Since the beginning of the pandemic, every industry has reflected on its own future, trying to figure out which permanent changes the pandemic will bring.
Interior design has been particularly concerned because the way we interact with spaces has drastically changed during the past year.
The first big divide is between public spaces – too crowded and dirty right now – and private spaces, our homes.
Like never before, homes have become a safe harbour. For months, we’ve been doing literally everything from our four walls: working, shopping, meeting friends, exercising, and even celebrating the holidays!
The question is: how much of this new way of living at home is here to stay? And what can we learn from it? In other words, which lessons can be drawn from planetary lockdowns and how to translate them into our interiors?
Below are some insightful thoughts drawn from one of Vitra’s latest research papers: "New dynamics in the home".
A new value for the home
“Fundamentally we have had a chance to realise how the things we live with and the spaces we live in change us. They change the way we feel, change how we behave and change how we connect with each other. And we have seen how they can affect our wellbeing.”
Cit. Ilse Crawford
During lockdown, everyone’s life has been confined inside four walls. And for everyone, this has required some adjustments: incorporating a working setup, making space for exercising, and more.
Lockdowns have clearly highlighted how interior spaces can be not-fit for purpose as well as how this influences how we behave and feel.
In practice, lockdowns have exaggerated what happens normally when living in a poorly designed space. It might be more subtle and harder to notice in “normal times”, but that sense of discomfort will still affect the way we feel!
From which, the utmost importance of homes as a gateway to wellbeing.
Interior design is a personal affair
“The time in quarantine and the related intense use of our residences may have unveiled their shortcomings. How often do we live with a sub-optimal compromise or spontaneous purchase for years, because we simply got used to it? […] We may decide to give up on owning a sofa because it takes up too much space and watching television has long been transferred to streaming while lying in bed anyway.”
This is an interesting point, that touches on two important aspects.
The first is the relevance of every interior design choice.
Whatever we choose to bring into our dwellings will become part of our daily life, influencing how we behave (even more so in quarantine times). In the long run, an uncomfortable chair can affect posture and the wrong pillow hinder sleep quality.
Realizing that every single decision is crucial might feel overwhelming. But in a way, the project of a home can last a lifetime!
Finding pieces that merge beauty, function and comfort takes a while. But aren’t health and wellbeing good reasons to keep searching?
Also, it doesn’t need to happen all at once. Once a good foundation is in place, details can be added over time, according to budget and time limits.
The quote above also questions the meaning of common interior design decisions. A sofa is one of those common pieces that can be found in every home. But who said it’s always necessary? A home should reflect the individual needs of its occupants, so there’s really no such thing as always necessary!
Home and technology
“Personal spaces need to be both virtually connected and physically enriching even in the midst of social distancing – not the clean, white, anonymous smoothness of contemporary minimalist modernism but a textured hideaway, like an animal's den, full of reminders that the rest of the world still exists, that things were once normal and might be again.”
Cit. Kyle Chayka
Moving forward (with or without pandemic) technology will increasingly enter home spaces. But this should not turn homes into sterile and hyper-functional interiors at the expense of comfort!
In the quest for physically enriching spaces, biophilic design can help a lot. Rich sensory elements like natural textures and water features make for restorative interiors. And a profound understanding of what makes a space comfortable allows a biophilic interior to respond to our deepest needs.
Making little things pleasurable
“Staying home has also meant that many of us have rediscovered the satisfying pleasures of the ordinary and have realised how simple things can matter. […] There is likely to be a greater focus on how to make these ordinary activities more enjoyable and not frustrating, with more consideration given to the tools and associated storage.”
Cit. Ilse Crawford
With nowhere else to go, things like reading and cooking at home have been upgraded to pleasures during lockdown.
But for them to be more enjoyable and not frustrating, they need appropriate space, storage and atmospheres…all things that interior design can influence.
Activities like reading or meditating call for more refuge-like spaces, while cooking can become a shared moment and bring a family together.
Adapting home to life
“We have recognised how important proper downtime is – the things we do to frame the working day and to prevent one day from blurring into another (not just collapsing on the sofa in front of the TV). To facilitate this our homes need to be adaptable and loose, with spaces that morph easily from one activity to another.”
Cit. Ilse Crawford
During lockdown, everyone has experienced a challenge that working-from-home-freelancers commonly face: separating work from the rest of the day.
Especially when there’s no separate room for working, this can become hard and the risk of one day from blurring into another is real.
The definition of proper downtime is a very personal one, but homes should be able to adapt and create the best possible conditions for it, whether that’s exercising, reading, playing an instrument or whatever else.
This need will likely become more widespread in the future. The pandemic has brought companies around the world to reconsider their work patterns, and regular working from home is probably going to become a reality for more people (at least part-time).
Learning from the pandemic
“[Lockdown] has been a vast social experiment, revealing that we must focus on our homes as places we consciously and actively inhabit rather than just fall into at the end of a busy day or week, without concern for their impact on our physical and mental health.”
Cit. Ilse Crawford
In many ways, lockdowns have highlighted the strong relationship between the spaces we live in and the way we behave and feel. This forced slowing down has exaggerated life-interiors disconnects that existed even before the pandemic, but were less noticeable in the hustle of life.
Hopefully, these realizations will settle and build a deeper understanding of the value of interior design for a quality life. A life where practicality, pleasure and comfort finally come together, allowing people to thrive, not just survive.