When the world shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many of us found ourselves at home more than ever before. Almost overnight, we were working in our studies, our dining rooms, and even from the sofa. We were teaching our kiddos in the same places, and learning more than we would like to know about our spouses’ conference manners!

Or maybe there is another scenario. For essential workers, all you were hoping for at the end of the day was security and rest from long hours and uncertainty. Perhaps, you had a completely different experience, and your home was 100% supportive of the new normal.

In any case, you began to look at your home more closely. Whether it was with disdain or appreciation, is a whole other story!

As designers, the changing rituals of home present an exciting opportunity to re-think the way that we live. Are our homes ready for a hyper-digital life? For homeschooling? For hours-long conference calls? For multiple meals cooked daily? For keeping germs outdoors?

After coronavirus, home design has changed. What will our homes look like?

1.) Mudrooms Will Top Our Wishlists

Once the afterthought of many home designs, mudrooms will rush to the top of our wishlists. The post-Coronavirus mudroom will have a focus on isolation, cleanliness, and prevention. We are imagining an impeccably organized space with a full sink, storage for disinfectants, and of course, a full suite of laundering appliances.

“Coronavirus has made us extremely aware of all the germs we bring inside our homes,” says our Director of Residential Design, Gina Brown. “Mudrooms are where we leave all of that behind us. We are thinking larger rooms with thoughtful seating, so we’re comfortable while we remove shoes and clean pets’ paws.”

While a point of contention with many Southern hostesses, a “no shoes in the house” policy may take over. If that happens, we will have built-ins for house slippers. While we may not offer house shoes for guests, as is customary in other cultures, we may offer fresh socks before entering.

We are still considering how best to design this space for the modern family. Follow along on Instagram as we share some behind-the-scenes of our sketches. 

A black and white mud room in a home in Houston, designed by Laura U

This timlessly chic black and white mudroom features locker systems for each person in the home. Separate cubbies for shoes provide much-need separation between bags and clothing.

An anteroom with a ziggurate tile pattern leads guests to the entertaining library.

An anteroom with a ziggurate tile pattern provides a place of transition from outdoors to the inside. We carried this tile through to the main halls for visual cohesion.

2.) We Will See Less Open-Concept Living

We are already receiving requests for separate, work-only kitchens that are hidden from the main entertaining spaces. Usually, this design choice is made to conceal food prep and catering equipment. Now, the request also keeps groceries and raw meats from contaminating eat-in areas. The trend of wide-open floorplans, with unobstructed views from kitchen to living room, may be dwindling.

And we may find ourselves building more vestibules and anterooms to properly separate outdoors from the inside. This is already typical in homes with icier climates, where retaining heat is important. For those of us in hotter temps, vestibules are a new way for guests to transition from outside to our private spaces.

Don’t worry about the anteroom being too utilitarian. You can wow guests with dramatic geometric flooring, as we did here at our Willowick project. This pattern continues through to the main hall, connecting the outdoors to the intimate spaces within. 

A hidden butler's pantry that separates the prep space between the main kitchen.

This isolated space separates meal prep, caterers, and wine opening from the main entertaining areas of the home.

An open concept living space that incorporates two islands, separating prep from eating.

The appeal of an open concept doesn’t have to threaten a home’s wellbeing. Dual islands separate food preparation from casual eat-in areas in this expansive and airy first floor.

3.) Home Offices Will be a Must-Have

The famous designer duo, Charles and Ray Eames, are well-known for their iconic interpretations of the lounge chair. They are also recognized for their practical designs that emphasized necessity. “We don’t do ‘art.’ We solve problems,” asserted Charles, who felt that a good designer was like a good host, anticipating the needs of his guests.

After Coronavirus, good design will solve one of the biggest problems during lockdown: how do we work? And more than that, how do multiple people in a home work concurrently and independently?

Having dedicated work space or home office is essential to keep focus. For those of us who tried to make dining room conference calls work, we quickly realized that they didn’t. Distractions abound in the modern household. Avoiding them is key to keeping the focus work-related.

There are a few solutions. We recently completed a project with two home offices. We foresee this becoming more of the norm for dual-income families. Alternatively, allotting a larger room for communal space is a good option for quieter work moments.

“I love the thought of a large family library,” our founder, Laura Umansky says. “If you are purchasing new or renovating, I think this space is a good thing to look out for. You can have several areas for computer work and a quiet space for reviewing documents or taking calls. For those of us who work with our spouses, we’ll want large tables for joint projects.”

For families with teens, a workspace could be designed in the bedroom. Carving a nook out for plugging in multiple devices and holding textbooks pairs well with a table for hands-on projects. Depending on the existing space, this is a great opportunity to get creative.

This study has a seating area for welcoming business guests at a distance.

We may find ourselves working from home more often, with colleagues stopping by for meetings. A dedicated space for larger gatherings is a wonderful idea to collaborate while maintaining distance.

A beautiful desk provides dedicated work space in a condo's master bedroom.

A beautiful desk provides dedicated work space in a condo’s master bedroom.

4.) We Will Select Easy-to-Clean Materials

At the studio, we are big proponents of using build materials that are durable, sustainable, and easy-to-clean. We often recommend high-performance fabrics for clients with small children so that spills are erased with ease. You want fabrics that are easy to wash, and you want to wash them at least twice a year to eliminate dust and allergens.

To remove bacteria and viruses, we need to look at where these organisms thrive: the kitchen and bath. The ongoing debate between countertops in these areas will be settled with which material deflects germs best.

Let’s consider these. Marble is timeless and gorgeous, resistant to heat, and, sadly, famously high-maintenance. It is softer than granite or quartz and it is porous, which means organisms can grow quickly if not cleaned properly. For marble, proper cleaning is essential because damage can be permanent if not addressed promptly. Sealing marble is a bi-annual process if the space is frequently used.

On the other hand, quartz is non-porous. It won’t stain as easily as marble or granite, and it won’t allow bacteria or viruses to grow. It is the best choice for homeowners concerned about cleanliness. One con, however, will be its heat-resistance. You have to be careful with hot pans on quartz as it isn’t as durable with heat as marble and granite are.

In a recent article, Forbes writer Amanda Lauren, cites a study concerning the sanitary properties of copper versus stainless steel. The study asserts that the coronavirus survived on copper for a mere 4 hours, compared to stainless steel’s 72 hours. Not that we need another reason to love the look of copper, but this is a huge pro.

An ensuite inspiraton for kiddos - nook forreading plu their own bath.

A thoughtful reading nook for the kiddos can double as study space, while their ensuite bathroom gives close proximity to washing hands and faces in a snap.

A brilliantly white and blue kitchen with apron sink, large island, and copper collection.

Smart appliances and touchless faucets will reduce germ contact with the power of technology. Selecting non-porous hard surfaces, like quartz, also reduces bacteria and virus growth.

5.) We Will Fall in Love with Touchless Tech

Cleanliness is more than a virtue. Recent events have taught us it can be the dividing line between good health and life-changing illness. One of the CDC’s COVID-19 prevention recommendations is to wash our hands often. But what about the germs that thrive on the faucet and valves?

That is where touchless technology provides a beautiful solution. Kohler’s Sensate faucets are entirely hands-free. Using state-of-the-art sensor technology, the faucet is activated with a wave. It even features a wide-sweeping motion for cleaning large pots and pans. Monogram Appliances offers a wide selection of voice-activated appliances, like their ovens which can be pre-heated via mobile device.

6.) We Will Take Care of the Air

When Laura purchased her 1920’s Tudor Revival, she went into the project knowing mold would be prevalent. Just two weeks into the 10-month renovation, Hurricane Harvey hit. With its torrential rains and record-breaking floods, came a massive remediation job. The windows were barreling in water. Walls were soggy to the touch. The basement, an unusual space for Houston homes, was flooded. And after years of disrepair, the HVAC system was a complete mess.

Since then, Laura’s home has been stunningly remodeled. It opened as a showhouse and in 2019, was featured in Rizzoli’s On Style: Inspiration and Advice from the Next Generation of Interior Design. She doesn’t worry about her windows and her walls are built-to-last. She does still think about her HVAC system, and schedules regular maintenance.

This is something we all should be doing. While the verdict is still out on HEPA filters’ efficacy with the novel coronavirus, these kinds of air purifiers do clean away a variety of similar nasties: flu, measles, dust mites, mold spores, and pet dander. More tests are being conducted, but the outlook is optimistic that HEPA filters can trap and prevent COVID-19 from infecting our families at home.

The master bedroom at North Boulevard, the home of designer Laura Umansky

Laura’s home on North was completely renovated, including special attention to the HVAC systems for cleaner air.

For many of us during lockdown, home became full-time office space almost overnight. Dining rooms became classrooms. And all outside interactions either happened at a distance or over Zoom. If your home wasn’t fully functional for these activities, you probably felt it pretty quickly. And you’re more than likely wondering what you can do to make improvements.

Even with the opportunity for normalcy coming ever closer, the way we think about home will never be the same. As we slowly and in the best way possible, get back to our lives before coronavirus, we will continue to think about the changes at home. And we will share that experience with you on the Journal. Stay tuned.