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By Liam Worth

Throughout history, how we inhabit physical space has been a primary defence against epidemics and this time is no different.  You may not be aware but many of the popular design features incorporated in our homes today originated during past pandemics or disease outbreaks such as the Spanish Flu 1918, and the tuberculosis and dysentery epidemics.

According to bioethicist, Dr Elizabeth Yuko in an article for Architectural Digest “there is a very long, very interesting history of the intersection of health, architecture and design going back to ancient times”.

Before we step into how we see COVID-19 impacting the home buyer must have lists, and to share some tips from Coco Republic about how to enhance these spaces in your home, we wanted to share some home design changes that were as a result of past global health crisis’.  As with past pandemics, we are going to see people come out of this with a much greater sense of what they want from their lifestyle and an awareness of what they’re looking for in a home.

White tiled kitchens and Lino introduced in the 19th Century

White tiled kitchens and lino is still popular today with many homeowners, but this trend actually started at the end of the 19th Century.  At that time, people were beginning to understand the danger of germs and importantly how they spread via food. Cleanliness and hygiene in the kitchen became very important.  In order for people to easily wipe away visible dirt, white tiled kitchens, reminiscent of hospitals, became popular in the home.  Additionally, homeowners opted for easier to clean and therefore more hygienic lino flooring over hardwood floorboards.  As you would know these features are still popular in many home designs today.

Sleeping porches from the Victorian Era

Porches and enclosed balconies are also popular features in many homes today, but they actually originated during the Victorian era during the “tuberculosis epidemic” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  In a time before antibiotics, sunlight and fresh air were the best known “cures” for the deadly disease”. Sleeping porches became a feature of houses, with many people adding these to their second or third story as a place where kids could benefit from fresh air and potentially be safe from the disease, or where those with tuberculosis could rest outdoors.

Powder Rooms

Another interesting addition to architecture is the powder room / or guest bathroom.  As Dr Yuko explains in previous generations homeowners had people delivering all sorts of things such as ice, food, milk etc to properties every week. They too were therefore also delivering goods to other houses in the neighbourhood, and these households may have been carriers of disease.  The powder room was the more sanitary way of letting any visitors use a bathroom without the chance of contaminating the family bathroom.

What home design features will be popular post COVID-19?

So, what does that mean for us now during the COVID-19 era, what home design features could we expect to see and what features could homeowners look to add to their property to help add value and appeal to it post Coronavirus?

1. Home offices

One of the most likely changes will be demand for a home office or a space where people can work from home. A few months ago, a home office was generally considered a nice bonus, but in the post coronavirus world, it will most likely become a necessity.  Many companies were forced to set up systems to enable employees to work remotely, some predict that WFH will remain popular, even once restrictions end. The home office that was once a luxury, may suddenly become a must have.

As a homeowner, if you are looking to sell your property, consider whether you can add a small desk, chair and shelving to a guest room?  This is an unobtrusive way to keep both the guest room for visitors and offer a space to WFH.

If space is tight it is important to think about how you can create multiple uses for your home as this is appealing to buyers:

  • Can you add a desk to your master bedroom?  This could easily double as a dressing table with the addition of a freestanding mirror, but give the impression of extra usability
  • Can you carve out a small nook somewhere in the property and add a desk and some storage? Perhaps in an entry way, hallway, upstairs landing or under the stairs?
  • Can you convert a hall closet into an office by adding built in’s?
  • Could you add a small bureau (or foldaway desk) in the corner of your bedroom, living room or in the hallway?  The best part of this is that once you have finished working you can fold the desk away to save space.  This shows buyers versality.

We asked Coco Republic for tips on creating the perfect home office and this is what they said:

  • Find a dedicated workspace, away from the rest of the family
  • Try and find an area with natural light and a view (ideally)
  • Ensure the working space is ergonomic with a suitable height desk, comfortable/supportive desk chair
  • Ensure you have good desk top lighting for early evening working time
  • Consider your storage requirements to ensure you can tidy working files away each day
  • Ideally find a space that you can close off for private phone calls and video conferencing meetings
  • Mirror to check appearance prior to video call

2. Private outdoor space

Outdoor spaces have always been a popular feature for buyers, but as a result of home isolation having somewhere private and in the open air, where people can escape to will be a top priority for buyers post COVID-19.

We asked Coco Republic to share some ideas with us on how to maximise a home’s outdoor living space to appeal to both buyers and homeowners alike.

  • Creating a flowing indoor/outdoor space has been popular with buyers for many years and this will continue post COVID-19. Can you adjust your internal layout and perhaps move some furniture around to create this flow?
  • If you own an apartment with a small balcony, adding 2 chairs and a small table will help create a sense of indoor / outdoor living
  • If you have more space, adding comfortable lounging areas is a great idea, whilst we can no longer go to the beach, we still need Vitamin D
  • Is there a corner space in the garden or courtyard that could be set up as a children’s activity area?
  • Can you add outdoor lighting, rugs and plants to add a sense of luxury and help buyers create an emotional connection to the property
  • Consider adding garden storage to ensure your outside space is neat and tidy
  • Now more than ever having a variety of ‘hang zones’ in the house is important.  If space allows, consider adding a substantial outdoor dining setting as this will help create a new living area for the home
  • If you have an outdoor space off the kitchen and facing the back of the building, can you add a small BBQ and eating area?
  • Consider planning boarders, trees and hedges to provide privacy from your neighbours.  This can be achieved with pots, screens and planters as a quick solution

3. Wet room / ‘drop-zone’ when you enter your home

The process of coming home has changed dramatically for us all during COVID-19.  Rather than simply walking through the door and dumping our bag, we now remove our shoes, coats, masks if we are wearing one and carefully wash our hands.  In the future, even when COVID-19 has gone, we may still think a little differently about our entryways and remain more conscious about not bringing anything potentially contaminated inside.

Having a space near the front or back door where you can remove shoes, hang up jackets and wash your hands with sanitizer before stepping inside may be a good idea for quite a while.

Charlotte Dub from Coco Republic shares 6 key considerations when creating a mud room:

  1. If possible, position the mud room by a back door to save bringing mess into the house
  2. Add a bench or storage to store shoes and coats before entering
  3. Consider installing a hook board to hang containers that can hold packages and deliveries
  4. Adding shelves to store packages and deliveries that you may not want to bring straight inside
  5. Try and minimise the number of handles
  6. Leave a hand sanitiser in easy view to ensure everyone washes their hands before entering

Creating a ‘drop-zone’ where we can leave germs at the door may be a popular feature for some time to come.

4. Antimicrobial and Touch free fixtures

Washing hands is a key preventative measure against contracting COVID-19 and some experts are predicting touch free fixtures on faucets, cupboard doors, flush buttons and electronic controls will become more popular as we all try to design a more hygienic home.

5. Future gazing…self-sufficient power and water

Solar power and water tanks have been popular for homeowners for some time, however perhaps the buildings of the future will be built to have their own water supply and heating.  According to Sergey Makhno a future theorist, “autonomous mini-stations generating alternative power will become a reality.  The goal will be independence from the outside world, minimising the risks in the case of a full shutdown.” Whilst this isn’t an option to add to your property now if you are looking to sell, what this means for new buildings we will have to wait and see.

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