How will COVID-19 change home design, and what should you do about it?

  • Categories:

    Industry Trends, Marketing Insights

  • Date:

    July 30, 2020

How will COVID-19 change home design, and what should you do about it?



Industry Trends
Marketing Insights

In 2020, most of us are spending more time at home. And that’s transforming how we think of our homes. The COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly influence home design — indeed, it already has. But how?

This summer, we attended the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) video conference discussing the impact of the pandemic on home design. Part of Brave New Business, the NKBA’s live, interactive digital forum series, the event featured NKBA CEO Bill Darcy, Architizer content director Paul Keskeys, TreeHugger.com design editor Lloyd Alter and Casey Design | Planning Group Inc. principal Theresa Casey.

According to these special guest subject matter experts, here are four ways the coronavirus will alter the landscape, plus my take on what it all means for home design at a higher level.

1. More homes will have dedicated office space.

Among other things, 2020 has become a large-scale telecommuting experiment. Even after stay-at-home orders were lifted in all 50 states, many companies told their normally on-site employees to continue working remotely.

Have you delivered a presentation from your dining room table, done a Zoom chat from the guest bedroom or written an email crouched on the closet floor? No matter how offices look in the not-too-distant future, the pandemic should have a significant impact on future residential design and home office space considerations.

2. Bathroom design will evolve to better safeguard against germs.

What will new spaces look like in the wake of increased sensitivity to sanitization needs?

An updated approach to design for public bathroom spaces, in direct response to new COVID-19 guidelines, will also influence residential bathroom design. One expert says bathrooms of the future could become vestibules, situated as a transition zone where people can come in from the outside world and wash their hands before entering the home.

Besides that, imagine more numerous bathroom fixtures and sinks designed for specific purposes (e.g., a handwashing sink versus a sink for teeth brushing and face washing). Those special handwashing sinks may also begin popping up as a stand-alone feature, such as in the hallway, mudroom or garage. Meanwhile, tub designs that are more difficult to keep clean (or are less safe) may not survive this evolution. Think of tomorrow’s bathroom almost like what you’d expect to find in a sterile environment: easily washed, designed for cleanliness and safety, and entirely touch-free.

Products like TOTO’s WASHLET bidet fit right into a world where consumers want to take clean to the next level (and toilet paper is hard to find). Experts say homeowners prefer to see that technology in its own dedicated space, such as a small room just off the bathroom.

3. The kitchen — still the heart of the home — will completely transform.

The pandemic has forced us all to look at the spaces we call home with a more critical eye, and that may be truer nowhere else than the kitchen. Consumers will expect more flexibility from their kitchens — a layout that allows multiple people to work in it comfortably, with a focus on hygiene and maximum storage. There’s a growing desire for order and control and the functional products that create them.

Think:

  • Countertops made of quartz, quartzite and other engineered elements, replacing more porous materials including marble
  • Screens that help divide spaces (acting like a door) and moveable walls
  • Creative storage solutions such as Blum’s Space Step
  • A hot water supply line
  • Motion-activated lighting controls
  • Automatic, touchless cabinet hinge systems
  • Touchless faucets
  • Touchless garbage cans
  • Copper hardware
  • Elimination of other materials that might contain bacteria

4. Remodeling will surge.

Yes, remodeling has been on the rise … and the pandemic has only helped build momentum. While many of these ideas will help drive residential building practices, homeowners are also making moves to remodel their current home for increased safety, beauty and comfort.

My Take

At a higher level, what does it all mean for home design?

Form will take a backseat to function.

First, did you notice that most of these trends involve function rather than form? In 2020, we’re beginning to place a higher value on function, both as an expanded component of comfort and in the way we live in our homes.

How we live, work, play, relax and interact with others is driving the decisions we make. We’re prioritizing things such as fresh air, sunlight, space usage (playroom-turned-home-office, anyone?) and technology that makes life easier over aesthetic considerations (style, color, etc.).

Why? Because we’ve been forced to do so.

I’m not suggesting style and design will go away. Consumers will never completely sacrifice design, nor should they have to do so. But function has grabbed centerstage, at least for now.

Meanwhile, don’t forget social distancing, as this key component of life in 2020 plays a huge role even within our own homes. Will we entertain less in the future? Or, will entertaining look different? Will it become more about family and less about socializing?

One thing’s for certain: Some kind of change is in store, both for human connection and the spaces we share.

Everyone wants a healthy home, but do they know what that means?

No one wants an unhealthy home.

But consumers do not have a strong understanding of what a healthy home means or how to get it … and “it” isn’t one thing. It’s space. Air. Sunlight. Water. Safety. Technology. All of which we don’t understand as clearly as aesthetics (you don’t have to be a designer to say, “I like that look.”). Even energy efficiency is less puzzling.

Bottom line: Historically, the industry has considered health and wellness as a top-funnel concept. But now more than ever, consumers need lots of education to understand exactly what they want and need and how to get it — and they need it before they ever get to lower-funnel products.

Home and building product manufacturers should communicate:

  • The various components of a healthy home (and why they’re important)
  • Common problem areas and benefits of addressing them

Editorial coverage of healthy home topics in the age of COVID-19 suggests sharing of this critical information is beginning to happen. Brands must be willing to step up to the plate, too, becoming a reliable source for the answers consumers are looking for.

It’s a lot for brands to shoulder. But those that successfully navigate these stormy seas and changing tides — that position themselves to respond to evolving consumer demands — will be rewarded with a competitive advantage.

Need help creating targeting strategies to move your business forward in this brave new world? Email me.

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