In or Out? The Pandemic Trends That Are Here To Stay and the Ones That Are So Over

During the height of the COVID-19 era, there was a mad race for more space. Everyone seemed to want a larger house on more land where they could spread out, set up a home office and gym, and safely entertain friends and family on their terraces, decks, and patios. Many of those home trends that...

During the height of the COVID-19 era, there was a mad race for more space. Everyone seemed to want a larger house on more land where they could spread out, set up a home office and gym, and safely entertain friends and family on their terraces, decks, and patios.

Many of those home trends that took off are still going strong. Others, meanwhile, are going the way of social distancing.

“While the needs that arose during the pandemic may have shifted, many of the trends they inspired haven’t been forgotten,” says Mitchell Parker, a senior editor at Houzz, a home remodeling and design platform. “Homeowners are emerging from the last couple of trying years with renewed vigor for creating lively homes full of color, pattern, texture, and optimism.”

“The pandemic has really created significant changes,” says Doris Pearlman, president of the Denver-based Possibilities for Design. Her interior design firm works with builders on model homes throughout the country. It “changed the face of housing, and I don’t see that things are going backward.”

So which trends are here to stay—and which have fallen out of favor faster than DIY face masks sewn out of old T-shirts?

Homes are getting smaller

The No. 1 thing on the wish list of most folks during the most claustrophobic days of the pandemic was more space. However, in the aftermath of those years, mortgage rates shot up and home prices stayed high, making larger homes prohibitively expensive for many buyers.

Builders responded this year by trying to keep prices down by creating smaller, more affordable homes that “edited out all of the functions which aren’t absolutely essential,” says Mikaela Arroyo. She runs the New Home Trends Institute, which is part of John Burns Research & Consulting.

The average size of a new home today is about 10% (260 square feet) smaller than it was in the years leading up to 2020, according to Ali Wolf, chief economist of the building consultancy Zonda.

“People don’t want these big, soaring, open spaces like they used to. They’ve realized: You’ve got to maintain it,” says Angela Visbeen, director of sales and marketing at Visbeen Architects, an international firm based in Grand Rapids, MI. “People are looking for smaller, but smarter home designs.”

‘Flex space’ has become the must-have home amenity

Smaller homes are forcing homeowners to do more with less square footage. This is giving rise to more multipurpose “flexible space” in homes, which can be used however the occupants choose.

“In the past, someone wanted a guest room and a home office,” says Wolf. “Now, you can do a home office with a Murphy bed.”

Open floor plan vs. private spaces

Open floor plans were all the rage in the years leading up to the pandemic. However, after families spent time isolating in their homes together, more of them are now seeking solitary spaces.

This can be a den or office with a door that closes, a man cave or a she shed, or some other area where folks can go to get away from one another.

We’re “seeing a growing interest on Houzz in adjustable design elements such as living room dividers, shoji screens, and partition walls that create temporary separation to add privacy, mitigate noise, or create some visual delineation of purpose in an open area,” says Parker.

Home offices are here to stay…

Many people are still working remotely, either part- or full-time. That means home offices aren’t going anywhere, but they might be adapting to smaller home footprints.

Some builders and contractors are creating “pocket offices.” These are generally smaller rooms placed wherever they can fit, often on the main floor.

“People are more flexible in their idea of where to work,” says Visbeen. “That doesn’t always mean a separate, door-closed, dedicated square footage for a home office.”

… while home gyms are often the first to go

Home gyms have remained standard in luxury homes, but they’ve begun falling by the wayside in middle-income homes where space comes at a premium and Pelotons are now collecting dust. Many folks have preferred to return to gyms and group fitness classes where they don’t have to work out alone.

“Home gyms were a quick burn,” says Arroyo. “They were here for a moment when people couldn’t get into the gym and were very quickly one of the first areas to be subtracted out.”

The merging of indoors and outdoors is huge

During the pandemic, biophilic design—which merges indoor and outdoor living—took off as folks didn’t want to feel caged inside their homes. The trend has stuck and is growing in popularity, say designers.

“We’re seeing the blurring of lines between outdoors and indoors,” says Visbeen. “The whole inside-outside thing is really big right now, regardless of climate. … We’re seeing it in Michigan the same as we’re seeing it in Florida.”

Homes are receiving more glass sliding doors, larger windows, and phantom screens to let in more light and outside views. The outdoors is coming indoors as wood and stone applications are being used as indoor design elements and homeowners are adding plants and living walls throughout their homes.

“It is the back to basics, being centered, being grounded, being one with nature,” says Visbeen. “It has to do with health and wellness, fresh air and sunshine.”

Homeowners are prioritizing outdoor spaces

Another trend that isn’t going anywhere is the emphasis on outdoor living. Renters are seeking out outdoor spaces, like a backyard or terrace, and homeowners are transforming their backyards into so much more.

“Outdoor spaces are hugely important,” says Pearlman.

Yards have become additional living space, a place to entertain friends and family or simply to relax and retreat from the rest of the world.

Scenic pergolas with dining tables underneath, patios outfitted with couches and rugs, and vegetable gardens offering folks the opportunity to get their hands dirty all got a boost during the pandemic as folks escaped from their homes into their yards.

“What used to be just a deck or a patio, it’s the new underutilized opportunity,” says Visbeen. “Now people are amplifying it and making tremendous use of that, from outdoor kitchens to entertaining or relaxing spaces.”

Bathrooms now resemble spas

Fancy primary bathrooms, the kind typically found in a spa or upscale hotel, became all the rage over the past few years. Homeowners were seeking calming areas in their abodes, and bathrooms were one of the places where they could create “a retreat where people can get away from it all,” says Pearlman.

The Zen-like bathrooms are still popular, but now homeowners are incorporating more universal design elements to help them to age in place, according to Houzz.

These include grab bars, nonslip flooring, and other tweaks that can help folks to stay in their homes for longer without assistance.

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