Photo credit: Illustration by Leonie Bos
Photo credit: Illustration by Leonie Bos

From ELLE Decor

In the months since the COVID-19 pandemic began wreaking havoc on our way of life, it’s become clear that things may not return to the way they were. And that’s not a bad thing. Residential design has always evolved during times of crisis, meeting the demands of the moment. Here, the experts forecast how our homes will change after the dust settles.

Photo credit: Illustration by Leonie Bos
Photo credit: Illustration by Leonie Bos


Deborah Berke, Dean of the Yale School of Architecture: Spending more time at home with family, working and learning remotely, being more mindful of the relationship between indoors and outdoors—all of these experiences have implications for how we will design houses going forward. We should focus on use, asking more often, “What three things can happen in this room…?” People need places where they can be together with family, but also places where they can be alone to reflect, to learn, to recharge.

Jenny & Anda French, architects: In a post-COVID world, consider how life might become more multigenerational, with extended family moving in. For us that aligns with the form of collective housing known as cohousing.

Joy Moyler, designer: There will be a return to cork walls for reduction of sound transmission. We’ll also use more efficient window-glazing films to reduce screen glare on monitors and enhance video presentations.

Tura Cousins Wilson, architect: COVID hasn’t so much changed but reaffirmed the way I think we’ll be living in the future. It let people see they can work remotely and stay in their communities. Even before, people were meeting for work outside of the office in places like cafés. COVID is accelerating these trends.

Toshiko Mori, architect: Architects need to invent improved typologies of houses, and housing that better responds to diverse communities of residents and their accompanying cultures and lifestyles. This must include the potential for shared spaces as well as the ability to isolate within the house compound. In addition, there needs to be greater consideration for artificial and natural ventilation and lighting strategies in order to maintain good interior air quality and mental well-being.

Photo credit: Illustration by Leonie Bos
Photo credit: Illustration by Leonie Bos


Thomas Kligerman, architect: With this era comes the end of partners’ desks. Often, in the past, a couple living together would share a study, but we’re seeing a shift away from that. There is now a demand for two workrooms, one to each person.

Joy Moyler: Large tables will accommodate dining and pod class instruction. Technology will continue to be implemented via smart devices throughout the home.

Deborah Berke: Time spent at home must distinguish between group activities and those that require solitude. Being alone is a good thing that needs to be designed for—a place where you can work by yourself and be acoustically separated from the other activities of the house. Ideally this space will also have a door, and a window with a view outside.

Emily Farnham, architect: I’m as guilty as the next designer of celebrating the open floor plan for its entertaining value, but living in one giant echo chamber is certainly less appealing now, isn’t it? A few well-placed doors might save you from Zooming in your laundry room or podcasting from your closet—and might also give your children a chance to truly focus during their online lesson.

Photo credit: Illustration by Leonie Bos
Photo credit: Illustration by Leonie Bos


Toshiko Mori: In light of the discovery that the virus is airborne, the ability for a residence to smoothly transition from a collective living environment to a cluster of isolated zones becomes essential to stop transmission. New residential designs must include robust air ventilation and filtration strategies to optimize indoor air quality. The need for natural ventilation and sunlight exposure also becomes an important aspect of well-being, as views to the outdoors can provide respite from relentless patterns of online work and learning.

Reiulf Ramstad, architect: We’d already observed, before the pandemic, how important well-being has become in our daily lives. People are more interested now in monitoring their health, in investing in professional services, and in devoting time to physical activity. Personal saunas and cold-water baths are very popular in most Scandinavian cities. Post-COVID, we expect to see these requests amplified.

Thomas Kligerman: We’re installing a lot of outdoor heaters and heated floors on porches, and they can be screened. If you live in Boston, for example, doing this will extend the time you can spend outside into the colder months. These spaces could be used as places for ill family members to safely convalesce.

Deborah Berke: As the distinction becomes blurred between home life and work life, we will need to design for respite and provide ways to draw boundaries around some practices. How the home is connected to the outdoors—to views, light, and air—and offers spaces to recharge will become particularly valued.

Tura Cousins Wilson: I think a lot about humanity’s collective health. It doesn’t start or end with COVID. Our buildings and homes must be more eco-friendly. Homes should all be net-zero and buildings should emit lower amounts of carbon. We need to recycle building materials and make everything more sustainable—from appliances and lighting to sources of energy for heating and cooling. That way we can rally.

Photo credit: Illustration by Leonie Bos
Photo credit: Illustration by Leonie Bos


Toshiko Mori: Now that it’s much more common to work from home, there must be a dedicated area of the home to conduct work, as well as a complementary area to relax. This space doesn’t need to be large, but should be separate enough that one can feel away from work while still being at home.

Thomas Kligerman: Everything you used to go out to do for exercise, you can now do at home. We’re being asked to create rooms for virtual golfing. The clients don’t cite COVID-19 as the reason they’re making these requests. But what’s implied is that we’re planning on being at home more.

Jenny & Anda French: Hopefully, when the pandemic is over, what we will have learned is that we can still have meaningful connections, and that technology is coming to terms with what that looks like. We need furniture and environments that are better suited to this. We are designing experimental sculptural pieces that integrate digital media with furniture to create more purposeful and visceral virtual engagement.

Emily Farnham: The pandemic takeaway is that garages should be planned for conversion to recreation rooms. I’ve just revisited a new-construction project I have on the boards to make sure the required garage has everything it needs to transform it into something more essential in the future. We’ve added a few windows, created a connection to a side garden, and run future plumbing and HVAC capability to the space so that conversion will be less of an endeavor.

Deborah Berke: We’ve always thought a lot about how to shape space through light and make connections to the outdoors, but as I’ve spent more time at home, I’ve been paying more attention to acoustics and how sound fills spaces. We recently designed a house for a family of music lovers. The open living area was conceived to accommodate a grand piano, so music is at the heart of the family zone. We also designed smaller spots that can be used for practicing.

Photo credit: Illustration by Leonie Bos
Photo credit: Illustration by Leonie Bos


Tura Cousins Wilson: More homes will become multigenerational. This is in part due to culture: A lot of families come from diverse traditions where generations of a family live together. There is potential for a shared backyard. You might have a triplex home, for instance, with grandparents on one level, parents on another, and children or aunts on another. And everyone gathers in the yard for activities and barbecues.

Joy Moyler: Homes will be divided into more distinct quiet and noisy zones—for entertainment, learning, and relaxation. The kitchen will continue to grow and dominate as the public space; two ovens will accommodate more home cooking. Large rooms will be multipurpose for arts and entertainment.

Toshiko Mori: A screened, well-ventilated porch can serve as an ideal dining and entertaining space. Cooking can migrate outdoors and, by extension, the kitchen becomes a social space of gathering where family and friends come together, cook together, and eat together in an informal setting.

Reiulf Ramstad: Outdoor spaces are attractive and safe for meeting with family and friends. But in some weather they might need a little nudge, like covered sitting areas and firepits.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

This story originally appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of ELLE Decor. SUBSCRIBE

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