Considering Our Homes from Quarantine

Mere months ago it was rare for the majority of us to spend 24 hours a day hunkered down in our homes. Prior to COVID-19, our houses acted more like a nest that we flitted in and out of throughout the day, returning in the evenings to roost. This was true even if, like me, you typically worked from a home office. We go out to eat, head to the store, meet a friend for coffee, pick up the kids from school- in and out all day long. Because none of that is happening right now, we are suddenly forced to really think about how we live in our homes and how they are – or aren’t – working for us.

At this moment in time the world is consumed with figuring out how to live within completely new parameters – working remotely, educating children, keeping the fridge stocked, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, and constantly running the dishwasher. It’s… a lot.

Homes that have previously worked well for our lives are now presenting us with challenges that we have never foreseen. We are having to carve out quiet corners where we can accomplish things we simply didn’t need to do at home before – places for children to learn, separate spots for dueling conference calls, and comfortable nooks to sit with laptops and attempt to get our jobs done. Even those of us who have established home-based businesses are struggling to figure out how to move forward and get things done with a whole new set of rules. Two people on conferences calls at once… how does that happen exactly? Kids who are attempting to experiment with every single art supply in the world… where is this going down? Don’t get me started on the topic of everyone in the house needing space to get some energy out while it rains for days and days and days… April showers and all.

Interior design by Sarah Gee Interiors. Photo by Anna Herbst Photography

While I’ve always had flexibility in the back of my mind when designing homes, my definition of the word has shifted drastically over these past several weeks. Originally, I considered flexibility as finding ways to make homes work in regards to fluctuating numbers of people and varied social situations – holiday family celebrations, bookclub gatherings, after school playdates, etc. My mind has now begun to think of ways to carve out functional spaces within a home where people can go to be alone, or at least focus. People are suddenly in need of places to work with minimal disruption, have a Zoom call without distraction, or just go to have a moment of peace in this time of eternal togetherness.

What I keep coming back to is this: the intense time of forced confinement we are experiencing is going to dramatically change the way we relate to the spaces we live in. When this is finally behind us (that will happen, right??), people are going to reflect on this time spent at home and realize that flexible space is the key to moving forward.

Once this initial social distancing stint is over I am expecting to be asked to come up with creative ways to incorporate this type of flexibility into my client’s homes. I am already working on it in my own house because, let me tell you, two people working from a room that I typically think of as MY office is proving to be a challenge.

Interior design by Sarah Gee Interiors. Photo by Anna Herbst Photography

Here are a few things I’ve come up with that might be important considerations when designing homes moving forward…

  • Establishing a proper entry way/mudroom where you can enter the home and remove outerwear in an attempt to keep the germs at bay.
  • Creating flexible, pop-up home office/school stations that can be brought out when needed and put away when sheltering in place is no longer a mandate.
  • Developing a proper lighting plan throughout the house that can shift from ambient to task lighting with the flip of a switch as a space’s use alters.
  • Making sure the furniture layout is working for the way you really live – do you use that formal dining room? Would it be more useful as a space for virtual school or home office that can be tidied for those few times in the year when you have formal meals?
  • Figuring out how to incorporate pets into your home – so many people are getting new furry family members right now and pets bring their own design challenges into a house.
  • Creating an inviting outdoor space – either a garden or an additional living space that can be used when the weather warms up. People are using their outdoor spaces more than ever right now.
  • Focusing on fewer, better things – it seems like the entire world is on a clutter reduction binge right now!

So here are my burning questions: Is your home working for you right now? What are your biggest struggles? Have you experienced any surprising successes? Leave a comment below … I’d love to hear!

Sarah Gee is an interior stylist living in Maplewood, NJ.

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