The coronavirus pandemic is already shaping home design trends, with special-function rooms and products that serve needs particular to the pandemic rising in popularity, according to a recent survey by the American Institute of Architects.
Every year, the institute surveys about 425 individual architects or firms in the business of custom-home building or renovation. Participants are asked to indicate whether requests for certain types of rooms and products are increasing, decreasing or stable. Trends are identified by noting the increases and offsetting them by the decreases. This year’s results were gathered in July.
“I won’t say it was unexpected,” said Kermit Baker, the organization’s chief economist and a senior research fellow at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. “I’d say surprising in the sense that the pandemic response was happening faster than we might have expected.”
In this year’s survey, 68 percent of respondents cited increasing client requests for home offices, and none reported a decrease. Compare that with the 2019 results, which showed a 33 percent increase and 4 percent decrease. A related feature, enhanced or “task” lighting, also gained popularity.
Specifically, there were more requests for sunrooms or three-season porches (rooms that bring nature indoors) and mud rooms or “drop zones” (areas to isolate contaminated items from the house at large). Tellingly, in the midst of a pandemic caused by an airborne virus, products for improving indoor air quality were newly popular: 41 percent of respondents cited an increase for such requests, while 2 percent indicated they were on the decline, compared with 27 percent increasing and 2 percent decreasing last year.
Other new trends included exercise or yoga rooms and flexible spaces for home-schooling or other needs. Other special-function rooms (outdoor living spaces among them) maintained their popularity or edged up, as did products that were low maintenance and energy efficient.
This week’s chart shows which home features were the most popular and how requests for them rose or fell in 2019 and 2020.