What Will Our Homes Be Like After the Pandemic?

Some ideas about what might change in our homes.

tile house living room
Living room in the tile house.

 Charlotte Tayor and Formundrausch

In a previous story, Interior Design Lessons From the Coronavirus, I showed a vision from the 1950s where a Mrs. Dobson cleaned her sofa with a hose. This post is illustrated with images of a tiled house designed by Charlotte Taylor and visualized by Formundrausch – it imagines the perfectly washable, post-pandemic home. Many people are thinking about how our homes will change after the pandemic; here is a look at some other views and thoughts.

Tile house kitchen
a kitchen made of tile.  Charlotte Taylor and  Formundrausch 

Suzanne Shelton is with the Shelton Group, marketing consultants in the ESG (Environmental, social, and governance) and sustainability world. She sees homes changing in a number of ways, including:

People Will Want Bigger Homes

Tiled bedroom
A bedroom in tile.  Charlotte Taylor and formundrausch
We’ll want offices with doors we can close. We’ll want dedicated spaces for home schooling if we need to keep doing that. We’ll want bigger pantries to hold the food we’re now storing “just in case,” and we’ll want a place to exercise.That means we’ll be seeking more square footage with a hybrid concept – part open (for cooking, eating and being entertained) concept, part closed-concept (for working, schooling, exercising).

One could argue that the homes don’t have to be bigger to accommodate this; instead, I would point out that in most houses, there is a gross misallocation of resources, with some rooms hardly used at all while everyone hangs out in the kitchen, getting in the way. 

how people live
How one family from the study spends its afternoons: In the kitchen and in front of the TV. (Photo: J. Arnold)

Think back to that famous drawing from Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century, that showed everyone in the kitchen. Everybody thought that it proved that people want to hang out in the kitchen and that we should get rid of useless dining rooms and living rooms. In fact, the study showed that people were using the kitchen for almost everything except cooking; “kitchen tabletops and even formal dining room tables in some homes are left fully laden with piles of bills, bulky toys, and the ephemera of daily living.” It’s all about misallocation. (More on this drawing here.)

Andrés Duany on Design After the Coronavirus

Duany and partner Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk promote "Traditional Neighborhood Development," most famously at Seaside in Florida, "acclaimed for its traditional town plan, streetscapes and buildings." They were also founders of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU). He spoke recently at the CNU28 conference about a project he is working on in Florida, where he designed the buildings and the units with the coronavirus in mind.

Single Loaded Corridor in section
Section through single loaded corridor.  DPZ Co-Design

The Corridor is Single-Loaded and Outside

This used to be common in Florida and temperate climates everywhere; it is cheap to build because there is no corridor ventilation, and all the units opening up onto the corridor have cross-ventilation and access to fresh air. It fell out of favor with developers because they can get greater densities by double-loading the corridor. However, in the post-pandemic era, the advantages of being outside may make it desirable again.

Note in the plan that the corridor along the top is more than just a walkway, there are “outdoor social spaces” with a good separation distance between the seating, for casual gathering in shared space. 

Lower living level
Lower living level.  DPZ CO-design

When you come into the home, there is a 2-pc (half) bathroom on one side and a cleanup room on the other, big enough to change in, with a sink and the washing machine right there. A UV light comes on when you leave to sterilize the room.

Straight ahead is the media room (clearly labeled NOT LIVING ROOM) because people will not be going out to the movies or the theater anymore, they will want a really good media setup at home.

Then there is the kitchen/dining area, the real heart of living in the home. Note the work station; Duany says most people look at their computers while they eat breakfast, it’s the modern newspaper. Bad idea if you have an Apple computer and you get toast crumbs under the keyboard, and also a bad idea if you want to not gain a ton of weight. But there is a logic to the argument. There is also a big pantry; people are ordering their groceries for delivery or buying them in big quantities.

Past the pantry is the “flex space;” this is where one might put the home office if you actually meet with the public, it has its own door to the outside so that someone can come in without entering your home. Duany believes that a lot more people will be working at home and will need professional setups, and may well need to meet with the public.

Upper level
Upper level. DPZ Co-Design 

On the upper floor of the unit there is a flex space too, which has a door to the fire stair. Duany calls this a possible “quarantine room, but could also be used for a caregiver, someone who can have access to the stair and the exit without going through the rest of the home.

I have taken some abuse on Twitter for admiring these plans, including this tweet that suggested that these are just different names for the same spaces. I don’t agree; it is a recognition that the way we use space has changed. Even if it is Andres Duany and his over-the-top designs for the very rich, there are still lessons to be learned.

I suspect that we will all be spending more time in our homes, that they should be designed for all these different functions, that people need more privacy, and that we need alternatives to working on the kitchen counters, which should be used for cooking!

Tile stair
Tiled stair. Charlotte Taylor and Formundrauch 

More in this series:

Home Design Lessons From the Coronavirus

How the Coronavirus Might Change Bathroom Design

Interior Design Lessons From the Coronavirus