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Healthy Building Materials and Post-COVID Interior Design Trends

After quarantining at home for the last several months, many of us are ready to admit our homes need a makeover. Aesthetics aside (although not to be altogether ignored), our homes no longer function the way we need them to in a post-COVID world. Newly recognized requisites include easily sterilized surfaces, private spaces for working, access to shared space for family recreation, and greater connection to nature – all contained within our personal abode. If there was ever a time for interior designers to bring their combined powers of creativity, technical proficiency, and space-planning savvy to a project, this is it.


The Rise of Hygienic Standards and Cleanable Materials

Let’s start with a bit of good news: on May 21, 2020, the CDC shared guidance that coronavirus does not spread as easily from surfaces as previously thought. It’s still the case that people can get COVID-19 by touching an infected surface and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes, but the virus mainly spreads from respiratory droplets moving from one person's body to any person's respiratory system. With that said, keeping surfaces clean should still be a top priority. 


As a result, expect easy-to-clean materials and fixtures to become the standard in hygienic design. We previously covered easy-to-clean luxury fabrics and wall coverings in our piece on designing stylish spaces compatible with pets, which hold up well regardless of your reason for needing to clean surfaces frequently. There is new technology as well; for example, Steelcase is working on a line of bleach-cleanable fabrics that would be suitable for high-traffic areas of your home or office. If you’re looking for a more luxurious feel, Bill Keevil, professor of environmental healthcare at the University of Southampton, has been advocating for a return to the mass use of copper, on which the virus can last for only four hours.


In addition to newer inventions in the space, old standards such as easy-to-clean porcelain, quartz, and granite may gain an edge over marble for the time being, because they are nonporous and easier to sterilize. Corian, Silestone, or laminate counter tops like Formica or Wilsonart could also become more popular, especially products with Microban built into the composite. For a similarly easy, but more affordable alternative to copper, stainless steel may gain popularity for appliances and even counter tops and bathroom finishes.


Indoor Air Quality (IAC) will also become a greater area of focus, as people spend more time indoors. Health professionals are touting the virus-mitigating benefits of simply opening windows. In some cases, simply purchasing an air filtration system should make a meaningful impact to IAC. If you’re working on a renovation for a client, examine the current HVAC system and discuss the possibility of improving ventilation throughout the space. 


Design Requests to Take Center Stage Post-COVID


The way we live in our homes has been forever changed by the pandemic. Even if the world resumes its prior pace of external engagement, there is no doubt that we now have a greater awareness of what we like about our living space and what we would change, if we could. Besides, it’s far more likely that given the risk of future pandemic-like events, many people will be seeking ways to balance work and play within the boundaries of their own properties should the need arise again. 


In-Home Upgrades

  • At-Home Gyms: Gyms are high-risk zones for spreading repository diseases like coronavirus, at-home gyms and workout spaces, however big or small, will likely be in high demand in post-COVID projects. And what was once considered a luxury of space no longer has to be the case. Stationary bikes may be all the rage at the moment, but there is a growing list of slim, apartment-sized gym equipment that in many cases fold up and can be stored in a closet when not being used, making efficient use of any room in your house. 
  • Private Nooks: Designers will also be challenged to reconfigure interiors to create more private spaces for each person in the home. While open floor plans used to be all the rage, homes will now need distinctly private zones for each inhabitant to use as an office or simply a quiet retreat. To that extent, designers should focus on soundproofing with warm and inviting materials, such as cork or felt. Unika Vaev and 3form, for example, offer mobile floor screens, partitions, and acoustic panels – items more traditionally used in commercial spaces – that have a warm, residential-friendly aesthetic. Be sure to incorporate good lighting for those at-home video conferencing calls.
  • Outdoor Oases: If you're lucky enough to have outdoor space, designers will turn their attention to creating a magical oasis out of the most paltry tuft of crabgrass. While public parks are beginning to reopen, lingering rules of social distancing may become permanent etiquette, making personal green space a luxury not to be underestimated. If your home does not have an outdoor space, don’t fret: Indoor plants can be arranged to create a stunning indoor garden to approximate the feel of the outdoors. 


Considerations for New Construction

If you’re building from scratch or working on a comprehensive renovation, there are plenty of building procedures and design conventions you can integrate into your project to make them post-COVID friendly. 

  • For starters, increase the amount of building that can be done off site as a prefabrication to decrease the amount of workers onsite. 
  • In the design phase, add a mudroom near the project site’s side door and increase the number of hand washing stations throughout the home. 
  • Consider adding vestibules at the main and side entrances designed for package drop-offs. 
  • Of course, increase storage space and expand your pantries, as you may want the ability to stock up on goods in the future. 
  • While you're at it, add an extra refrigerator and freezer space, if space allows. 
  • If the location of the project site does not allow for an outdoor space, consider how the building can be designed to let in the maximum amount of natural light and a connection to the outdoors


As we spend more time in our homes, we are all reminded how much a warm and inviting abode can increase our quality of life. While challenges brought on by a new, post-COVID way of living make designing a bit of a puzzle, an experienced interior designer has the creativity and skills to make everyone in the home happy, relaxed, and reassured that they have a special place to call their own. 


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Margot LaScala
Margot LaScala
Margot is a writer and interior designer based in the NYC area. She is passionate about keeping up with the latest architecture and design news to not only stay informed, but inspired.

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