With the global health pandemic forcing us to self-isolate, we’ve found ourselves inside of our homes now more than ever before. And we’ve either rediscovered our appreciation for domestic comfort or we’ve found frustration in a space lacking functionality and warmth. In either scenario, most of us are embracing new daily rituals, driving us to re-think comfort in the time of COVID-19.
When our lives do return to some semblance of normality, the home design industry is expecting a boost, especially for designers who incorporate wellness initiatives into their practice. Many commercial design firms already take an approach that prioritizes health, sustainability, and personal space. HKS Chicago and CookFox Architects in New York have both designed WELL Gold Certified offices. The certification is obtained by creating a building that improves the human experience through design.
In the residential space, LEED Certification is becoming an emerging trend. LEED-certified homes meet established criteria for the use of sustainable materials and energy efficiency, among a long list of requirements. According to one design industry leader, homeowners will start to look toward these certifications, as well as other wellness initiatives integrated into their home design.
“I think we’ll see many people re-designing special places in their homes,” says Laura Umansky, founder and creative director of the Laura U Design Collective, a residential design firm based in Houston. “We need homes that allow us to work, teach, relax, and support every practical facet of our lives. But in a beautiful way.”
Practicality will also be influenced by an ever-present reliance to the internet. “Uninterrupted connectivity is now an expectation, not a luxury,” says Umansky. “Remote work is not going to disappear once we’re able to return to our offices. In fact, my firm is making plans to integrate more virtual presentations with clients to meet them where they are, flexibly.”
Umansky’s firm is one of a few residential design firms to offer a “wholistic” experience, integrating the architectural aspects of a home with interior design, interweaving elements of wellness throughout. After more than a decade of focusing exclusively on interiors, Umansky decided to extend her service offerings to meet the evolving needs of her clients. In January, Gina Brown, joined the Laura U Design Collective to lead the ground-up planning for new construction and renovated homes. Together, they have launched a wholistic practice that explores home design in a comprehensive way.
According to the duo, there is one space that will certainly garner a little more attention from now on: the mudroom. “We’re understanding the gravity of keeping our homes germ-free,” says Umansky. “I’m thinking about what that means as soon as we come inside. We’re working on practical sanitation zones, practical storage, and high-performing surfaces that are easy to disinfect.”
And what about home entertaining? “We’re already seeing more requests for custom bar areas and wine cellars,” says Brown, who spent nearly 14 years with a leading architecture firm. “A beautiful bar cart has become a must!”
Photography by: Laura U, Julie Soefer