By Larry Wilson, IIDA, ASID
Benefits from the COVID-19 pandemic? Yep, it’s true. Sometimes it takes a crisis to make a breakthrough in our life—the pandemic is one of those cases.
The pandemic—in the beginning we resented it, hated it, and longed to get out of the house. Once reality set in, we realized we were in for the long haul. After endless hours of mind-numbing net surfing, TikTok-ing, and streaming until we couldn’t see straight, we began to think: “How can I make my home environment better—make it fit my new way of living and working at home?”
First, how do we make our homes flexible, efficient, and adaptable to multitasking? A dining table becomes an office worktable, a kitchen counter becomes a craft center, the family room becomes an impromptu gym. I am sure you agree that we should get some sort of award for being so flexible. But we need more, hours and hours of being in the same spaces has made us antsy and wanting better solutions. We were only a few months into the pandemic when our minds started to fantasize and dream: “How can I make this even better?” Our eyes began to wander from room to room: “How can I make my spaces more responsive to how I live my life?”
We began to question what home means and what it should do for us. Our sensitivities began to sharpen, and we were really learning how to understand space. This space we call home needs to be a safe place, offering comfort and security. It also needs to entertain us, inspire us, and challenge us to live a better quality of life. Then something remarkable started to happen—we began to see, I mean really see, our living spaces. I’m not just talking about the surface stuff like the pretty furniture or amazing artwork but the real essence of the space. This new sensitivity has changed our perception of house and home forever. It is no longer good enough just for it to look good, but now it must feel good—wait, not good, great. The difference is we now understand our lifestyle and how the quality of our spaces can be created by the way light filters into the room, how the ceiling height gives us a feeling of freedom, or how lower ceilings offer us a warm, cozy retreat from the hard, cruel world. Simply just decorating your home can feel purely cosmetic. Our homes need to have soul, depth, and integrity. The spaces should reflect who we are and how we live our lives.
Many times, if you are really honest, we have done things in our homes because that is the way our parents did it. That’s not good enough anymore and it doesn’t reflect how we actually use our homes—our machines for living. The necessity of having to spend so much concentrated time in the house has forced us to rethink it all.
I’m talking about great quality of life rather than just living life. There are things that can be done, without much effort, that will allow our homes to become a sanctuary, a place of comfort and calmness. Let’s start with how you enter and leave your house every day and what that experience is. Most of us usually park in a garage and enter through a clutter of bikes, toys, boxes of Christmas decorations, and things we can’t live without. It has always perplexed me as to why we spend thousands and thousands of dollars buying and improving our homes but then reward ourselves with this kind of first and last experience. So, clean it up, spruce it up, and make your entry and exit sequence a time of joy. You are the ones who have worked long and hard to get a beautiful home, so why do only the guests and delivery people get the nice entry?
Other than the bedroom, the majority of our time at home is spent in the kitchen, traditionally the prime gathering space for our family and friends. Let’s address it and make it not only highly functional but also comfortable for gatherings and interaction. By creating specific zones for different functions, you can allow areas for gathering without impeding the workflow of meal preparation and clean up. This will also position the cook to be in the middle of the action rather than sequestered away from the fun. Create counters with stools for perching. Maybe add a small seating alcove or even a lounge seating area immediately next to the kitchen. Enhance and embellish it all by installing lighting that is highly functional along with good, efficient task lighting. Once that is accomplished, add some decorative lighting for a little drama and sparkle. Put all of the lights on dimmers so you have ultimate control of how they feel and function.