As the country shut down in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges that required quick adjustments. Instead of spending a large portion of our time elsewhere, the home became the epicenter for many people. Everything happened at home—work, school, exercise, play and everything in between.
In 2021 some pandemic-related trends have faded, but many appear to be lasting changes that architects must prepare to respond to in their work. Families’ priorities and needs have changed in many ways, and how they use their homes tops the list. Let’s take a look at a few ways architects should prepare to adjust when it comes to designing new floor plans.
Shifting Priorities and Concerns
An emerging priority among homeowners is health and wellness. Not only do they want their homes to protect their health with great indoor air quality, they want adequate space to attend to their own wellness at home. Furthermore, homeowners now realize their homes must fill many roles. No longer are homes mainly a place to gather and rest, but they must also serve as schools, offices, gyms and much more.
The ability to navigate multiple family members in the home at the same time with different needs is also high on homeowners’ priority lists. Many found it difficult to balance working from home while kids were participating in virtual school lessons, among other activities. As a result, architects may see a shift from open floor plans to more segmented approaches.
Additionally, as comfort levels with gathering in groups change, homeowners are interested in ensuring their homes have adequate spaces that accommodate those different preferences. They want to make sure that, no matter what, their home is welcoming and open to anyone who wants to come.
These are just a few of the newest homeowner concerns architects may come across as they design homes after the pandemic’s immediate impact fades. Here are a few of the types of spaces their clients may request to address those concerns.
The world’s opening back up, but many companies are retaining work-from-home options or even discontinuing in-person office spaces. When the pandemic began employees likely cobbled together an office space in a bedroom, at the kitchen table or on the couch, but now they’re looking for long-term solutions that can truly serve their needs.
Architects may begin to field requests for designated office spaces more often than in the past. Homeowners may request that the spaces are designed specifically for their work needs with appropriate fixtures and connectivity as well as built-in features such as bookshelves and other organizational tools.
Defined Spaces with Acoustic Control
With so much happening at home, families found it hard to make space for concurrent activities. School, work meetings, small church groups, music lessons—all virtual and often overlapping in scheduled times—challenged families in terms of simply getting the space to focus and not be overheard.
For this reason, architects may see more people requesting pockets of space within their homes that allow for privacy and are reasonably closed off from other areas. Flexible spaces that allow for different uses may come into play as well. Additionally, acoustic control will be increasingly important so families can have confidence that each activity can proceed without intruding on another.
Spaces for Hobbies
With more time at home, small businesses and new hobbies popped up almost immediately after the pandemic hit as a way to fill time at home intentionally. When designing new homes, architects may find that homeowners are interested in designated rooms for their businesses or hobbies.
Creative solutions may also emerge, like alternative use backyard sheds, as a way to retain a differentiated space while reserving as much square footage in their homes as possible for other uses. Both these options can be designed and equipped with exactly what is needed for each homeowner’s specific needs.
When gyms and fitness classes were closed during the pandemic, working out at home became a temporary solution. However, the convenience of that option may stick around for years to come as homeowners enjoy digital methods of getting their workouts in. Also, if they feel uncomfortable returning to a public gym, they may want the safety and comfort of a home workout area.
Architects should prepare to design spaces specifically intended for workout equipment, from weights and treadmills to bikes and more. As homeowners have a chance to equip a room with what they’ll need to exercise at home, architects can help them ensure those spaces work for their needs.
Outdoor Living and Entertaining
Gathering outdoors continues to be a safe method of meeting with friends and family outside the homeowner’s immediate family, so architects may be designing more elaborate decks and porches to address that need. Some homeowners may even want to plan for outdoor cooking areas, such as permanent sinks, stovetops, grills and storage, in addition to bar spaces with refrigeration.
Importantly, these spaces would provide an additional comfortable space that feels separate from the home while still enabling families to stay at home and remain safe, no matter their comfort levels.
Designing Floor Plans in a Post-Pandemic World
The COVID-19 pandemic changed nearly every industry, profession and way of living in our world to some degree, and architecture is no exception. As homeowners adapt to new and ever-evolving needs for their homes, architects can expect their floor plans to take shape with new spaces and increased efficiencies.
Getting to know clients and understanding their needs before the design phase begins will be more important than ever. Those partnerships will be even more likely to lead to homes built for a new way of living—more adaptable and usable than ever before.