Quarantine changes everything—especially our homes.
Just a couple of weeks ago, homes for many of us served as little more than a way station for sleep, a shower, and a quick cup of coffee on the way out the door. Now, your residence needs to function as an office, school, playground, movie theater, and gym—all the while inspiring that elusive feeling of tranquility.
It all happened so fast. One day, the dining table was reserved for holidays and fancy parties, and overnight, it’s become littered with wayward puzzle pieces, laptop cords, and last night’s pizza boxes.
More than ever, our homes need to be oriented toward comfort and usability. That’s why design experts are predicting a huge shift away from the impeccably clean, white lines coveted for years by many chic homeowners.
Before the pandemic, we even declared minimalism over in our look at design trends to ditch in 2020. Many believe that the era of sheltering in place will accelerate the change.
Simply put: The stark aesthetic has had a good run, but our current times have amplified the call for a different outlook on decor.
Sleek, futuristic designs—like an Apple store you can live in—have dominated in recent years. Emblematic of that trend is the monochromatic L.A. mansion owned by Kim Kardashian West and her husband, Kanye West. The A-list duo, along with the designer Axel Vervoordt, painstakingly transformed their residence into what West called a “futuristic Belgian monastery.”
Banish minimalism and bring on a happy medium
As celebs embraced their barren interior spaces, homes across the country have followed suit. Austere polished concrete floors, stone walls, all-white color palettes, and industrial finishes can be found in homes nationwide.
We’ve spotted neutral palettes and an absence of decorative elements in suburban tract homes and urban lofts alike.
Today, that vibe feels detached from the world that we’re living, where a safe, comfortable space to hunker down is the true luxury. The dream of a meticulously curated, Marie Kondo lifestyle seems not just woefully out of reach but also misguided.
The celebrated designer Sheila Bridges, a master of color, says that the waning of interest in minimalist spaces was already gaining traction, and that the quarantine is likely to accelerate a trend toward a “more is more” design sensibility.
“I believe that the trend had already begun to swing back toward maximalism; perhaps, ultimately, we land somewhere in between,” Bridges says.
“The ‘new’ maximalism will be somewhere between the maximalism of the late and legendary interior decorator Mario Buatta and the austerity of Kim and Kanye. Nobody wants to live in a space that is so minimalist that it reminds them of a hospital—or have so much stuff that they can’t see the floor or find their way out the door,” Bridges says.
For inspiration, Bridges’ Instagram is chock-full of beautiful design ideas. We love a signature bright-yellow wallpaper that Gayle King is using as her home video background during quarantine.
Bridges recalls a similar aesthetic shift after Sept. 11.
“People wanted to be at home with their loved ones, and it became more important for designers and homeowners to create homes that felt safe, secure, warm, and livable,” says Bridges. “Home offices or live/work/play spaces will continue to grow in importance.”
Creating cozy and personal spaces
Minimalist designs tend to look and feel like public spaces, rather than private retreats.
Take the recent listing of the $17 million Los Angeles home of the music superstar Pharrell Williams. It’s a luxurious glass-and-steel marvel that Twitter comedians quickly poked fun at, saying that it looks like an office park and/or community college.
Buried Lede: Pharrell lives in a community college aquatic center. https://t.co/R4gfPOZ87j
— Matthias Reynolds (@RealMReynolds) March 3, 2020
With our current shift away from living and working in common public spaces, it stands to reason that homeowners will be looking for something more customized and personal.
Rising star and Instagram “it” designer Summer Thornton thinks the quarantine will result in new interest in making homes feel more intentional and individual.
Spending 24 hours a day within the confines of your own walls means that you will start to feel your home’s vibe a lot more.
“More people are noticing how their homes were neglected and didn’t reflect their personality well, and how their [homes] didn’t help their mood and emotions,” Thornton says.
“Once they are able, I think we’ll see more people looking for ways to make their homes feel warmer, cozier, and more representative of their style, as places that can enhance mood and energy—rather than just a place to sleep.”
One other trend on the way? Thornton says she expects that huge swaths of people will wind up creating more formalized home offices in the wake of the crisis.
Thornton’s Instagram feed is full of her designs, as well as pictures of her Chicago apartment. Her own kitchen is a testament to her fearless spirit: Its brick-red accents make the light, airy space a welcoming spot to stay inside and cook.
Add a little life into your home
Judging by what Bridges and Thornton say, the move toward a mid-maximalist look is an easy shift for anyone stuck in a stark home that’s simply not suited to sheltering in place.
If you’ve decluttered your home to the point where it looks as if it were staged for a sale, it’s time to start adding back a bit of individuality.
Thornton predicts that infusing design with your personality is the next trend on the horizon. So, hang up a few family photos you stashed away in the name of clean surfaces. Bring out treasures from past travels and memories of a more carefree time.
Bridges says there’s a lot anyone can do with online shopping to warm up cold interiors.
“If you are working from home, it’s easy to shop online for plush blankets and throws,” she says. She also suggests picking up a few extra colorful pillows and interesting rugs to warm up a space.
Light up your life
Susan Solliday serves as president of Arizona’s American Society of Interior Designers and calls the quarantine a period of “forced nesting.” The designer adds that homeowners who have the most minimalist interiors will still find they have plenty to work with.
“You can work wonders with lighting,” she says. “Think about a fabulous hotel you have stayed in—or for that matter, an image of one. They are not cluttered with things, but they do have the right lighting.
“The amount and type of lighting directly affects your concentration, appetite, and mood. Lighting also creates depth, shadow, and accentuates the important.”
She suggests experimenting with everything from candlelight and a fireplace to lamps and lightbulbs, to switch up the atmosphere in the interior of your home.
And whether your style is minimalist or maximalist, Bridges reminds us that the fundamental rules of smart design still apply.
“Most people want a home that feels comfortable and beautiful,” she says. “You shouldn’t have to sacrifice one for the other.”