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How the Coronavirus is Changing Home Design — Outdoor Spaces, True Home Offices Dominate New Wish Lists

Designing for a New Normal

BY // 05.18.20

Now that you’ve been quarantined at home for more than two months, you’ve had plenty of time to evaluate your space and consider its serviceability or lack thereof. Is the den (or in some cases, the bed) really suitable as a home office? Are the garden and outdoor living spaces appealing for the extended use necessitated by social distancing?

When moving out of that starter house or the millennial apartment into a family home of your own, you might find that your needs have changed since the start of COVID-19, when many of your habits shifted. Whether building your own home or shopping for something already on the market, there are new considerations to be made — some fun, others more technical.

“We believe, at least optimistically, that people will not be building for a pandemic,” says Kevin Frankel, co-president and principal of Houston’s Frankel Building Group. “However, our lives have all changed, and our use of spaces in the home has changed with it. People will be building for a new normal.”

Frankel and interior designer Marie Flanigan agree that clients are beginning to place greater importance on the “health” of their homes when it comes to air quality, clean building materials, and systems that ensure a family is living in the best environment possible.

“During the building process,” Flanigan says, “I recommend clients bring in electrical and air-quality specialists who can evaluate their home and design an electrical and airflow plan that will keep things running efficiently and safely.”

When it comes to basic design features, builders and designers are recognizing that now more than before, homeowners will be looking for a great working space, enhanced outdoor living space (perhaps for when the beaches and country club pools are closed), and a rich cooking/eating environment, as many people are returning to cooking and entertaining more at home. Appliance garages, second dishwashers, and second refrigerators are among the trends.

A beautifully designed swimming pool can transport the homeowner into a world of his own. (Photo courtesy of Frankel Building Group)

“In recent times, the study was rarely used for its intended purpose,” Frankel says. “We saw clients using their studies as flexible spaces for whatever hobby or need they wanted to accommodate. With the virus, and so many realizing not only that they may need to work from home or even that they prefer it, many people are completely rethinking that. We think that home offices are places where custom-build clients are going to get really creative and really tailor things to their exact needs be very intentional in use.”

Flanigan notes that pre-coronavirus, mudrooms were a luxury in new homes and renovations. She says that designated space for entering the home have now become a higher priority.

“I foresee the layouts of new builds being potentially arranged to accommodate a mudroom/laundry room at the home’s highest-traffic entry point,” she says. “This will allow for the removal and safe storage of shoes and outerwear immediately upon entrance, as well as the ability to place clothing, masks, and more directly into the washing machine.”

Both expect to see a shift back to natural materials such as copper and un-lacquered brass and bronze, both of which are copper alloys. Copper surfaces are said to have the shortest survival-rate time for COVID-19.

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