The American Institute of Architect’s third quarter 2020 Home Design Trends Survey shows a strong jump in the number of home offices, exercise and yoga spaces, flex rooms and indoor quality products being requested by homeowners. Interior designers across the country are seeing the same trends, all of which can be attributed to the pandemic.
Topline Survey Results
The biggest jump on the AIA summary was among home office requests, which more than doubled. Compared to 29% for 2019, 68% of architects shared that clients are asking for these dedicated rooms. That correlates to millions of professional employees being asked to work from home for extended periods.
Flex rooms didn’t make the list last year, but are seeing 43% of architects reporting requests in 2020. Homeowners are looking at the layouts of their homes and determining whether remodels or additions are required for distance learning and other new needs.
Exercise and yoga spaces didn’t make the list in 2019 either. Back then it was easier for busy homeowners to head to a gym or yoga studio to fulfill their fitness needs. The 23% of architects seeing requests now is likely driven by those businesses closing because of Covid lockdowns, then sometimes opening and closing again in select areas of the country. That’s making it hard for people to maintain their fitness when they need it most. Home spaces for fitness are becoming must-haves instead of nice to haves.
Exercise and Yoga Spaces
These areas showing up in client requests are clearly pandemic-driven. “I’m definitely seeing many requests for home gyms,” observes Marina V. Umali, a designer in Ridgewood, New Jersey. She attributes demand not just to shutdowns, but to people’s concerns about being sedentary because of the pandemic. “There’s no commute anymore, the walk to the desk at home is pretty short, and many are looking for ways to get their bodies moving.” She points out that even when gyms and studios are available again, “Some people are still not comfortable going.”
For those who prefer to work out at home, what are clients requesting for these spaces? Tanya Shively, an interior designer in Scottsdale, comments, “Right now, people are putting in full home gyms with all the weight machines and cardio equipment. They are also putting in a full yoga area for mindfulness workouts.”
Amala Raj Swenson in San Diego says her clients are requesting “specialty orthopedic flooring, proper ventilation systems and central air and heat, as needed.” (Many older homes in Southern California close to the coast don’t have central air conditioning systems because of the area’s moderate temperatures.)
Gina Lynch in Kirkland, Washington notes, “We like to install dimmable sconces in the exercise room, because who doesn’t love a low sensory workout to mix it up!”
Shively is seeing increasing demand for work from home spaces. “I am doing home offices for clients who hadn’t included them in their original design,” she notes. “They include making sure they have comfortable seating, a simple desk for a laptop, and a good background for Zoom calls.”
The latter is definitely pandemic-driven, as so many meetings that used to occur in conference rooms are now displaying a participant’s home setting. For many, that needs to reflect a level of professionalism that wasn’t an issue when people weren’t working from home.
For some clients, capacity is a new Covid-related complication. Barrie Spang, a designer in Cleveland, is seeing this in her practice. “The biggest challenge is with my clients who are learning that both of them will now be working from home permanently. Many homes have one office; most don’t have two.”
Pandemic-driven needs for package handling, home organization and added storage, hobbies and distance learning are also creating an urge for flexible space planning at home. Sprang shares, “I have been working with a lot of my clients on creating spaces for online schooling.” One way people are addressing that is to convert existing, currently unused areas of their home. Sprang is seeing that with dining rooms, for example, especially since gatherings are being limited to household members and small “pods” of known associates.
Umali adds, “The trend that I’m seeing is people using more of their homes now, rather than the small percentage of the footprint before. The potential of home space is finally being realized.”
Indoor Air Quality
This trend is being driven by the pandemic and, most likely, the smoke and ash from wildfires that are creating unhealthy living in many Western states. This has hit San Francisco-based designer Daniel Smith’s region particularly hard. “Air quality is currently a significant concern here in the Bay Area. One client is rethinking plans for a major renovation on an older home. We’re weighing the upgrades necessary to provide highly filtered indoor air against the prospect of buying a newer home with better HVAC either nearby or somewhere less prone to wildfires,” he shares.
Suzanne Donegan in Santa Monica sees it too: “Demand is up among health-conscious consumers who are requesting products that boost healthier home and work environments.” Popular products include ozone-free air purifiers, air cleaning appliances and smart home systems with indoor air quality management.