What Home Design Trends Will Continue After COVID?

What changes have you made in your home over the past two years? Maybe you have taken on a full kitchen renovation. Or perhaps the changes are more subtle, like a new chest freezer in the basement, an air cleaner, or a portable kitchen appliance. COVID-19 and the extra time spent at home drove people to reconsider their surroundings and bring in elements aimed at function, health and comfort.

As we look toward life beyond the pandemic, the longer-term effects COVID-19 will have on home design may be starting to emerge. People are looking beyond clearing clutter and the adaptations they made quickly in 2020 to meet the new needs of daily life at home.

“We’ve connected with our homes and families in such a different way now,” says Paula Kennedy, of Timeless Kitchen Designs in Seattle. “Since [the pandemic] has lasted this long, there truly are going to be some long-lasting effects on our homes because of that.”

We spoke with Kennedy and two other certified kitchen and bath designers who are well known for their forecasting and insights into home design—Jamie Gold and Sarah Barnard—who shared their observations of trends over the past two years during the boom in home renovations and improvements, and of what home design trends will continue after COVID.

Indoor air quality

Indoor air quality is now a leading concern for those renovating or remodeling their homes. While a room air cleaner is one easy option, remodelers are taking multiple paths and using a combination of appliances and design to improve their indoor air quality.

“Right now, the DIY is to go get yourself an air cleaner to put in the corner,” Kennedy says. “That’s where they’re all starting. As we do the remodel, that opens the door to talk more about better kitchen ventilation. I’m not just letting them buy the cheapest vent hood anymore. They’re looking for quality light and sound control.”

Barnard says IAQ has long been an interest of her clients, but that has grown as indoor air quality has received more attention as a health issue.

“Our clients are increasingly interested in indoor air quality as more information is shared about its’ importance,” Barnard says. “While ventilation systems like range hoods and air purifiers are crucial to maintaining indoor air quality, they are only one piece of the puzzle. One of the best things you can do to ventilate your home is to open your windows and encourage the flow of fresh air. To encourage the use of open windows, it’s essential to ensure that all windows are functioning correctly, both in mechanics and for the home’s layout.”

Photo courtesy of Jamie Gold

The pandemic created a stronger link between home and health, Gold says. “Safety isn’t just trip hazards,” she says. “It includes air quality, not having viruses and pollutants in the home. In areas where there are a lot of wildfires, you’re at a point where you need air purification as well.”

More food storage

Demand for many appliances skyrocketed during the pandemic as people adapted their home environment to their new way of life. Homeowners quickly added second freezers, especially chest freezers, as they stocked up on groceries.

“People might look at their family’s food needs, and say they want extra capacity,” Gold says. “Or, they like not having to shop as much. They don’t have the same urgency, but might have decided they like the extra capacity.”

That additional food storage can take different forms, whether it is a second refrigerator or freezer, a refrigerator for specific food or drinks, or extra pantry space.

“Most clients keep their old refrigerator and leave it in the basement or a garage and purchase an additional freezer,” Kennedy says. “It’s on my list of questions to ask clients.” The additional food storage can be specialized, too, in the form of smaller, under-counter refrigeration for drinks, snacks or produce. “Less of a luxury and more of a necessity is that extra beverage refrigerator,” Kennedy says. “You’re freeing up more space in the refrigerator for food, and you’re separating the foot traffic. Everything is about spreading people out in the kitchen.”

Additional functionality doesn’t mean luxury is taking a back seat. Wine refrigerators are still the norm in remodels. “Even with modest budgets, they’re getting them,” Kennedy says.

Building in adequate pantry space and visible food storage can also have the benefit of making the cooking process more enjoyable, Barnard says. “I love spacious pantries, intuitively organized for my clients to easily find what they need and quickly identify what is running low,” she says. ”Visible produce storage is also beneficial for ensuring produce is making its way into most meals.”

Kitchen innovations

Gold reports that a two-year trend of ventilation hoods communicating with induction cooktops is continuing. “The range hood adjusts its performance depending on what’s cooking,” Gold says. “Cooking can emit steam, odors and gasses. Having your vent hood know what level to operate at without having to do anything is huge.”

Both Gold and Kennedy say they are fielding more requests for induction cooktops. “I’ve been doing a lot more, both for aging and place and universal design,” Kennedy says. “They’re mostly looking at it from a safety factor.”

While the days of sanitizing every surface are hopefully behind us, Gold and Kennedy say they are seeing more interest in hands-free operation and voice-activated lighting and appliances. “Everyone is so much more aware of germs,” Kennedy says. “Before the pandemic, I had a hard time twisting arms to do a touch faucet or motion sensors. Now, almost every faucet I install is motion.”

Gold envisions a similar trend of voice-operated appliances emerging, though at this point, she says she is hearing about voice operation more than seeing it.

Multi-purpose use

Did your kitchen or bedroom suddenly morph into an office or classroom in 2020? While that shift may not have been intentional, it could have staying power, and some remodelers are now designing with multi-use in mind. “We’re going to see appliances used beyond the kitchen and laundry room as homes become more multi-purpose,” Gold says. “I’m seeing things like side tables with refrigerated drawers, home offices and rec rooms with beverage centers. People are going to be making their spaces do more—more functional, more comfortable for more enjoyment—and appliances are part of that.”

Barnard reports a similar trend. “Many people request additional refrigerators in another area of their homes, like bedrooms or media rooms, for quick access to refreshments,” she says. “Having a wine fridge or even a separate smaller fridge for storing other beverages helps open up space in the main refrigerator for produce and feels like an accessible option for guests to help themselves.”

Calm and quiet spaces

Reducing clutter is often a goal of design, and COVID-19 triggered a surge in the purging of unwanted possessions. “The desire to deal with clutter has not decreased in the least,” Gold says. “You’re even seeing it with some of the streamlined looks of things. I see it going not to the point of stark minimalism, but to the point of ‘what’s comfortable for me.’”

As important as function is the feeling a room creates. That includes elements to reduce noise and offer pleasant visual elements.

“Sinks or prep areas in front of outdoor views make time there feel like a treat,” Barnard says. “People are sometimes hesitant to put art in their kitchens, but it can bring happiness into the space. A kitchen is a great place for unique and beautiful pottery, whether on display or to store produce or kitchen tools.”

Your Guide to Appliance Repair During COVID-19

Over the course of the nearly two-year COVID-19 pandemic, people have relied on their appliances more than ever. And that is true for all appliances, from the refrigerator to the clothes washer to the stand mixer.

It is rarely convenient when an appliance requires service. But COVID-19 has added another layer to the usual routine of appliance repair. In addition to finding a servicer and arranging a convenient time for repair, you also have to consider what steps the appliance repair provider is taking to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 exposure. That’s especially true as positivity rates around the U.S. reach all-time highs.

“People who normally cook once or twice a year are now using their ovens every day,” says A.J. James, owner of Pegasus Appliance Repair in Dallas, winner of the 2019 Most Professional Servicer Award from the Appliance Service Training Institute. “People are using every appliance more. They’re running dishwashers at the highest sanitization setting. Their fridges are stocked to the gills with all the stuff they’ve been buying. We have been getting more calls for chest freezers.”

Some questions you should ask the appliance repair provider in in advance to find out about their COVID safety measures are:

  • Will the technician be wearing gloves, disposable booties and a mask?
  • How will payment be handled?
  • What are the company’s rules on handwashing and sanitization of equipment?
  • Is the technician willing to maintain a certain distance from the customer during the visit?
  • Is the technician an authorized service provider for your appliance brand? Authorized technicians are trained by the appliance manufacturer and have access to the parts, technical information, and, in some cases, software specific to your appliance type.

James has implemented strict protocols, ranging from mandatory handwashing to keeping 10 feet — further than the recommended six — between customers and technicians for the duration of the visit. Handshakes are out.

“It all goes back to the guidelines set forth by the CDC,” James says. “Social distancing is a key factor. We’re asking customers to stay in another room. Any coughing, an accidental sneeze, is kept in that other room.” So far, customers have been understanding. “It’s the new norm, and people get it. We aren’t going to put anyone in a situation where they put themselves or others at risk. I need to make sure we’re not taking something from house to house. We have been able to keep a happy medium while getting appliances fixed and keeping any sickness at bay with our team.”

Customers can prepare for the visit by providing a readily accessible place for handwashing. “It should be done immediately when the technician gets in the house,” James says. “We ask that they provide the technician a place to wash their hands with hot soapy water and disposable towels. At minimum, it is done before and after the repair. Some will wash their hands several times. Customers have been very good at making sure they have that available for us.” Technicians wear masks, gloves and booties and carry disinfectant, but rely on handwashing as their primary defense.

A bad flu season helped prepare technicians to take precautions against spreading coronavirus, says Alex Hallmark, an instructor at the Ohio-based Fred’s Appliance Academy. Fred’s Appliance provides repair and maintenance in the area and training for appliance technicians in the U.S. and globally. Their in-person training sessions have been put on hold.

“We were already doing handwashing, because that’s the only way to stop flu,” Hallmark says. “Our techs were trained on that from the get-go.” They are relying on customers to establish their comfort level. “If the customer insists, do it three times. There’s nothing wrong with peace of mind. If a customer is uncomfortable in any way, the best advice we have is not to get service until the stay-at-home orders are lifted.”

Customers should set the ground rules before the technician arrives.

“Some will say ‘Stay six feet away from me, let me know when you’re ready for payment,” Hallmark says. “We’ll make a note. Make sure you’re comfortable. We’re not all addressing this the same way.” If anyone in the home is experiencing symptoms, reschedule the appointment.

Customers and technicians should feel comfortable breaking off a visit if they become uneasy with the precautions being taken. “Now is not the time to be nice,” James says. “If the customer won’t stay 10 feet away, grab your tools and parts, exit the house. We’ll call the customer.”

When demand for service is high, essential repair jobs like a refrigerator not cooling may be prioritized over something that doesn’t directly affect the appliance’s function (like a dent or broken refrigerator handle). Customers should be clear about why the repair needs to be made. For example, a wine refrigerator might not normally be considered a priority, but that could change if it is being used to store medications.

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