Will Corona Virus change home designs in the future?

Will Corona Virus change home designs in the future?
Published on March 23, 2020,08:00 am by Amanda Lauren for Forbes.com

In the middle of a pandemic, as many cities and communities are on lockdown, with most of us practicing social distancing— we have plenty of time to think about the future. How will COVID-19 change the way we live in our homes? As a collective society, we’ve all become more cognizant of germs and how illness spreads. 

Is the future of homes germ-free? That's absolutely impossible. But how we live inside our current homes, the way we renovate, and build new ones will likely reflect our collective fear of another pandemic.

According to Alison Koch of Outfit Home, any surface that has some level of germ resistance will be more in-demand going forward. “I think cleanable surfaces will be at the forefront of designers' and clients' minds for the foreseeable future.”

She is predicting one positive effect of the pandemic could be new innovations in building materials. “I’d love to see new technology in counters and surfaces that hold less bacteria or are easier to clean for both commercial and residential applications.”

The pandemic will also change how we utilize the spaces in our homes. For years, master suites have been one of the biggest design trends. In new homes, they’re practically considered standard. While they won’t fall out of favor, mudrooms and dedicated home offices may likely supersede master suites as selling points.

Here are some of the ways interior design is likely to change in a post coronavirus world. 

Luxury Vinyl Flooring Will Replace Laminate Flooring 

According to Floor Covering News, sales of luxury vinyl tile (LVT) increased from nearly $750 million in 2012 to $3.687 billion in 2018, while sales of laminate flooring have declined. Unlike other alternatives to wood flooring, LVT has the aesthetic of wood at a better price point and is far superior to laminate and wood veneer flooring in terms of containing the spread of germs.  

“As far as flooring goes, laminates are not ideal for avoiding bacterial growth due to the engineering and the lifespan of the flooring. If looking for a product, I highly recommend luxury vinyl flooring, which is a hard plastic waterproof flooring that will not break down,” says Thomas Jeffrey, owner of Deep Blue Construction and Easy Bids contractor tells me. 

“The material itself has an antimicrobial built in the finishing process. You can also put any kind of cleaning solution on it, such as bleach, steam, and disinfectants, over and over without damaging the material and keeping your family safe,” he explains.

But the benefits of LVT flooring are nothing new. Florida-based interior designer Lisa Gilmore has recommended this type of flooring for a long time. “I have been a fan of LVT flooring for about ten years for this exact reason—cleanliness, durability and removing more opportunities for illness to spread.”

Cork Flooring Will Become More Commonplace 

Cork Flooring is another great choice for a cleaner home. It’s naturally antimicrobial and water-resistant, which helps prevent mold and mildew. “Cork flooring has been around for decades but gained popularity more recently since it is a sustainable and eco-friendly material,” Amanda Amato of AMA Designs tells me. “It’s a natural material that is biodegradable. So, it will break down at the end of its lifecycle. It’s also cost-effective. Depending on the thickness, it can start as low as $2 per square foot.”

Cork also appeals to anyone trying to prioritize wellness. Amato notes the cushioned surface is ideal for people with knee and back problems. This flooring is also anti-static, making it resistant to dust, allergens and other toxins.

But unlike synthetics, it’s not very durable. “Cork is susceptible to scratches, heavy appliances or items can leave indents on the floor. Sunlight can discolor it and it’s not waterproof, so spills must be wiped before they stain,” she says.

More People Will Opt For Antimicrobial Ceramic Tile

While it’s rarely marketed this way, ceramic tile is useful for preventing the spread of germs. “Ceramic tile is another positive way to keep your family safe from bacteria because it is a solid surface that does not break down with the use of steam or cleaning solutions,” says Jeffrey.

Tiles with Microban technology may end up at the forefront of this. Microban is a company that incorporates antimicrobial technology into a variety of products from building materials like ceramic and grout to consumer cleaning products like Microban 24, which is formulated to protect against bacterial growth for 24 hours. 

However, it’s crucial to be realistic about much protection a surface really has. In a statement regarding the coronavirus outbreak, Microban’s website states: “The active technology itself may be effective against viruses in pure state, but not when incorporated into a product. Microban antimicrobial product protection works to minimize damaging microbial growth on the surface of products, ensuring they remain cleaner and fresher between cleanings.”

Still, every small decision ultimately adds up to a cleaner home. 

Copper Will Become The New Stainless Steel  

Copper isn’t only aesthetically pleasing and a warmer alternative to other finishes, but it’s also more sanitary, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that was funded by the National Institute of Health. Research showed that the novel coronavirus survived for only four hours on copper versus 72 hours on stainless steel. 

Naomi Neilson, who is the founder and CEO of Native Trails, which makes sinks and bathtubs from 100% recycled copper tells me, “Kitchen and bathroom sinks are among the most frequently used items in the home, so opting for a copper sink can play a powerful role in maintaining a truly sanitary environment. It is a beautiful, sustainable, and highly practical material.”

Touchless And Voice-Controlled Technology Will Become More Prevalent

For a while now, I have been seeing people move toward more smart home features, touchless sensors and voice command,” says Gilmore. These innovations will no longer be seen merely as conveniences or luxuries, but as necessary features.  

Take the LG InstaView with Craft Ice for example. It can make craft cocktail ice with voice commands. While this isn’t something most people are thinking about at the given moment, this technology is a sign of a larger trend to come, perhaps doors that open with voice command, likely in the next generation of models from a variety of manufacturers.

Other features include app-controlled temperature settings, as well as being able to see inside the fridge by knocking on the door instead of opening it.

Considering the grocery store lines across the country right now, any feature that can help keep food fresher longer will have greater appeal.

Touchless technology will have continued integration into smaller appliances and gadgets as well. Take motion-activated products like Simplehuman’s sensor pump soap dispenser for example. We’re all washing our hands more often and soap dispensers are likely to be one of the dirtiest surfaces in our homes. 

Mudrooms Will Become Essential

John McDonald, Founder & CEO of Semihandmade is a proponent of these spaces. “Since COVID-19 will be a big part of our lives for the foreseeable future, practicing good hygiene is imperative to smart living. Adding a mudroom area is a great way to mitigate all of the germs we come into contact with while out in public,” he says.

But new research shows that germs inside the home, especially on shoes, can be a major contributor to the spread of disease. “The average shoe harbors hundreds if not thousands of bacteria,” Ersilia Pompilio RN, MSN,PNP tells me. “Charles Gerba, microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona, and The Rockport Company, found large numbers of bacteria both on the bottom and inside of shoes. Microorganisms become mobile and then get tracked all over the house.”

With the CDC advising people to avoid wearing outdoor clothing and shoes inside, there is very likely to be a cultural shift towards shoe removal in the United States, thus more emphasis placed on the necessity of mudrooms.

But if you don’t have a mudroom and your family is healthy, Pompilio shares there’s no reason to be alarmed. “This generally will not make a healthy person sick, but if small children, allergies, and immunocompromised individuals are in the home, it's best to take off your shoes and clean them with detergent.”

Home Offices Will Become A Major Selling Point For New Homes

In a matter of weeks, many people with “nonessential jobs” have been forced to work from home. At the same time, parents who never considered homeschooling their children are facing the inevitable. And anyone who was on the fence about building out a dedicated home office is likely regretting that decision. 

Writer Celeste Brash tells me she’s been left scrambling. “I’m currently cleaning out a detached garage in hopes of turning it into an office. It was in the plans four years ago when we moved in. But now the space is full of my husband's random crap. He's stuck out of the country, so I'm now going to make this place more useful.” 

Gina Hughes, who is an IT project manger in New York, shares that she’s found a creative solution to this problem. “Two weeks ago my daughter had a bedroom and playroom. Anticipating this work from home scenario, we switched things around. She now has my bedroom and I took over her room and her playroom is now my office.”

Although this isn’t the perfect solution, it does have some additional benefits . “She clearly has too many toys, they all can’t fit in my old large size master bedroom, so some of the large toys reside in my office. It’s a nice break when she wants to play with the leftover toys, forces me to take a break from work and spend some time with her.”

Co-founder of High Fashion Home Dolley Frearson is also predicting a shift towards more home office space and shared workspaces at home. “One can only work for so long on the dining table or kitchen counter table without getting distracted by the kids or sitting uncomfortably for too long,” she says.

Frearson even converted her own study into a co-working space. “We made it feel more like a library with a larger communal dining table in the middle. With laptops and less bulky computers being used, one can float a nice table instead of a traditional executive desk. It also creates a nice flex space for more than one to share and it's great space for the kids to study and for fun craft projects,” she says.

As homes become intergenerational versions of WeWork, we don’t know what’s coming next, but we are all doing our best to prepare for it.