Interior design

Designing for a Pandemic

By June 19, 2020 February 2nd, 2021 No Comments
Designing for a pandemic

During the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic our homes have played an increasingly important role. With many of us seeing little more than our own four walls for weeks on end and, with our homes needing to double as office, school, gym and even restaurant, they have come under increasing scrutiny and often been found wanting.

This need to remain at home has resulted in a shift in opinion about what is required from our interiors. While some people are simply considering decorative changes to re-freshen a living space in which they are spending more time, others are considering more extensive refurbishments with changes to layout or room function. In a recent survey by estate agents Savills, 49% of respondents expected increased home working to continue post lockdown, with 44% stating that a separate workspace was now more important with this figure rising to 61% among the under 40’s.

Some of us have been taking matters into our own hands to refresh décor with a new coat of paint or a few rolls of wallpaper. Others have been feverishly busy on Pinterest planning more extensive changes for the time when architects, designers and builders can, once again, gain access. Increasingly interior designers are being requested to work remotely with clients in order to plan a re-design for implementation in the coming months.

Both designers and clients are also taking into consideration the long-term implications of this crisis. After all, pandemics are not the exception in human history, they are the rule, so domestic adaptation is long overdue. Whilst open-plan living has become the preferred choice of many in pursuit of flexibility, and greater household community, quiet corners and privacy have become lost. A complete reversion to separate rooms is not necessary but some means of retreat from the chaos of life within the home is vital, especially where entire families are at home 24/7.

In Japan, floor plans for new homes are rarely drawn with furniture in situ since rooms are intended to be multi-functional. Well-designed storage enables a single room to transition effortlessly from dining space to relaxation area or bedroom, as required. Also common in Japan is the construction of a small indoor porch, often delineated by a step, where outdoor shoes are removed before entry into the main home; this is a practical gateway to good indoor hygiene. Most of us are becoming used to removing our shoes at the thresholds of our homes and placing sanitiser by the door for use on re-entry. The use of naturally anti-bacterial materials such as cork or copper in our interiors could become increasingly in demand.

Requests for touchless products are increasing as architects look to prevent the spread of infection in their buildings. Touchless products in bathrooms and kitchens, combined with sensor-controlled doors and lifts mean that common areas of buildings could be entirely touchless. Consideration is also being given to the configuration of utility areas in order to include additional freezer capacity and pantry style shelving or larders, reflecting the sense of security provided by a well-stocked food cupboard. An increasing need to exercise at home doesn’t mean that everyone can afford a fancy home gym however floor-plans will be in focus to enable enough space in front of the smart TV to stretch out or lay a yoga mat.

With the need for multiple adults to work from home, and the addition of home-schooled children, it is evident that the dining room table is a poor substitute for a desk, being higher than optimum, and neither laptops nor dining chairs are ergonomically designed for regular use. Sharing work space is neither conducive to concentration or to Zoom meetings. Work space therefore needs to be separated from the rest of the household, preferably by a door, and to utilise lumbar support chairs and appropriately designed desks or standing desks.

Requests from interior design clients in recent months are therefore focusing less on style and the look they want to achieve and more about making them feel happy at home and gaining private space. Many client enquiries mention having a proper office space and playroom as necessities. Other stated needs are increased storage and greater kitchen space. People are also cooking more and often working in the kitchen, tasks which are frequently not compatible. Additionally, there is also an increasing focus on making the most of the garden and utilising it as another valuable ‘room’.

If you need help making your home work for you in a time of pandemic please contact me at