Covid has impacted the residential design, remodeling and real estate worlds in ways that are likely to endure long after this scourge is eradicated. Everyone, from home buyers to home builders and the home design industry that supports them, wants to be better prepared for the next pandemic, whether it strikes in a year or a decade. Reimagining the spaces where we live to accommodate health and functionality for new uses has been a big part of that.
Gary Pettitt, owner of Seasonal Living, a furniture line and digital publication of the same name, has been thinking about these issues since the virus made itself known in the U.S. early in 2020. He was concerned about the designers who specify his products, his companies, and the health and well-being of the country.
Pettitt started thinking about wellness design, something he built into his own Texas home, and how it could help support the health and well-being of his community. He came up with the concept of a virtual-only wellness design showcase home and invited 11 of the country’s top interior designers to participate in creating it. “This home had to be sophisticated yet relaxed, but most of all, reflect new ways of living a life that encouraged and promoted wellness and connectivity to the natural world,” the entrepreneur shared.
He gave an imagined family some of the elements he enjoys in his own home, from herb gardens for healthy cooking to a conservatory for tropical plants, to doors that erase the boundaries between indoor and outdoor living, and as much natural light as possible. Many of the rooms include elements Pettitt suggested, as well as the designers’ own inputs from their personal lives and from decades of designing client projects across the country.
Wellness Sanctuary Room
Erika Hollinshead Ward of Fayetteville, Georgia created a wellness sanctuary room for the Malibu concept house. She divided it into a prayer and meditation area with a kneeling bench and soundproofed walls. She also created a serenity lounge for intimate gatherings for “faith and fellowship,” she noted. An outdoor terrace was developed for yoga and tai chi, and a healing loft has features for acupuncture, reflexology and other practices. Ward’s design was inspired by her own experience dealing with her son’s cancer treatments, she said.
“In 2017, I carved out a space I where I mediate, pray, visit with my closest friends, and sometimes do light office work. I really needed a place to quiet my thoughts and to find peace in the midst of the emotional chaos,” the designer recalled. She creates similar spaces for clients, most often in bedrooms or libraries.
Pismo Beach, California-based Ariana Afshar Lovato designed the kitchen, one of the most important rooms in any home, for the Seasonal Living project. It was imagined with hydroponic panels that would allow indoor herb growing close to the cooking surfaces. She also wanted to include nature-inspired finishes in durable, low maintenance materials like engineered stone countertops that she regularly specifies for clients (and has in her own home). “Having a space that is easily cleaned and disinfected is key! We chose materials that were non-porous with no grout joints, so cleaning is a breeze.”
The herb panels were included to facilitate healthy home cooking. “During the pandemic, we realized how much we relied on going out to eat. It really forced us to change the way we looked at grocery shopping. Having the ability to grow your own food is going to become much more mainstream in the coming years, and kitchen design will need to adapt to make it easier!”
Laundry and Decontamination Room
Early on in the pandemic, everyone was searching for ways to decontaminate every item that came into their homes. The logical spot for this capability was the laundry or mud room. Rachel Moriarty of San Diego envisioned her piece of the showcase home as a functional wellness zone. All of the surfaces, from glass, metal, vinyl and a hybrid material called Dekton are easily wiped or scrubbed. The laundry appliances – including a fabric refresher — were specified to remove allergens, steam and sanitize everything from clothing to bedding. She also added a pet shower station, and an air purifier to make completing these dirty chores healthier.
“I researched commercial decontamination spaces and incorporated the same flow into this space. You enter through what’s considered the ‘dirty zone’, your first stop is a handwashing station, then the shower station and the washer and dryer. I have metal storage cabinets where you can store additional clothing to change into then you’re ready to enter into the home and greet the family,” Moriarty shared. She reoriented her own home to create a similar flow when the pandemic started, she commented, and it’s a hot topic among her clients. “The way we live in our homes has changed. Our families’ health and wellness is on the forefront of everyone’s mind.”
Family Room and School Room
The pandemic has closed thousands of schools around the country, forcing parents into reimagining their homes for distance learning. Some educational experts see elements of this trend continuing beyond the end of Covid. Arianne Bellizaire of Baton Rouge created a family room that facilitates this capacity. The space had to be low maintenance, durable and nontoxic, so she included paints and materials like thin porcelain slabs that wouldn’t off-gas and stain-resistant fabrics that would hold up to hard, daily use.
Bellizaire also recognized that storage would be a challenge for many households meeting new functionality challenges, so she incorporated clever solutions that gave it added capacity and a sense of calm order. “In my own home, which we recently renovated in 2018, we’ve actually used all of the elements that I incorporated on a larger scale in this show home,” she said.
Outdoor living has always been a key component of wellness design, but it has gained even more importance during this pandemic. Those who have private outdoor rooms have generally been able to gather more safely and enjoy healthy connections to nature more easily than those who don’t. Laura Muller of Canoga Park, California designed the showcase home’s outdoor terrace. “We seamlessly separated this massive space into zones, where activities would be separate but not excluded from each other. We created a space for swimming and lounging, yoga and meditation, and conversation and dining.”
It was also important that the spaces felt like they were integrated into the landscape, she noted, and incorporate plants like lavender, rosemary and sage that would contribute to the overall wellness potential of the home. “We incorporate many of these design strategies for healthy living into our client’s homes, as well in our own home,” she commented. Her Southern California location means taking advantage of outdoor living year-round, and designing spaces that flow between inside and out with walls of doors that open and disappear.