A lot has happened in the last 14 months since the pandemic started and many things that we did pre-pandemic may never totally be the same again. In home design dynamics, there's several dramatic shifts happening as well. Before we get into some of the trends we're seeing in the Spring of 2021, let me first paint a picture of where home designs were headed BEFORE the pandemic hit. It's December of 2019 and the following are some of the most sought after floor plan trends we were seeing:
Less separation for the primary living areas (the great room / dining room / kitchen are essentially one room with little to no room definition).
No office (because in Dec 2019, why would I ever need to work from home?!)
No formal dining
Two-story great rooms and entryways with grand ceilings
Massive Recreational Rooms in the basement for entertaining friends and family
Notice the common theme? Open floor plans - like REALLY open!
In the early 2000's roof trusses, floor trusses and steel started to really change how new homes were built. Larger trusses have allowed for larger, more open spans than ever before. Taking advantage of many of the truss systems out there really allows homeowners to maximize the potential for how big a single room can be. We were definitely seeing some of those limits pushed in the pre-pandemic days. The idea behind the "most open floor plan possible" concept was really this idea about a grand feel to the house, regardless of square footage. When you start adding walls, it will make a room feel smaller. So, if bigger trusses will allow for the walls to be removed and for the house to actually feel bigger, than why not?
Fast forward to March of 2020 and in an instant adults took their computers home to work from their kitchen island. No more late nights at the office. Schools shut down and something called "remote learning" happened. (By the way, bless the parents who handled the home schooling in a calm and collective way. My wife and I were more on the "I'm only going to ask you for a 5th time, get over here and do your spelling words!" side of homeschooling). No youth events on the weekends or running around taking kids to practice. No vacations. No going out for drinks with friends. Families were just at home. All. The. Time. On one hand it was really refreshing for families to recharge and get back to the basics doing family activities again. But even though MOST of the time being together was great, people also realized that the really cool, wide open, floor plan was now lacking something they
really wish they had - privacy.
I read somewhere that in 2020, the average American family spent more hours home together
than they have since the 1950's. I for one was not alive in the 1950's, but I do have a pretty good
grasp on what the house designs looked like at that time. Formal dining rooms, dens, sitting rooms,
offices, and kitchens that are NOT open to the great room. Someone could be watching tv
in one room and you couldn't hear it from the kitchen, while another family member is taking
a phone call in the office. In short, houses of the 1950's were really designed for
families to have their own space.
Fast forward to April 2021. New designs are by no means going all the way back to the 1950's, but there are some really intriguing trends that we're seeing. I don't believe these trends would have made their way back had it not been for the pandemic. I've had the privilege of talking with dozens of homeowners, home builders, real estate agents and other industry professionals and it was very interesting to hear some of the reasons why this is happening.
Here's just a few of the "old school" spaces that are now making their way back into modern home designs in a big way:
Dining Spaces. Many pre-pandemic designs were actually trending towards only having massive kitchen islands with 6-8 chairs and no space for a dining table at all. In 2021 however, it's much more apparent that homeowners want a space dedicated to having dinner with the family.
Home Offices. At least one. This is something we've seen a huge demand for. It makes total sense as more and more adults are faced with working remotely not only during the pandemic but also post-pandemic as well. Many businesses are telling their employees that they may never come back into the corporate office environment. Pulling out a laptop on the kitchen island can only work for so long, so the formal office has been reborn in a big way.
Maximizing 2nd floor finished square footage instead of 2 story rooms. This, I believe is unfortunately more a result of skyrocketing construction costs than it is pandemic reasons. The price per square foot to build is really making people want to maximize every inch of the house for living areas, hence why the 2 story great rooms and entryways are starting to fade a bit.