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.”
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.”
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.
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.”