As I am writing this, I am cold. With temperatures in the teens in Houston, I am grateful that we still have power and heat in the PHD studio but it is extremely cold for our area. I’m worried about my family and friends who don’t have any heat at all.
What a year it has been and how much focus has been on the home! We probably take for granted that our homes will keep us warm and safe but with global pandemics and extreme weather, even our home environments have been hard pressed to serve all our needs, from the highest level of technology to even the most basic ones.
This has become an important discussion in the design world – how design must adapt to our new ways of living. It started with conversations about the ways in which office buildings are changing. It’s quickly morphed into a residential topic as well. Since many of us have barely left home for more than a year, home has become central to everything we do. Obviously, some changes need to be made as we spend more and more time at home with no real end in sight.
In an effort to return to some normalcy in the design world, Diane Cowen and the Houston Chronicle have invited me to participate in the next Access/Design event at the Houston Design Center. I will be presenting “2020 Vision — Design Lessons Learned” on Thursday, March 4. Ticketing for the in-person event is limited due to social distancing. (The November 2020 event sold out!) Tickets for in-person attendance are just $10 each. I attended the November event and felt very comfortable. Appropriate COVID protocols were followed and we were able to maintain social distancing easily.
Of course, technology has been a saving grace over the last year so you can also tune in virtually. Watch Pamela’s session at 5 pm on Thursday, March 4 on Facebook Live with Diane Cowen or via Instagram Live with Pamela Hope Designs. You may also watch this 2-day event at no charge on Facebook Live with Diane Cowen.
I’ll cover this topic at length with lots of real-world examples and photos of projects that illustrate them. In the interim, here are some of the changes the design world is expecting to see stick around for a while.
1.) Open floor plans – Once the darling of buyers everywhere, many families have found that open floor plans are not as conducive to full-time family living, especially with extended work and study from home situations. From noises like dogs barking and someone making a snack in the kitchen to background images of a baby running naked across the room, both parents and children need spaces where they can focus and limit distractions.
Thus, many families are finding the need to carve out more private work and study spaces. If you are lucky enough to have a home office or a study, those rooms are ideal candidates. We had a client who moved both Mom and one child into the home office so study time could be monitored during the mother’s working hours. Other clients have had us help them accommodate two working adults into the home office, while we have seen others share dining tables and set up desks in bedrooms – both the guest bedroom as well as the primary.
Sometimes, the best option can even be a CLOSET! In fact, Pinterest has helped popularize the term “cloffice.” Carving a usable space out of an unused closet is not really a new concept. Above and at right are two former closets that we turned into a vanity and a bar respectively.
However, these days we are seeing more closets being used as functioning workspaces or small home offices. They range from a pretty desk installed in a glamorous closet like this one on the left from Traditional Home by way of Digs Digs or they are truly a small closet space outfitted with shelves and a desk to provide a compact work area.
Below, this cloffice by Suzana of My Farmhouse-ish is super cute and feminine. I love how Suzana shares step-by-step instructions on how to build the desk and shelves, and then covers how to create the herringbone accent wall.
We have a beautiful project that we are pitching for a feature story in a magazine. It has a nifty little office space tucked under the stairs. We can’t share the fantastic finished shots yet, but here are a few progress photos during construction.
Even pre-pandemic times, one of our first questions to new clients was, “How many workspaces do you need in the home?” Often, the clients said none or one but if there was more than one adult in the home, we always tried to provide at least two viable work areas. We heard from several of these clients early last spring thanking us for suggesting this because it has made work from home much easier and more productive.
With many children studying from home, the number of needed workspaces has increased for a lot of households. Even a tiny space can work. The trick is to have an area where you can spread out your work or school items and have a little quiet so that you can concentrate.
While working from home in an open format house might not be the best option, there are many things you can do to create spaces and separation. One of our favorite tools is the use of area rugs. As well as improving acoustics in open floor plans, rugs can create destinations such as a lounge area, a conversation pit or a dining nook. In fact, check out our blog post on “Tips for Choosing a Rug: Style, Material, Care & Budget“.
Dual-use furniture is another good solution. We have a client with a gate-leg table that sits behind a sofa to help separate her living area from the kitchen. She often uses the table as a desk, eats small meals there during the day or pulls it out and sets it up as a full table for large family gatherings (remember those?😢 )
Farmhouse & Cottage is a source for a similar table (shown here) that you might consider incorporating into your own home.
Another client who is moving from Austin, has a great room in her new condo. She needs a desk since she will be working remotely for the foreseeable future. There is a small alcove off the front door, but it has no window and feels a bit cramped. We suggested that she purchase a pretty desk to sit in her bay window. During the day, she’ll have a bright space to work with a pretty view of the neighborhood and at night it will serve as a charming side table with a lamp.
Another design trick from the past that we are seeing more of is the use of folding screens. Decorative screens have a been a designer favorite for hundreds of years, as a versatile way to provide division and privacy. There are many attractive versions on the market from bargain finds to luxury levels. On the right, I’m showing one example of a decorative screen available from Wayfair.
Another gorgeous example of using folding screens in your home is shown in the example below from Elle Decor. The article itself does a great job of featuring numerous ways to divide large floor plans for more intimate spaces that meet a variety of needs.
The need to create private spaces and personal offices is again on the rise and commercial buildings are benefiting from screens and wall dividers as well. This system by Gravity Lock is a clever way to create separation within an office. My colleague who sells these has also used them in residential projects. He said this system is sold as “furniture” since the pieces can be moved and configured in many ways.
Improving interior environments always inspires me. It’s heartening to see positive changes come out of difficult situations. I hope that 2020 has produced improvements that will serve us well for years to come. Until next time, find your own inspiration or call us and we’ll help you discover it.