‘Safer at Home’ Shifting Ideas of Design

Over half of all respondents said that the pandemic has shifted what they prioritize in a home

By Cassie Cherry

For over three months now our industry has been making it happen. We have been inviting colleagues, clients, and competitors into our homes virtually. We have learned to adapt, be resourceful, and leverage technology at a speed we never thought possible.

From a sociological impact, there have been some profoundly positive aspects that have come alongside the ‘safer at home’ orders. In a recent poll, half of all Californians have reported enjoying the increased family time, a third reported they were more self-sufficient, and another third reported a greater sense of community spirit and altruism. With the abrupt stop of life’s hustle and social activities, there has been an increased sense of grounding and mindfulness taking root. Safety, security, and well-being have become central to our daily lives while we slow down and search for new ways to communicate in genuine and meaningful ways with those around us.

When asked how future home designs may look in light of these sociological changes, Louis Bretana, Senior Designer and Associate at Danielian Associates shared, “This is a reset button for our industry and will produce a longterm shift in how we practice architecture.” One thing is certain, the idea of home has changed. How will the effects of this pandemic shape home design in the future?

The Danielian Team has been hard at work in our iDA Lab studio, designing for the future and exploring that very question. We recently reached out to the industry and conducted a survey, investigating how the idea of home has changed and what that means for the future of residential design.

Over half of all respondents said that the pandemic has shifted what they prioritize in a home – a substantial impact. Particularly noteworthy was our demographic sampling was well distributed at nearly a third each for Boomers, Gen X’ers, and Millennials. Meaning, this information will have an impact across all product types.

Below are some notable findings from our research endeavors:

Flexible Spaces

By a wide margin, the single biggest demand is for open floor plans with flexible spaces. With homes now currently tripling their job descriptions, flexible spaces in all product types will become an even greater focal point. Our design studios have been utilizing flexible spaces in smaller lot floorplans for many years to maximize space. These spaces at all scales can be used for family time and entertaining as well as at home workouts, school time activities, hobby space, impromptu jam sessions, quiet reading corners, extra office and study space, and group “zoom rooms.”

Continued Demand for Attainable Housing

Nearly 50% of Millennials we surveyed who are currently renting said they plan to purchase a home in the next two years, despite the pandemic. With many individuals riding out quarantine in one-bedroom apartments or living with roommates, will this be the catalyst for more first-time homebuyers entering the housing market? There was already a significant shortage of this product type, we expect to see the strong demand in this market segment continue to grow.

Thoughtful Storage

Truly, there is never enough storage in a home. While this doesn’t come as a surprise, the idea of being able to store bulk purchases and supplies is now more appealing than ever. Closely behind flexible space, more storage was the second biggest feature that survey respondents were looking for. Additional storage opportunities that make organization easy and leverage clever use of space are a perfect way to set your home apart.

Work From Home

67% of our survey respondents had a dedicated work space in their home, yet over 90% said these spaces were lacking or not ideal. Among the increased home technology and Wi- Fi, will we see a return to formal office spaces and more reliable hard wire connections?

Details Matter

Simple details in the fit and finish of homes like antimicrobial fixtures and finishes, air filtration, and water purification systems can help differentiate products in a competitive market. We have seen very recently that these small details are making positive impacts in sales velocity where they have been implemented.

Private Outdoor Space

Meaningful outdoor space with indoor/outdoor connections in the home is always in demand, but again here, we expect this to become an even bigger focus. Sufficient outdoor space rounded out the top three demands in our survey. This becomes a bigger design challenge in smaller lot and single family attached products. Approaching outdoor spaces with potential homeowner uses in mind (outdoor cooking, space to work out, designated areas for gardening even if it is small, etc.) will help maximize opportunities to create these experiences even when lot space is constrained. They say what is old eventually becomes new again – will we see a return of sleeping porches where opportunities for private outdoor space is limited?

Cassie Cherry, LEED-AP, is the Director of Marketing & Client Relations for Danielian Associates Architects + Planners. She may be reached at ccherry@danielian.com or at 949-474-6030