The pandemic has turned a great many of us into homebodies, and given that Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), recently warned that we shouldn’t expect to return to “some semblance of normality” until at least the end of 2021, the coming year will see us continuing to invest in our homes. That may mean taking the leap from couch desk to proper desk, perfecting your living room gym, buying more plants to add a little nature to your space, or trying out any other number of strategies to bolster the comfort, functionality, and boundaries of our living spaces.
“The changes to our homes brought on by the pandemic fall into two categories: stopgap measures that involve short-term updates and adjustments, and lifestyle changes that will likely stick with us in some form,” says Eve Epstein, vice president content, media, of the home and design website Hunker. “Of course, most people don’t have a bunch of extra rooms lying around, just waiting to be converted into offices or classrooms or yoga studios. So another big storyline has been solutions for multi-functional spaces.”
For many, simplifying our spaces will allow us to view our homes as retreats from, rather than sources of, stress. “People are taking the time to clear out all those extra items that they realize they don’t really need and focus on what makes them happy in their home,” says Bobby Berk, interior designer and co-host of Netflix’s Queer Eye. Not only will people seek to declutter, but they will be more mindful about the products they buy, investing in quality over quantity.
“People are taking the time to clear out all those extra items that they realize they don’t really need and focus on what makes them happy in their home.” —Bobby Berk
In fact, investing in quality items for the home has perhaps never been more important than now for those who find themselves newly working from home—and needing to cultivate a remote office environment from which to log on. “Working from home—for those of us fortunate enough to be able to do our jobs remotely—is here to stay,” says Epstein, who notes that Hunker has seen a huge demand from its audience for desks, so much so that retailers have been struggling to keep them in stock. To address demand, office furniture suppliers have pivoted from fulfilling bulk orders for companies to small orders from weary workers sick of typing from their couches, beds, or baths.
“There’s a new wave of dual-purpose furniture, and I’m seeing more investment in the crossover between good, well-built staples, like a dining table to anchor a room that can also be used as a desk,” says Larry Cohn, principal architect at Shadow Architects in New York. “If your space is really tight, or you have the opportunity to create a separate room for work by installing a fold-away bed that can be a desk area during the day, then go for it.” Indeed, the wall bed market is expected to grow from nearly $1.45 billion to $2.34 billion by the end of 2026, indicating that we can expect rooms to continue prioritizing their multi-functional, transformative potential.
By maximizing the square footage in our homes with functional furniture intended to serve our varying needs (like by working in the same room where we sleep and talking to our therapists at the kitchen table), the struggle to maintain boundaries between the workspace and personal space is real. That’s why next year, we’ll be using technology to create a mental barrier between work and rest when a physical one isn’t possible. “You can engage all five senses to create boundaries for a clear separation between work and life,” says interior designer Laura Britt, president and managing principal at Britt Design Group in Austin. One way she recommends doing this is by “scene setting” with light. “Lighting can be used to signal your brain that work is done for the day, or that it’s time to sleep,” she says. A slew of new smart lighting products slated for a 2021 release from Dyson, Phillips, Lutron, and Bios Lighting will make it easy to flip the switch to “relax mode” when the time is right.
Sound—or lack thereof—can also help set the right mood. Razer, Jabra, and Anker have all released noise-canceling headphones in the last quarter of the year, and Bose will introduce a new pair meant to work as well on your run as on your next conference call. Loftie and Hatch, meanwhile, launched alarm clocks that double as white noise machines in April and May, respectively, indicating that many of our devices are becoming as multi-purpose as our spaces.
In addition to tech, many folks are investing in art as a way to set a calming mood in their homes, says Jeanne Anderson, senior vice president and general manager of online art gallery and artist network Saatchi Art, which saw an “enormous increase” in sales this year. “A well-designed, harmonious environment can absolutely contribute to overall mental health. Abstract art, in particular, is popular for that reason—gentle shapes, brushstrokes, and soft colors can be deeply soothing and help you relax in your room,” she says. To help clients find the art to best meet their emotional needs, Saatchi launched the Art for Your Mood collection this fall.
“2021 will continue the trend that started in 2020 with people investing into renovating and decorating their spaces,” says Julie Matrat, senior vice president and general manager at global art marketplace Society6. The past year has led many to view the home in a different light (perhaps even literally with lighting upgrades). Into 2021, we’ll continue thinking creatively about how to transform the spaces where we spend so much of our time—pandemic or not—into the sanctuaries that truly support our multifaceted lives.
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