Home design — what the pandemic has taught us

Guest Blog by Kiss House

If it is your dream to build a home but in a stress free way, Kiss house could be your solution. They have created a range of customisable homes in various sizes for the design and impact conscious self-builder and developer. They use innovative techniques to provide a simple modern aesthetic. The Kiss House team focus on natural materials, the sense of light and space, beautiful finishes, and a refined palette of interior and exterior options. Their homes are Passivhaus certified because Passivhaus is the international gold standard for building comfort. It means that they are super-insulated and meticulously detailed creating a high-quality building that minimises heat loss, maximises comfort and ensures low environmental impact.

Kiss House Exterior
Kiss House exterior

Home design — what the pandemic has taught us

Since lockdown restrictions began in March 2020 many of us have spent more time than ever before at home. At Kiss House, we wanted to explore how our perceptions of home have changed during this time and what that means for how we live. Do we now regard space, design, quality and function differently?

Ben Spriggs, in an editorial for Elle Decoration said, “one of the few things I’ve loved about quarantine has been the renewed focus on where we live and our relationship with the spaces we inhabit.” This resonated strongly with us because we believe that where we live, and how it makes us feel is of critical importance to our overall quality of life. Alain de Botton in “The Architecture of Happiness” explains that we are “different people in different places and it is architecture’s task to render vivid to us who we might ideally be.” Homes should be designed with people in mind to enable them to fulfil their potential and live their best lives.

An effect of the lockdown is that it has forced us to reassess the spaces we inhabit within our homes, and to become more aware of how they make us feel and impact our lives. Our home environment, the quality of the design in terms of layout, how the space flows, and how it meets are needs, all matter greatly and impact our experience of the space itself and our life.

Kiss House bedroom

Good design delineates space

How we use and delineate our indoor space became a hot topic of conversation and research during 2020 (and shows no sign of abating), the early indicators are that our perceptions of our indoor environment have changed significantly. We’ve become profoundly aware of the space in our homes, as evidenced by a plethora of anecdotal reports. “The Guardian” interviewed art and fashion graduates to find out about their lockdown experiences. A recurring theme was the struggle of having only, “a few square metres of space to move around in and no differentiation between types of space.”

The design of our homes has hugely impacted many of us during the lockdown restrictions. Our time at home has felt more intense than before forcing us to interact with our space and those we inhabit it with differently. Tara Hipwood, Lecturer in Architecture at Northumbria University, explored these changing attitudes to space in the online journal “The Conversation.” She described the need to find a quiet corner to work in, and the need for privacy, saying “it’s likely that for many families, this period has highlighted that when they are all in the house at the same time, it can be hard to find any personal space.”

According to Shelter, in their study on the meaning of home, the most animated discussions on the subject centre on space, especially the importance of having areas where we can come together and others that enable us to be apart. There have been many discussions about how open plan living has translated in lockdown.

Passivhaus Kitchen
Kiss House open plan kitchen featuring the Rainbow Runner

In “Toast” magazine, writer, Elizabeth Metcalfe explained how regular open plan living (a style that has become increasingly prevalent), “relies on a “phased” pattern of occupation, whereby different members of the household occupy the home at different times of day.” This is very different from the “concurrent” pattern of occupation that lockdown has forced upon us whereby all members of the household occupy the home simultaneously. The result being that lockdown has intensified how our space is occupied and when.

“Space standards: The benefits,” produced by University College London for CABE in April 2010 explored the idea of space to be together and apart. It said, “inadequate space offers neither of these possibilities and may not, therefore, provide an adequate setting for family life.” This turned out to be particularly true for working parents during school lockdown. Working from home while simultaneously providing childcare was an almost impossible task for many. Pressure on space was at a peak with parents facing the impossibility of simultaneously needing quiet space to work in at the same time as breakout space for noisy kids’ activities.

The Home Office

As home working becomes a more permanent fixture for many, how will our home life be altered? Sergey Makhno, writing for Dezeen believes that this will have a huge impact, so much so that it will permanently change the design and use of our homes once the pandemic is over. He believes, “more attention will be given to the arrangement of the workplace at home. Spatial organisation will change. Now it will be a completely separate room with large windows, blackout curtains and comfortable furniture. It will be technically equipped and sound-insulated.”

Home Office Accessories - After Matisse Rug
Home office featuring the After Matisse Rug

If the long-term impact of the pandemic on architecture and home design is to incorporate home working and different types of area within our living quarters, then space itself will surely be of far greater importance than ever. Space (already at a premium) will have to work harder and do more.

Elizabeth Yuko reports in “Bloomberg City Labs” that before Covid only 10% to 15% percent of the apartment units bult by Steinberg Hart, “had some type of dedicated office space.” In the future however, he expects that figure will be more like 75%.

Home Office Inspiration - Bubbles Rug
Home office featuring the Bubbles Rug

People are beginning to get creative. There has been an increase in enquiries about, “reducing the size of closets and bathrooms in favour of creating a small nook or alcove that fits a desk.” “Houzz” writes about, “the now you see it, now you don’t home office in a cupboard (that) can be stowed away when not in use. You don’t want to be reminded of your paperwork while you’re relaxing.” Significantly, searches for “cloffice ideas” (an office in a closet) have doubled yearly on Pinterest. They say, “even when doors aren’t available, people will find new ways to create some personal space.” The way we think about the areas in our homes and how they should function are being challenged and changed.

Creating different zones in our homes using furnishings and fittings

We are looking at our living environments more creatively. IKEA produced a report on Life at Home in 2020. It states:

“The role of rooms will change. For hundreds of years, home has been designed around specific functions: a room to sleep, a room to eat, and so on. The next generation of architecture will break free from incremental improvements to distinct rooms and, instead, design spaces to meet a long list of needs and activities. Home design will become more creative and thoughtful. There will be new home layouts and redefined spaces, as we see home with new and open eyes. This different type of home will need to find ways to offer privacy to those of us living together inside them.”

There is a need to design multi-use areas to accommodate a range of activities that goes beyond a room’s original function. Enter “broken-plan living,” a new trend explored in “Houzz” magazine aided by the concept, “decorate to differentiate.” Journalist, Helen Winter navigates this idea and suggests using furnishings and fixtures such as lighting, shelving, different flooring, colour schemes and rugs to create different zones in the home where multiple activities can take place.

As more people look for ways to divide their home into different areas, Pinterest’s trends report a 150% year on year increase in the search for “bookshelf (room) dividers.” New York designer Markham Roberts explains in “Veranda,” how he used, “two double-sided bookcases to create a smaller cosy den separate from the larger area. Since the bookcases are only five feet high, they don’t cut the den off from the rest of the room, but they make an effective screen to give the smaller space a feeling of cosiness.”

Another option to mark out one area from another is using rugs. “Readers Digest” suggests that rugs, “clearly show a division within the space and will encourage family and guests to treat the various parts of the room differently.” “Ideal Home” magazine believes that rugs, “create pools of focus in an open-plan space, around which you can group furniture for different tasks — dining, lounging, chatting, working, and so on. You can even reflect the mood of the area in the style of rug you pick.”

Designer Home Office Furniture - Bubbles Rug
Using two Bubbles Rugs to create two different zones within a room

In her article, Top 3 Home Office Designs to Inspire Creativity, rug designer Sonya Winner explains that, “the need to create a productive home office environment has never been greater… The interior design of the space you choose is going to have a considerable impact on your work productivity. Minimising distraction and maximising focus and clarity is essential, and we are all searching for new and inspiring ways to achieve this.” Sonya believes, “introducing a vibrant office rug can be the perfect place for this… the role of colour in home office design is key.” This is why her rugs are vibrant and purposefully, “packed with colours that are known for inspiring optimism, confidence and creativity.” Furnishings and fittings can not only help us to define separate areas, but their colours help us create ambience in our homes too.

Colour in the home

Our choice of colour in the home can contribute to the creation of an exceptional living environment. In a study on the characteristics of colour, Kaan Gökçakan, Architecture and Design Faculty, Anadolu University, Turkey, explains:

“Our use of colour in the home has a direct impact on how comfortable our living space is. Besides the interior art, which has an important effect on human psychology, the impact of colours on emotions has attracted scientists’ attention for years.”

There is a deep connection between colours and how they make us feel, with colour affecting our mood; bright colours energising us, and mellow colours soothing us.

Color Pshychology - Interior House Colors
Featured: left the Rainbow Rug; Right the After Albers Cornflower Rug

There was an interesting study published by Sage on “The effects of colour on the moods of college students.” The study set out to understand how individuals were psychologically affected by the colours of their student union complex. Results of the study revealed that colours influence, “whether people feel warm, cool, calm, invited, relaxed, or uninvited.” These findings support the pink prison experiment (Schauss, 1979) that showed that people who were placed in jails coloured in bright pink displayed less aggression than the average. Thus, colour influences how we feel and in turn how we behave.

Understanding how colour affects our mood is essential knowledge for architects working to increase the functionality of a space though the use of the most appropriate colours.

However, how colour is perceived varies widely from person to person. Josef Albers, colour theorist, observed in his influential 1963 book, “The Interactions of Colour,“ “if one says “Red” (the name of colour” and there are fifty people listening, it can be expected that there will be fifty reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different.” Everyone has a different experience of colour and that is why everyone interprets colours differently. Colour is very personal. The colours we choose to invite into our lives; the interiors and items in our homes, should not be dictated by trends but rather how they make us feel.

Conclusion

Home holds special meaning, and that meaning is subtly different for everyone. It is safety, shelter, love. It is where we experience life’s great highs and lows. Where we retreat in times of stress, where we celebrate our times of joy. It is where we come together with those we hold most dear, to do all the things that make our lives rich, unique and interesting. When life gets tough it is our escape and sanctuary, and it is where we wish to return to find peace and solace at the end of our lives.

Our home space matters. The pandemic has highlighted more clearly than ever how our living environment directly impacts our quality of life. As a result of spending more time at home, working, educating and socialising, we have connected with our homes in new ways and have had to use and think about our space differently, thus re-examining our priorities in relation to home. Creativity has been required to adjust to a “new normal.” New terms have entered our language such as the “cloffice” and the popular move towards open-plan living has fallen short for many who have experienced the need for separate and multiple spaces. We have risen to the challenge by rethinking and adjusting our spaces. By creating different living zones in our homes using rugs, colour, and shelving; carving out the space we need. Our relationship with our living space has changed irrevocably as a result of the pandemic, and many of us now regard space, design, quality, function and the location of our homes differently.

This greater awareness of how we use our space and how our space affects our wellbeing will hopefully now filter through to the way we design all new homes. It is our hope that all new homes will be designed more sensitively, with more acknowledgement and thought given to how they will be inhabited and how great design can be used to enhance the living experience and our lives. Our homes must be fit for today and tomorrow and regarded by those who design and build them as being about more than the developmental value.

Home is where we should all be able to live our best lives, and our living space irrespective of size, should be designed to accommodate and support all of our fundamental human needs.

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