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how Covid-19 will influence luxury home design

The living area at the Chelsea Waterfront penthouse – Julian Abrams

As lockdown restrictions ease, but life still remains very different from the way it was pre-pandemic, it’s becoming clear that certain changes in lifestyle that have occurred over the past few months are here to stay. With home-working, multifunctionality and hygiene top of the agenda, how will this affect the design of the luxury home long-term?

Interior designer Sarah Peake has noticed an increase in clients and potential clients looking at new homes in the country, or wanting to establish themselves full-time in an existing country house that had previously been a holiday bolt-hole – a trend that is likely to grow as working from home is normalised.

Peake predicts that this will have an impact on the design of country houses: she is currently working on a converted stables where the client has requested a luxury gym with very high-spec equipment. Practical considerations are coming to the fore too: “I always stress the importance of ‘back of house areas’ to support a fully functioning family home,” says Peake.

“I can see it being more important than ever to have large pantries and storage, and I can see health and safety becoming more of a consideration for residential projects, as it already is for commercial projects. If people are to entertain in a post-Covid world, then I expect virus-proof entertaining spaces to be paramount.”

One such entertaining space is the kitchen, and luxury brands are already offering fresh designs tailored to a Covid-conscious customer.    “We have experienced a heightened awareness of hygiene in kitchen design,” says Merlin Wright, design director at Plain English.

“Domestic kitchens will become more like commercial kitchens, with secondary sinks used specifically for hand washing, hand sanitiser stations, electric hand dryers and added storage under sinks for dozens of cleaning products. Ancillary rooms such as boot rooms and utility rooms are increasingly in demand, to provide dedicated housekeeping areas, helping to maintain zealous cleaning.” 

A pantry by Plain English (from £35,000)
A pantry by Plain English (from £35,000)

Similarly, Milanese designer Francesco Meda has teamed up with Molteni & C Dada on a new modular kitchen system, Sistema XY, that addresses the issues of organisation and flexibility. Designed as a system of tracks on the X (horizontal) and Y (vertical) axes, it incorporates customisable, hyper-organised storage, so that each chopping board, spice jar and newly acquired gadget has its assigned space, ensuring clean, clear surfaces.

Shelves can be added above the worktop – in wood or super-hygienic stainless steel – and a sliding wooden board at worktop level, to act as a table or ad-hoc WFH desk. 

The Sistema XY kitchen by Francesco Meda for Dada, with a sliding table/desk - Tiziano Sartorio
The Sistema XY kitchen by Francesco Meda for Dada, with a sliding table/desk – Tiziano Sartorio

Materials will be key going forward, in the kitchen and elsewhere – copper, for example, can reportedly kill the Covid-19 virus in around four hours, and some timbers, such as bamboo, have antibacterial properties. Linen, which is also naturally antibacterial, could be the upholstery fabric of choice for sofas and chairs, particularly those with loose covers that can be removed and washed.

Some are taking hygiene and well-being to extremes – design house Morpheus reports that lockdown has prompted some UHNW Russian clients to request specially oxygenated rooms. 

Speaking yesterday at a briefing of the practice’s latest project, the penthouse at the Chelsea Waterfront development, designers Rickesh Patel and Anna Czarnowska also spoke of the renewed importance of the dedicated home office, which, they say, had been somewhat on the backburner pre-lockdown, in favour of creating desk spaces within other rooms. (The penthouse was originally a four-bedroom apartment, but one of those bedrooms has now been repurposed as a study).

In style terms, they predict a return to minimalism – although in a more tactile, decorative form than its Noughties incarnation, with a focus on clearer spaces with less stuff, the better to showcase beautiful furniture and objects. This will be accompanied by a renewed focus on greenery and biophilic design – as seen at the Chelsea Waterfront penthouse, which features a garden room with a living wall. 

The garden room at the Chelsea Waterfront penthouse - Julian Abrams
The garden room at the Chelsea Waterfront penthouse – Julian Abrams

Natural materials in general will bring a much-needed sense of connection with the outside world, as will airy, open-plan interiors filled with natural light, which are likely to increase further in popularity. So, however, will separate spaces for specific activities (and, presumably, bigger houses to accommodate them).

“Home cinemas, bars, swimming pools, tennis courts, spas and gyms will all become more important, rather than seen as unnecessary add-ons,” predicts interior designer Katharine Pooley, who also reports that clients are requesting extra space for home-schooling and home-tutoring arrangements – a situation likely to continue for those whose children will have missed at least half a year of school.  

Entrance areas are another area of interest. “International clients already request lobbies to entrance halls for ‘outside clothes and shoes’ to be removed and stored,” says Pooley. “This has been common in Asia for many years but may well become a new European norm.”  

Colour palettes throughout the home are likely to be influenced: many are foreseeing a trend for neutral tones such as off-white and oatmeal that will produce a soothing, calming feel. Pooley agrees, and adds that richer, warmer shades that create a cocooning effect will also be on the agenda: “aubergine, burnt orange and deep inky blues will all be popular for media rooms, home cinemas and studies.”  

Whatever the style of the house, the focus now is on creating a feeling of security and well-being, and a home that can cater to every need, whether practical or aesthetic. A home, in fact, that you’ll never need to leave.      

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