional at this point, IMHO). Face a window to get nice, even lighting. Raise your camera to be eye level so that folks aren’t staring directly into your nostrils.

Backgrounds, however, are another matter. Not everyone has a credibility bookcase. Your kids’ discarded toys and jackets may be strewn on the floor, or your roommate is in the throes of an online boxing class. Perhaps your cat is licking its unmentionables, and it’s not quite the scene you want to set for your one-on-one.

Luckily, Zoom makes it easy to manifest the environment we want if the environment we have isn’t ideal. If you’ve ever wanted to dial in from a Dwell house, now’s your chance—click here to download backgrounds from some of our favorite dwellings, shot by photographers Pippa Drummond and Joe Fletcher.

Need a preview? Here’s what you’ll find for your new, immaculate work-from-home situation.

A 1950s Ranch House in Chicago Gets a Palm Springs–Style Butterfly Roof

When attorney Trey Berre and his wife, photographer Maria Ponce Berre, began searching the Chicago real estate listings in 2014, they were looking for land, or at least something to tear down. They imagined building a "forever home" that embodied their love of modern design, particularly midcentury Palm Springs. But when Trey spotted an ad for a 1954 split-level ranch on a corner lot on the city’s Near North Side, that plan went out the window.

Keiko and Takuhiro Shinomoto have filled their Southern California home with furniture by Taku and pieces by some of the artists and craftspeople whose work they also showcase at their Tortoise General Store shops and showroom. The couple worked with architectural designer Ken Tanaka to remodel the house, once a cramped, two-bedroom rental. A sofa and tables by Taku join Jasper Morrison’s Three Sofa De Luxe sofa for Cappellini. The sliders are by Western Window Systems.

At night a full-throated chorus of frogs lulls Krista and Ian Johnson to sleep in their Los Altos, California, bedroom, and at dawn they’re greeted by a symphony of birdsong—interrupted by an occasional off-key quack. For the couple, being immersed in the sights and sounds of nature is a radical corrective to their high-paced jobs in the tech industry—one that their previous home never quite provided.

A Sun Valley, Idaho Retreat by Rick Joy

Sited at the base of Ruud Mountain, this two-winged retreat separates spaces for quiet retreat and socializing. 

A pared-down cabin on Eleuthera island was designed as an off-the-grid retreat for Mark and Kate Ingraham and their daughter. Envisioning "a simple box resting lightly on the land," architect Jacob Brillhart specified natural materials like Western red cedar so that the structure would fade into the landscape. Bahamian builder Cecil McCardy and his crew used machetes to clear the remote site.

Isabelle Olsson leads industrial design for Google Nest, and the home products she has created are sprinkled around her Silicon Valley house. But you would have to look hard to find them. "The whole design philosophy is for them to blend in so that you don’t even notice they’re there," says Isabelle. 

From a distance, Peter and Turkey Stremmel’s hyper-angular home in Reno, Nevada, resembles nothing so much as a mountain made of metal, but upon closer inspection, it reveals itself as a structure that is deeply influenced by its surroundings. Its fragmented forms, designed by architecture firm OPA, are inspired by the irregular geometries in nature.

Almost everything about Bob Butler’s Nashville home is unexpected. Its sunken living room, open beams, and carport hark back to the 1950s, yet it’s barely more than a year old. The breezy, rectilinear residence transports visitors to midcentury Hollywood Hills or Palm Springs, though it’s located in a city known for Craftsman bungalows and the rococo mansions of country stars. Most surprising of all, Bob designed and built it himself, with only a few years experience under his belt and no formal training, and on a budget that would get the attention of many area residents: $115 per square foot.

If ever there was a design for a home that was informed almost exclusively by its setting, it’s the one architect Greg Faulkner devised for a wooded site in Northern California. The construction is a rigorously pared-down display of architectural elements that facilitate engagement with the natural environment. "This was a watershed project for the firm," Faulkner says. "We were intensely focused on producing a quiet presence. The existing use patterns of the site and the path of the sun and the wind drove the design."

The living room features a sectional sofa and leather chair by Zanotta, coffee tables by Porro, a Kymo rug, and a floor lamp from Flos. 


Get the New Normal Newsletter

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it. Subscribe for the latest news, shelter-in-place guides, and glimpses into the community’s new normal.