We know, we know – you are probably very aware that last year was different. While we could count how the COVID-19 pandemic changed society, possibly forever, we will get to the point. Over the past 12 months, the general population has spent more time at home in our lives than ever before. In the interior design world, this behavioral change caused by a single pandemic is having a dramatic impact on the industry. In particular, a laser focus on wellness and sustainability was created.
In March 2020, before we had any idea how long we would be locked, everything froze. People have frozen their wealth, their social life, their office life – really, everything and everything has stopped. And that included design companies.
“There was a dramatic decline in business at the start of the stay-at-home pandemic,” said Tisha Leung, editor at Sweeten, a service provider that connects homeowners and contractors. “We are an online platform that enables offline transactions. When general contractors were unable to stay in renovation rooms, they were dramatically affected. “
But when the dust settled and people realized we would find ourselves in this situation for the long term – this was not just the pandemic, it was literally our home – perspectives changed and action was taken. People took note of their immediate surroundings and went to work to improve them.
Renovation after a major crisis is not a new phenomenon. “What happened after September 11th was cocooning. People tried to get out of town, bought houses, figured out how to telework, what they could, and really focused on their spaces, ”said Steve Feldman, founder of Renovation Angel, a nonprofit that recycles luxury kitchens. “It was then that the kitchen industry was really starting to pick up momentum. Everyone wanted stone slabs, custom-made cabinets, nicer stainless steel appliances and nicer surfaces. “
The same effect occurs during the pandemic. Instead of spending money on travel, shopping, or dining, people are investing in renovations – especially high-quality ones that add a sense of well-being to their lives. In terms of the home, wellness has traditionally been found in the creation of spaces that resemble a sanctuary, often in bedrooms or bathrooms. But during the pandemic, renovators are taking the concept of wellbeing even further.
“There are studies that suggest that being surrounded by nature has a calming effect,” says John Dupra, co-founder of the flooring company Revel Woods **. “And there are some studies that show that when you have natural products in your home or indoors, some of them still translate. It can reduce stress. “
This is one of the reasons why the demand for natural wood floors in Dupra has increased so much over the past year. “We just can’t meet the demand. It’s incredible, ”he says.
But people don’t just install wooden floors for their aesthetics. “I would say that this demand for authentic materials is due not only to physical or mental health benefits, but also to environmental benefits,” says Dupra. “It’s actually a carbon-negative building product, not just climate-neutral.”
In addition to incorporating natural materials into their spaces, homeowners will also find a sense of well-being in creating efficient and effective systems of organization – something that is vital as spaces become multi-purpose spaces for working from home and studying from home.
“In LA we are converting a lot of ADUs [accessory dwelling units]This is where people turn their garage into a home office that is also a studio apartment that can be rented when they go back to the office, ”says Leung. “We see attics become places for children. Basements are mostly turned into gyms. “
To enable more creative use of space, homeowners had to get smart with their renovation ideas. The furniture company Semihandmade, which was originally founded to provide custom doors for IKEA closet systems, has benefited from this organizational need. “Now we don’t just sell kitchen cabinets,” says John McDonald, CEO and founder of Semihandmade. “We sell the cabinets that work in the bathroom, in the closets, in the laundry room, in the mud room.”
Semihandmade, which grew by 20% in 2020, has even expanded its range to meet the high demand and launched its BOXI offshoot. BOXI is a direct-to-consumer furniture company designed to reduce the stress of large renovation projects – and reduce costs compared to traditional custom cabinets.
Although consumers these days are ready to spend on quality, modern home renovations, they are well aware of the budget, especially since the economy is currently less than stellar. “There’s something that happens when you go through something like the Great Depression, or in this case the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Dupra. “It rewires your brain a little and you never do things the same way again.”
In this day and age, that means consumers are focusing on the intersection of affordable yet high quality home renovation options. “There’s a home movement around green renovation, conversion, and architectural salvage,” says Leung. “It’s a ploy to save that much money.”
This is where Feldman’s Renovation Angel comes in. The company takes gently used high-end kitchens that are meant to be demolished or dumped (their former owners must claim a fairly high tax write-off on donations), and then sells them at a cheaper price to homeowners who might otherwise couldn’t afford bespoke kitchen utensils and top notch appliances. In doing so, the 16-year-old company has saved £ 43 million of waste entering landfills, so customers can feel comfortable shopping.
These types of home trends, both in terms of wellness and sustainability, are likely not just a pandemic fad. There’s a good chance they’ll be here for the foreseeable future.
“I can see buying trends tend towards higher quality, more durable and more sustainable materials,” says Dupra. “People no longer see their house as a place to crash and store their belongings. They see it as an extension of themselves. What you put around your body becomes just as important as what you put into your body. “
Stefanie Waldek is a writer for architecture, design and travel. You can find her words in Architectural Digest, Condé Nast Traveler, House Beautiful, Business Insider, the Washington Post, and more.
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