How Coronavirus Will Change the Way We Build Homes

Now that you’ve spent more than a month within the confines of your own home, you’ve likely pondered its pandemic-specific inefficiencies. Is the open-concept floor plan you wanted so badly a few years ago really the best layout for working from home with your partner? Is a toilet paper shortage enough to justify investing in a bidet? Is your lack of proper outdoor living space causing you to pine for patio furniture?

As coronavirus continues to incite unprecedented global changes, it’s becoming harder to predict the extent to which it will reshape society. But on a more micro level, our homes—the places we’ve been closely pondering these past few months—are poised for plenty of structural changes. Architects across the country are predicting nine ways the virus will affect the next generation of homes. Ahead, find the forecast for the house of the future.

Entryways and mudrooms will take center stage

New builds will set more distinguishable boundaries between exterior and interior settings, foresees Melanie Turner, director of residential design for Pfau Long Architecture, the residential studio of Perkins and Will.

“The design will dictate how we use this space to deposit our outside lives both psychologically and physically to prevent ‘contamination’ of our inner sanctums,” says Turner, who is based in San Francisco.

Not only will places like mudrooms and entryways become designated spots to set down items to decontaminate, but on a psychological level, they’ll be areas where we leave behind stress before settling into our living spaces, she explains.

More surfaces will be antimicrobial

Coronavirus has brought cleanliness into hyperfocus, leading architects to believe builders will begin incorporating more antimicrobial materials in the construction of homes and apartment buildings. Expect to see materials like copper and krion, a material that resembles natural stone, used in countertops and bathroom finishes, says Adam Meshberg, founder and principal of Meshberg Group, a Brooklyn-based architecture and interior design firm.

Joe Yacobellis, director of design at New York-based Mojo Stumer, says he anticipates Richlite, a paper-based composite that’s naturally antimicrobial and has low moisture absorption, will be used in more building facades, wall panels, countertops, and even furniture. It’s an alternative to stone and metal and is highly durable, Yacobellis says.

Outdoor living space will reign supreme

When architect Sybille Zimmermann moved to Los Angeles from Switzerland in 1998, she was baffled by builders who were erecting modern mansions that took up the majority of their lots leaving little to no room for outdoor living space. Zimmermann, the founder of L.A.-based Studio Zimmermann, says she expects people will once again want more square footage devoted to the outdoors.

“We need to be able to move around in nature, and because of COVID-19, we have learned that our front and backyards are the safest places to do so,” she says.

From cottages to mansions, reclaiming more yard space—no matter the size of your property—will become the norm. Zimmermann expects gardening will become a more widespread hobby amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It gives homeowners peace of mind while allowing for them to be able to provide for themselves and their families if stores have shortages of food,” she says.

Open-concept floor plans will fall off the radar

Open concept floor plans—where walls and doors are eliminated to merge living spaces—have gained popularity in recent years with homebuyers. Many appreciate the way the layout opens up a space, making it feel larger and airier. But as people are adjusting to working from home (and schooling from home), they’re finding they need more defined spaces.

“In these unprecedented times, people have a new appreciation for flex spaces, an extra room, or even a few extra square feet in their units,” says Stephen Hill, founding partner of Hill West Architects in New York City.

Christopher Brown, principal at b Architecture Studio in Winchester, Mass., expects architects will be tasked with counterbalancing open concept requests with more rooms and doors in the next generation of homes.

“We are realizing more so now that we need a place for quiet and work, and a place for games and exercise,” Brown says.

Rooms may be designed to be multifunctional, he adds.

“For example, your new home office may be a place to write, and to also have a private call, meditate, and get in a yoga class,” he says.

Popular exercise equipment, like the Peloton bike and the Mirror don’t need much square footage, but Zimmermann predicts builders will soon plan for dedicated fitness areas in the beginning stages of planning, instead of being an afterthought.

Master bedrooms will become even larger

Not only will master bedrooms of the future be bigger, they’ll also be designed with built-in desks and lounge areas, predicts Zimmermann. Like other parts of the house, bedrooms will be more flexible spaces.

“Imagine you have to quarantine yourself for two weeks in your bedroom—there are two main necessities that you will want,” Zimmerman says. “First, you want to have your master connected to the bathroom, and second, you need a separate sitting space with a desk that has at least enough space for a laptop.”

Low-rise living will make its comeback

In densely populated cities, high-rise living has become the norm, and often boast spectacular views, says Peter Darmos, principal at Astéras, the development and design firm behind Astéras Kings in West Hollywood. The pandemic, though, has exposed some drawbacks of building up.

“For example, a packed elevator ride can contribute to the spread of germs and the increased risk of contamination,” he says.

As an alternative, low-rise, boutique-style buildings may be more attractive to buyers, he explains. Exterior corridors that lead directly to apartments—and minimize the need for elevators—will be preferred.

Kitchens will be more important than ever

Kitchens are arguably already the most important room in a house, but with the temporary shutdown of restaurants, home cooks of all skill levels are preparing every meal at home.

Future homeowners will have an even more pronounced interest in kitchens, predicts Mary Maydan, founder and principal of Palo Alto-based Maydan Architects. She expects them to not only be spacious enough to cook and hang out in, but they’ll also be equipped with high-quality refrigerators and ovens.

“We are going back to basics,” Maydan says. “We’re thinking first of the things that we need that are crucial, not things that we need to impress people with or have to make a statement.”

Homes will be “healthier”

When the world rebounds from COVID-19, homeowners will be drawn to emerging wellness technologies, expects Max Strang, the CEO of Florida-based STRANG Design, a luxury architectural and interior design firm known for environmental modernism.

“Homes will be able to track air, water, and light quality throughout the day and night,” says Strang, with companies like HEDsouth, one of the pioneers in installing this wellness technology, at the forefront.

For instance, when kids come home dirty from sports practice, a “smart” house will sense it and adjust its air filtration, Strang says. Emerging lighting technology will synchronize with circadian rhythms of residents, too—a feature that could be especially important for those who are spending more time indoors or for hospital workers who work night shifts.

Touchless technology will no longer be a luxury

When it comes to finishing touches, smart home features will become far more commonplace, with motion sensors turning on faucets and voice control options for ovens, lights, televisions, and music, says Sammy Hejazi, the general manager of contractors for Wayfair Professional.

“Smart home solutions were once seen as a luxury and may now become the expectation of home buyers who are looking for safer, cleaner spaces,” he says.

They’ll create fewer points of contact that need to be sanitized, and in turn, fewer opportunities to worry about contamination.

Guiding all of these predictions is one overarching question, per Hans Baldauf, co-founding principal at BCV Architecture + Interiors: “How do our homes—and now, our at-home workplaces—promote wellbeing?”