Published on June 7, 2020

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Photography by Trevor Smith

There is no crystal ball that will help us predict how surviving a pandemic will impact our lives a year or even six months from now. But one thing is certain—for the foreseeable future, we’re going to be spending time and living in our homes in a way that most of us never anticipated. That presents interesting challenges for the people who design, build, furnish, decorate, and help us buy and sell our houses. From bigger, ultra-functional kitchen pantries to FaceTime real-estate walk-throughs, some of our favorite experts weigh in on what comes next.

Our Dream Houses Will Look Different

The appetite for property has not been extinguished; people are stuck at home with nothing to do other than look at Instagram. It’s forcing them to hone in on what’s most important to them. In Los Angeles, that might mean more outdoor space for a vegetable garden or a view. Most people, everywhere, are thinking about a bigger kitchen. —Jenna Cooper, real-estate agent and owner of West Hollywood shop Coop

Virtual Shopping Trips Will Become the Norm

Vendors will get more creative with virtual shopping, scheduling FaceTime appointments and finding new ways to experience a store. If I can’t see a chair in person, I always ask someone to show me a photo of a person sitting in it, so I get a better sense of the size and scale. I have a lot of pictures of strangers sitting in chairs! —Frances Merrill, founder of Reath Design

Spaces Will Do Double, Triple, or Quadruple Duty

The notion of public and private in the home has shifted. My daughter’s wonderful teacher was holding a remote class from her bed, and I thought, Oh, no, she needs a place to do a Zoom call with her students that doesn’t feel so intimate. We need to rethink our notions of how space breaks down, regardless of the size of a house or an apartment. Maybe it’s just a corner of a room that can be designed as a place to work, with a blank wall behind you and an area that you can close off from the rest of the home. Bedrooms, especially for kids, are a place for rest, but they also need to have a work hub, so you can shut the door and practice the trumpet. You need to be able to multitask these rooms and multitask in them. —Eliza Howard, architect at THinc

Home Buying Will Go Digital

One prediction I will make is that online real estate will be even more important, and people who are marketing- and tech-savvy will weather this trying period better. I have sold houses with just a 3-D tour online, although it’s not the norm. You may feel desperate, and your business may be struggling, but you still have to make it look fun while you’re doing it. You have to project this idea of service, that “we’re here to take care of you” feeling. It will be a creative challenge for realtors, for sure. —Cooper

Buying Local Will Benefit Our Community and Our Wallets

More than ever, I’m asking my clients to be aware of who they’re supporting with their money—not every antiques store or small furniture-maker is going to survive this. We have to back the people doing work we believe in. And right now, international shipping is so expensive and unreliable; it’s slowed down a lot. I have some dealers in Europe who are holding onto a few things for my clients hoping that the shipping costs go down. That may mean people will buy more domestically in the future. —Merrill

We’ll Invest in Little Luxuries, Both High- and Low-Tech

Right now, the home is a sanctuary, a place where you feel protected, so I think people are looking for ways to elevate that experience. That could mean simply setting a table with candles and special dishes or surrounding yourself with beautiful things to change your environment. So many people are asking for media rooms; it might be the only way we watch sports or movies or performances of any kind for a while. People will find inventive ways to turn every corner of their home into a useful area. 

Even something as simple as a powder room will be reimagined—how do you make handwashing an enjoyable experience? I think we will see a lot of sensors and touch-free faucets everywhere. Kohler’s Sensate faucet turns on and off automatically; we installed it in a Manhattan Beach home’s kitchen. Another brand we love is Vola, a company from Copenhagen. The best part is its finishes: brilliant metals, but also all sorts of colors! This faucet is stunning and minimal, and would be great for a kids’ bathroom, too. Who says hands-free has to be dull? —David John Dick, cofounder of Disc Interiors

Design Will Get Even More Personal

My takeaway from this experience is that people will have a better sense of what they want from their space—what really makes them happy—and that will lead to more personal interior design that isn’t so trend driven. You have plenty of time to think about what really makes you comfortable, how the rooms in your house function, and what makes you feel good. It’s not about what people will see and think when they come over. —Merrill

It’s hammer time: Follow @reno_notebook for easy rental updates, clever DIYs, and tips to nail your next project.

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