How the pandemic is changing home design

The pandemic has changed what Americans want from their homes, and builders say they expect those changes to last.

The big picture: A ton of pandemic-era adaptations are becoming mainstream in new homes. The model homes that builders are showcasing today are designed for working, living and learning, not just for coming home and crashing at the end of the day.

Details: The big pre-pandemic trends – open plans with large kitchen islands – aren’t going anywhere. “My verdict is that people really like open floor plans, and they’re here to stay,” says Nancy K. Keenan, president of Dahlin Group Architecture and Planning, which helped lead the America at Home study on pandemic-era consumer tastes in home design.

  • But the overall footprint gets bigger as builders add smaller rooms, which may need to function as offices, playrooms, home gyms or dens, depending on the family.
  • Bathrooms are getting bigger, in part because we use them more often when we’re home all day. And every room in the house is more wired – builders are adding power outlets and USB ports to accommodate essential devices for working or going to school at home.
  • Some houses also have separate entrances for guests, with easy access to a bathroom for washing hands.

“Flexibility is probably the most important thing. People want to be able to adapt their home to their lifestyle,” says Keenan.

Rollback: The “wet room” was originally born out of the 1918 flu pandemic – as were tiled bathrooms, as people replaced drapes and rugs that harbored germs.

  • “The question we get all the time is how much do you think this will really stick in the future?” Keenan told Axios. “You don’t realize that this kind of thing actually creates change.”

Enlarge: Based on the results of the America at Home study, Garman Homes of Raleigh, NC built a 2,600 square foot concept home called “Barnaby” that reflects what consumers want, which includes access increased outdoor space and room to exercise.

  • Barnaby, with four bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms, was designed for “a hypothetical older millennial family with two working parents, one working from home and the other working outside the home” , according to Builder, a home building news place.
  • It includes “separate entrances for owner and guests, two dedicated office spaces, flex spaces, guest suite with outdoor access, larger family bathroom, multiple covered outdoor spaces, improved kitchen functionality , flexible storage, drop-off areas for package deliveries, etc.”

Between the lines: “Homes are increasingly looking like offices,” says Amit Haller, CEO and co-founder of residential construction company Veev. “There’s the large open area with a very large counter island that allows people to eat together.”

  • From there, residents can transport their laptops to private rooms as needed.
  • “The bedroom is literally going to be like your conference room and your private space,” says Haller.

By the numbers: The median size of a new single-family home has already increased by about 10% since 2009 and is expected to continue to increase.

  • More than a third of Millennials (36%) want bigger homes as a result of the pandemic, according to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
  • Millennials and Gen Xers want more bedrooms, gyms and home offices.
  • “The home building industry expects to see home sizes continue to increase due to a shift in consumer preferences as more activities take place in the home environment. post-pandemic,” NAHB President Jerry Konter said in a press release.

Yes, but: Bigger homes are more expensive, and high interest rates will only make a mortgage harder to pay.

And after: Dedicated rooms are appearing for video games, golf simulators, Zoom calls or relaxation – called “zen rooms”.

  • According to the Wall Street Journal, “metaverse rooms” could be on the horizon, with some designers seeing the need for an interior space where people can walk around in virtual reality.

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