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How a Year-and-a-Half at Home Changed Our Approach to Design

If you’ve ordered a new sofa or a dining room table in the past year, you likely learned that staring at the same four walls for 550 days now led approximately half the country to do the same. It seems everyone is revamping, redecorating, and refreshing, and home furnishings manufacturers can barely keep up with the demand. So, how are designers faring? 

Several designers and design experts shared how the past year and a half at home has impacted their work. From the way they conduct business and how they’ve negotiated lead times to what clients are prioritizing and the changes they are making in their own homes, this is what the design world looks like now. 

Focus on Work That’s the Right Fit

The pandemic slowed everything down, for better or for worse. Designers have always known how long it takes to produce and execute great designs but homeowners haven’t always been aware of realistic timelines. It's always been an education process but, especially now, with excruciatingly long lead times and how busy everyone is, our clients are getting a crash course in how long things take. Where we used to be able to work around long lead times, now, if we want it done right, we just have to wait. No amount of money can speed up the process. And since everyone is basically drowning in work (no complaints!), we have the luxury of turning away work that isn't the right fit. The pandemic gave me the opportunity to really think hard about how I want to run my business, how I want to run projects, and the type of work I want.” — Killy Scheer, Scheer & Co.

Maximize the Space You Have

The design world is a totally different world than pre-COVID. For clients, I think everyone is realizing how important their home space really is. This place where you lay your head at night has all of the sudden become a space where you also eat, workout, work, spend time with family, and live your entire day. So, I think everyone is starting to realize how important this space is and the adjustments they need to make to maximize the space they have.” — Shaolin Low, Studio Shaolin

Create a Sense of Peace at Home

“The pandemic strengthened the idea of the home as a sanctuary. Without being about to find that peace and grounding elsewhere, my clients came to me to transform their homes into more calm, de-cluttered, peaceful spaces for them to work and live in.”  — McCall Dulkys of Interiors by McCall

A Perfect Storm of Busy and Necessary

“Business has been absolutely wild. Who would have ever thought? The evolution of people valuing their homes in different ways has been refreshing and past due. Meanwhile, layering in lead time issues and production delays, it’s a recipe we have never seen before.” — Charlotte Staton, Charlotte Staton Design

Comfort and Privacy are Critical

“I think there is no longer room in our homes for purely aesthetic choices that aren’t functional. I want everything in my home to serve a purpose and offer added function (or be exceptionally comfortable) after so much time spent at home. The only choice I would have considered making differently is prioritizing aiding French doors to our sunroom, which also doubles as an office because fully open concept homes are overrated! I now value privacy and quiet so much more. That being said, with home being so important, I am grateful to have invested in making it a place I love.” — Erin Kestenbaum

Focus on Outdoor Entertaining and Bold Choices

“I've seen a huge resurgence on thinking about how we can entertain small groups of friends and family within our pod, both indoors and outdoors. Exposed bar trays for that "serve yourself" casual mentality, additional seating that can be tucked away when not in use and pulled out for entertaining, comfortable patio seating, and lighting for safe cocktail hours. 

More clients are also apt to taking risks in an elevated way. Wanting their spaces to feel designed and their zoom backgrounds to be interesting. Wallpaper, architectural wall treatments, or really personality-driven art choices have been exceptionally popular.” — Melissa Oholendt, Oho Interiors

Living in the Now

“The biggest shift in design I have seen in the past year is how the value people put on their home has changed. People are more willing to invest in their homes, and place greater value on it being a place that is comfortable and brings them joy. No longer are people wanting to "wait until the kids are older" to make their home what they want it to be, but instead, they now see the value in making their home beautiful and comfortable at every stage of their life. Thanks to the abundance of high performance fabrics and stain treatment options, people can rest easy knowing that their investment is protected.” — Lindsey Black, Lindsey Black Interiors

Bring the Outside In

“The past year has been an invitation to reflect on what’s happening on the inside –– of ourselves and our homes. I’m seeing a lot more consciousness of how a space is used, what’s in that space. and how the items in that room were made. People are craving more soul-filled homes that serve a purpose and function for their daily lives. We’re seeing calming, nature-inspired palettes, clean lines, and a desire to bring the outdoors in. I’ve been leaving our doors open as often as possible, bringing in pit-fired ceramics, and foraging for branches to bring inside.” — Lisa Tornello, Millroad Studio

Spaces that Create Memories

“After spending so much time at home and inside, I really wanted our outdoor space to feel like an extension of our home for the short New England summer we have. We added dining furniture, umbrellas and a sectional so we could enjoy the space as a family. Simple things like eating dinner outside and growing our own strawberries have helped us to create lasting memories as a family.” — Rachael Gendrolis, Penny and Pearl Design

Custom Pieces to Avoid Long Lead Times

"In many ways, I think that the year at home has encouraged designers to incorporate more custom pieces in their work than ever before. Many reputable brands’ lead times can approach 30 weeks with ease, so relying on local workrooms to produce upholstered pieces and case goods has been a saving grace. Not only that, but for me personally, it’s made me think more creatively than ever; designing a custom piece and tailor-making it to a client’s specifications, focusing on all the tiny details, is a thoroughly enjoyable process, along with the ability to mix different textiles in unexpected manners. I’ve long appreciated the custom process, but now many of my clients are approaching the thought of custom (and coming to terms with not having a prior “sit test”!) with open arms as it lends itself to lesser lead times (12–16 for many, as opposed to the latter). This, I hope, has increased the trust level between myself and my clients." — Jeremy D. Clark, Jeremy D. Clark Studio 

Buying, Selling, and Swapping

“With everyone spending more time at home, we’ve seen people coming to Facebook Marketplace for functional furniture to optimize every square foot of space without sacrificing their personal style. For my own home’s design, I wanted to create a space that is equally as comfortable as it is stylish and functional. For example, I needed to convert our guest room into my home office/studio, so I sold our queen bed and found a mid-century sleeper sofa that was just the right size on Marketplace a few days later. Now, that room serves as a functional office and studio space, while also having just enough room to comfortably accommodate guests.” — Sonia Sroka, Facebook Marketplace Spokesperson

Shuffle Spaces Without Renovating

“I have prioritized functionality over aesthetic. Early on, I spent some time taking inventory of many spaces and how often we used various pieces of furniture. We found by moving a few rooms around, we could make better use of our home. We added a home office and converted our den into a large master bedroom which allowed us to create a new playroom for our girls. All of these changes required no major renovations!  It was truly just a shuffling of spaces for a fresh look and better functionality.” — Amy Mings, Maison de Mings

Now is Not the Time to Put Off Projects

“This year has given clients a deeper appreciation for their home. Every client new and old has relayed the desire to finish a room, or renovate that neglected kitchen, bath or even pool area.  The trend has been toward the comfortable polished home. Flexible space has become a key player. The home office is no longer the kitchen table, it now has a dedicated quiet zone area.” — Janice Burkhart, Burkhart Interiors