Designing for the COVID-19 Era

If you were planning to build a home now, wouldn’t your wants and needs be different than a year ago?  I am an interior designer, living in a beautiful, mid-century, open plan home which was ideal until the COVID-19 crisis forced us to work from home. In hindsight, I see a few things we could have done to make our new situation more workable.

At the office 

There are enclosed rooms where I could have set up shop, but the light and view aren’t as pleasant as in my dining room. There, surrounded by glass, the view is lovely, and everything is just fine until I get a chill and need a sweater or a down vest.  The thermal properties of my 50’s windows are not great.  I’d love to have more consistent temperature control.

My husband works at a desk in our family room which is about 30 feet from my “desk”, i.e. the dining table.  He wears a headset but every now and then a belt of laughter shatters my concentration.

When one of us has a conference call (why do we raise our voices while talking to a screen?) the other’s workflow stops.  Wouldn’t it be great to have separate workspaces or at least better sound proofing?

The reinvented, relevant mudroom

It occurs to me that the name “mudroom” has taken on a new meaning.  It should probably be called “cleaning chamber.” It should have a sink, place to discard masks and gloves, an area to place boxes before they are sanitized and a bench to remove and store shoes.

Fortunately, I have a cabinet right by the front door with a drawer full of masks so when my deliveries arrive, I can don a mask and sign for my package and pull out my hand sanitizer.

Pantry pointers

One thing that hasn’t changed is our love of cooking and eating and we are doing much more of that.   We do have a great kitchen that accommodates most of our needs.  Had I known of the coming sheltering in place, I would have planned more food storage.  We were minimalists.

Rhythm of the light

Binge watching Netflix? If you have your nights and days mixed up, there is a lighting solution that can assist in getting you back on track.  LED lighting has developed to the point that the color temperature of the light can change throughout the day to match the circadian rhythms of the body.  Bright and golden colored in the morning to energize and changing throughout the day to cause relaxation and preparation for sleep.  A good night’s sleep is invaluable.

Form and function

Our home was set up for large family gatherings, lots of seating, lots of open space.  That space is working well because I now have a card table set up for the constant jig saw puzzles.  Knowing how long this could go on, I am going to replace it with a “real table”.   I will also add a cabinet to store the things that are now in plastic boxes on every dining chair.  We are back to the thinking of the early Americans when each piece of furniture had multiple purposes and took up the minimum amount of space.

I have always valued order and beauty in our surroundings. They have a calming effect on us, especially now when we are spending so much time at home. For many people, home was once a place to crash after a long stressful day.  Many features and functions may have been ignored and small problems unaddressed. However, this current crisis can help us all evaluate what we truly need and want in our homes today and into the future.

If you were planning to build a house today, would the first thing you would say be, “I want it to be beautiful”?  How about prioritizing, health, energy efficiency, adaptability, and comfort to enhance the lives of everyone who lives there? With all of that it will be beautiful and serve many purposes.

Janet McCann is president of Janet McCann Associates, Inc. in Northfield, Ill. She is a core member of NextHaus Alliance. Learn more at janetmccanndesign.com