Ten Ways To Improve Your Home For Pandemic Living
By Nancy Luna, Luna Design
Nothing inspires a homeowner to re-assess what design features make their home great like a months-long quarantine. This year, as homeowners spent more time staring at walls, floors, windows and each other, their desire to make changes has gone beyond just tossing out old furniture. The goal: create a home that’s a sanctuary.
Families are using spaces in ways they never envisioned. This new normal of lockdowns, bulk buying, and close attention to sanitizing and personal space will have a lasting impact on our view of what’s appealing in homes – and how we live in them.
Home design trends are reflecting this shifting paradigm with desires for: remote learning/work accommodations, well-equipped kitchens and pantry storage, workout spaces, outdoor escapes, and more. Home is now even more of a home base.
To help you think of ways to improve your home for pandemic and post-pandemic living, here are 10 design trends to consider:
1. Mudrooms: tackle dirt & germs
Bacteria potentially can be tracked into your home on your footwear, according to recent research from the University of Arizona. With the CDC recommending that we remove outerwear and shoes, and wash our hands immediately when we get home, it’s easy to see why a well-equipped mudroom is a desirable feature. As family members enter, a mudroom offers a place to remove masks and outwear, wash hands and sanitize cell phones. A mudroom that includes a washing machine or has an adjacent laundry room is ideal since it allows you to easily wash work clothing or outerwear without bringing anything into your home.
To take a mudroom to the next level, install a pedal or motion-sensing faucet on your sink to provide contact-free hand washing.
No space for a mudroom? Place a container of sanitizing wipes on a table by your entry to wipe down cell phones and purses. Another ecofriendly option is a UVC light sanitizer that kills germs on your phone, masks and keys using ultraviolet light.
2. Front entry: first line
When you host visitors, you need to be mindful of keeping both your family and guests healthy during visits. In many ways, the entry will become more of a “guest mudroom,” helping you keep germs from entering your home. Many designers are incorporating principles used in Japanese Genkans, entryways where guests remove their shoes and put on slippers provided by hosts to wear inside. A coat closet near the entry for outwear and purses helps keep guests’ clothing separate.
In the 1920s, after the flu pandemic, architects began adding powder rooms near the front entrance of homes so guests could use a separate restroom. A first-floor powder room is a great way for guests to easily wash hands, too.
Covered entryways or porches are also places where you can greet guests while staying outside. And with the recent surge in online shopping and deliveries, they offer a protected spot for that towering stack of packages arriving at your doorstep.
3. Give Me Space: just not wide open
Sheltering in place has turned our homes into multifaceted hubs where we spend most of our time working, learning, playing, exercising, eating and sleeping. Families are longing for privacy and more than 6 feet of personal space.
Open floor plans have been all the rage recently because they make spaces feel larger, let in more light and emphasize family togetherness. However, an open concept home can quickly get noisy and distracting when family members all work and play in the same area. After the lockdowns, 27 percent of homeowners said they would consider buying a home with more rooms, according to a recent survey by Zillow and The Harris Poll. In my designs, I’ve started looking for ways to make spaces more flexible as people use their homes differently throughout the day. Adding French doors, pocket/barn doors or movable divider walls offer privacy and noise control while still allowing spaces to be open when you want it.
4. It’s a one-home office & school
For the growing number of people who expect to continue working from home more often, having a dedicated office space is a high priority. Remote work was already projected to grow, even before the pandemic hit, but many companies are encouraging employees to work from home indefinitely, so carving out a good workspace is a must.
One of my clients, an elementary school teacher, was commiserating about how hard it has been to find separate spaces for herself to teach online while her four kids try to complete school work and her husband juggles his own work at home – on a book shelf in his daughter’s room.
As many schools nationwide keep their doors closed or limit in-person attendance, all schoolwork has become homework. Kids will need space to read, study, participate in virtual classrooms and do art projects.
Older kids can work at desks in their rooms, as long as they can remain focused with minimal supervision. For younger children, it might be helpful to designate and organize a learning space, along with storage solutions for their supplies. If they want to sit at your kitchen table, consider a movable cart or colorful boxes in which to store supplies. You can also carve out a “learning cabinet” in the kitchen or use a small bookshelf with storage totes. I recommended that one client with young children use a foldable popup tent in their family room to create a quiet, cozy reading space so the parents could get work done at the kitchen counter. Once reading time ends, they simply fold up the tent and tuck it behind the sofa.
5. Critical home tech to connect
Stay-at-home orders accelerated the adoption of using technology at home for connecting virtually with co-workers, friends, family, teachers, and health-care providers. The video screens the Jetson’s had throughout their home are no longer a thing of the future. High-speed internet is a critical feature in today’s home as it has become the backbone of work and education.
As virtual meetings become our primary way of connecting, people want “Zoom friendly rooms” that allow them to video conference throughout the house. This can mean changes to lighting, reducing visual clutter and thinking about the placement of laptops, TV/monitors and phones in offices, kitchens, and family rooms.
Homeowners with large or multi-level homes who are frustrated with weak WiFi signals are looking for ways to boost performance without the expense of running cables throughout the home. Investing in WiFi boosters or a mesh WiFi system like Orbi, or Eero can solve this problem.
6. Clean house
If you’ve strolled down the cleaning products aisle at the store or tried to buy those coveted Clorox wipes, you know Americans have become extra vigilant about cleanliness. After past pandemics, the materials used in home design changed dramatically because they were easier to clean – and we are seeing the same trend now.
Here are several materials and fixtures that will become more popular:
Quartz and porcelain will continue to remain top choices since they are hard, scratch-resistant and sanitary. Large porcelain sheets can create gorgeous counter tops that look more like real marble or stone than quartz, with fewer grout lines to clean. They can be installed on shower or bathtub walls for an easy-to-clean alternative to traditional, grouted subway tile.
Light-colored, clean surfaces will be incorporated throughout the home. White subway tile originally became popular after a Cholera outbreak in London because it was easy to see if it was dirty, tolerated disinfectants and was easy to wipe down. Light-blonde wood floors, with their bright, clean appearance, are seeing a resurgence in popularity this year that is likely to continue.
Easy-to-clean flooring – While wood flooring has been popular for its aesthetic and clean appeal, consumers also are seeking more water-resistant and disinfectant friendly flooring since hardwood can absorb moisture. Some folks are considering new waterproof-treated – and real – hardwood products like Aquaguard Engineered Hardwood, as well as ceramic tile that looks like real wood. Luxury vinyl tile will gradually replace laminate because many styles are hard to discern from true wood – plus they are more durable and easy to disinfect.
Naturally antimicrobial materials – Cork flooring is becoming trendy due to its natural antimicrobial and hypoallergenic properties. Plus, it offers the added bonus of eco-friendliness and recyclability. Cork’s cushioned surface is appealing to anyone with knee or back problems or parents who worry about their kids falling down. In addition, homeowners may start to favor copper sinks and fixtures since lab testing shows that copper and its alloys brass and bronze have antimicrobial properties.
Antimicrobial surfaces and fixtures – The use of antimicrobial additives and coatings has swelled in recent years, as they are being incorporated into everything from appliances and door handles to toilets, window treatments, and showerheads. By incorporating an antimicrobial additive like Microban into materials or covering them with a protective antimicrobial layer, these materials can inhibit 99.9% of mold, mildew, fungi and other odor-causing bacteria. Even building materials like insulation, drywall, tiles, countertops, and floor underlayment use antimicrobial technology now.
Contact-free fixtures and smart technology – The use of touch-free plumbing fixtures and voice-controlled technology avoids the spread of germs by eliminating contact points. Smart homes offer more than just Ring cameras. Alexa and Siri can help you battle illness, too! Incorporating smart features and motion sensors into your home means you do not have to touch switches, locks and buttons on appliances or even open the door to talk to someone. Smart thermostats and appliances can remind you to change filters, for instance. This is just the beginning. Imagine if Alexa could tell you if someone in the family has a fever?
Cleaning fixtures – Self-cleaning toilets, bidets and bidet hand sprayers may see a rise in popularity as people look for eco-friendly solutions to keep clean – and not worry about finding toilet paper at the store.
Clean air – Homeowners with allergies and asthma frequently use air filters to reduce dust in their homes, but filters will not protect you from most of the germs floating in the air. For years, hospitals, restaurants, and grocery stores have been using UV lights in their HVAC systems to help keep their air more sanitary and tackle odors. Now homeowners are taking note. These systems use UV-C germicidal lights that have been shown to kill bacteria, mold and viruses, and to reduce musty odors. The good news is that they are easy to install and typically cost around $450-$700, including installation, plus $60-$100 to replace the bulb annually.
7. Freezers, pantries & appliance storage
With the entire family home for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Americans are cooking more than ever. As people make fewer trips to the store or opt for grocery delivery, the trend is to stock up on food.
About a month into the shelter-in-place orders, I asked David Garland, an ABT salesperson, if he noticed trends in consumer buying. He immediately replied: “Freezers! We are selling so many, we can barely keep them in stock.” According to AHAM, Sales of deep freezers surged 45% this year. Consumers have been buying more frozen foods like meat, vegetables and pizza because they have a longer shelf life, can be kept in stock in case of shortages, and mean fewer trips to the store.
If you are remodeling your kitchen, be sure to maximize your storage and pantry space. If you have a walk-in pantry, consider adding another freezer.
8. Outdoor escape, entertaining & gardening
After spending so much time indoors, people are clamoring to get outside to enjoy fresh air, sunshine and nature. If you are shopping for condos or townhomes, look for at least a balcony or small patio, or access to a rooftop garden, so you can enjoy an outdoor respite.
With playgrounds and pools closed, families with access to fenced backyards and play gyms are fortunate to enjoy safe spaces where kids can play outside. Families who may have previously relied on the park down the street may rethink adding play equipment to their own yards – and making sure their homes have adequate backyard space.
Because gathering outdoors is much safer, according to the CDC, many people are turning to their yards as places to entertain. Outdoor kitchens and dining areas will remain popular backyard improvements. An open covered space with a TV and fireplace – or space heaters – makes it easy to host a small gathering in the fall or spring. Backyard movie screens have become popular and an easy way to enjoy films while maintaining social distance. Don’t forget to add a sidewalk or path from the front to the back of your home so guests can get there easily and avoid the indoors.
9. Workout & zen space
Many gyms and fitness centers have been closed or are offering limited options these days, so fitness fanatics have been forced to find ways to exercise at home. Having a space for a Peloton bike, treadmill or weight set is a very appealing home feature. As people embrace the importance of mental health and stress reduction, many folks also want a quiet and relaxing “zen space” to do yoga or meditate.
10. Guest & quarantine suite
If, unfortunately, someone in your home gets sick, health providers recommend you separate them from the rest the family. Creating a guest suite with an attached private bathroom has become much more appealing, as it can serve double duty for guests or for a family member who might need a separate space to recover.
Nancy Luna started Luna Design to help homeowners create spaces they love to live in. She believes that good design is not only beautiful but also functional. A space should feel comfortable and invite you to relax, work, play, celebrate – and enjoy life. To achieve this, Nancy taps into her creativity and her design experience as an innovation and trend expert who helped develop new products and services for companies across the globe.
In high school, Nancy discovered her love of both design and power tools while building stages for theatrical productions. She studied design and information systems at Iowa State University, Interior Design at the Interior Design Institute and received her MBA at the Carlson School of Business – University of Minnesota. She lives and plays on the North Shore of Chicago with her teenage son and daughter, whom she is teaching to safely use power tools and cook delicious food.
Luna Design is located in Wilmette, Illinois. The studio focuses on designing interior and outdoor spaces. If you are considering decorating or remodeling a space in your home, we can help you build a beautiful, functional space while saving you time, stress, and money. We have experience designing everything from entire homes and condos to individual rooms, including kitchens, baths, closets, family & living spaces, garages, outdoor areas and more.
Contact Nancy at: Nancy@lunainsight.com or call/text: 847.737.9777