Forget a white picket fence.

August 26, 2020

To decipher what dream home means in a global-pandemic world, Mansion magazine recently asked the editors of three house-centric websites—Houzz, Decorilla and The Real Houses of IG—to identify their most popular images and rooms with their followers this year. They examined photos that home-décor followers are clicking, liking and scrolling through to better understand today’s trends. The verdict? It’s in the details. Homeowners stuck inside because of Covid-19 are analyzing every finishing touch, from fixtures and colour schemes to how each room is utilized. Hello, brass-adorned kitchen cabinets, high-contrast living rooms, and home office nooks. RIP all-white kitchens, acoustically challenged open-floor plans and unequipped outdoor spaces. Find out the most popular rooms in home design – and what dreams are really made of. Read more, ‘9 Design Trends We’ll Be Seeing In The Very Near Future.’

Psychologically, people building or buying their dream home in recent years have been eager to have a so-called optimal distinctiveness, which means that the home is different enough to be considered special by outsiders while allowing the homeowner to fit in socially with their vision. We like to fit in and make sure that we have these status symbols—but what we really value is individuality. Read more, ‘How Coronavirus Will Change Our Homes In The Next Decade.’

Now we are further discovering there is an upside to spending more time at home: researching your dream house, down to the cabinet handles.

The pandemic is influencing the outside of the dream home. Outdoor spaces are becoming a greater priority for homeowners with their interest in pools significantly rising.  Villa Feltrinelli, Lake Garda.

People simply have more time and are going to greater lengths to plan out, and to seek inspiration for, their dream home, says Kate Rumson, founder of The Real Houses of IG, a home-and-design Instagram account with 2.4 million followers. Many are in the process of building their homes, she adds, and they are committed to making perfect choices, no matter how small. Questions about wall colours, window treatments and furniture that appear in the background of photos posted, are frequent fodder. It shows a new trend away from all-white cabinets to two-tone and three-tone schemes in neutral colours. Read more, ‘How Previous Pandemics Impacted Home Design.’

People are also moving away from a single style of home throughout—whether that’s contemporary or farmhouse—toward mixing and matching décor elements, says Houzz editor Anne Colby. The company had a 58% surge in demand for home-renovation and design professionals in June 2020, compared with June 2019. There’s been particularly strong interest in major outdoor projects.

Outside spaces are becoming a greater priority for people in 2020. Masseria Torre Coccaro in Mexico.

Bigger isn’t Always Better

Today’s homeowners are mindful of overall size, choosing realistic footprints.  Research reveals when viewing home-renovation projects, consumers often click on photos of small, well-appointed areas that feel somewhat attainable.  People gravitate toward homes and spaces that they can identify with.

We’re not in a period of economic optimism, the dreams are somewhat different. The marketed dream home is something that’s aspirational, but it’s possible.

Opulent Outdoors

The pandemic is influencing the outside of the dream home. Patios and exterior spaces are becoming a greater priority for homeowners. Favoured outdoor spaces have décor and lighting that wouldn’t be out of place indoors. Outside spaces are becoming more connected to the interior and more welcoming to guests. Exterior spaces, complete with electric heaters, fans and shaded areas, help homeowners get the most from outdoor spaces. Covered cooking areas with built-in grills, fire pits with comfortable seating and dining areas are making it easier to relax or to work outside. The patio and the deck are really just another room in the house. Read more, ‘How To Create An Outdoor Room.’

The Details

Homeowners are upping spending on areas that don’t have a wow factor for visitors. They want top-of-the-line heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, in an effort to make indoor life safer and more comfortable. Other choices are solid-wood doors for quiet, and custom, built-in storage throughout for more space. Average project costs rose this year, compared with 2019, because people are renovating more rooms.

Overall, construction costs in 2020, to date, are up a square metre for high-end homes. People may spend more money on elements of their homes because they are valuing them in a different way.

In the Spotlight: Home Office Nooks

Homeowners want versatile, well-lighted spaces that are soundproof and can be closed off from the main living area and are equipped with high-quality digital infrastructure. They are interested in the notion of separable space—having the option to be part of the living space. In some instances, families request two or more office nooks to accommodate quiet areas for everyone in the home, including children needing space to do classwork. In past projects, home offices were set up in a spare bedroom as an afterthought or homeworkers may have been happy to work at their dining table. Read more, ‘How To Work From Home If You’ve Never Done It Before.’

Houses are getting makeovers for the benefit of families, not guests. Natural lights basks in Athena Calderone’s kitchen, via @EyeSwoon

Laundries, Mudrooms and Walk-in Pantries:

Real Houses Instagram has noticed more interest for utilitarian spaces, including the laundry room, mudroom and walk-in pantry.

These private areas are getting a makeover for the benefit of families, not guests.

Daring wallpaper choices, hip floor tiles and thoughtfully chosen wall sconces or chandeliers help these smaller areas feel more playful. People are spending a lot of time in those rooms, and want to make them functional and beautiful.

Down-to-Earth Kitchens:

Meanwhile, the dream kitchen is getting more down-to-earth. Popular photos on instagram show soft greens and browns, with wood accents that complement brass or mixed-metal fixtures. Light-coloured oak shelving is another common accent. All-white is less popular with people leaning toward a two-tone or three-tone kitchen. Since the closure of restaurants has increased most family’s cooking, some want a bigger kitchen, with more room to store food and additional places to relax. Read more, ‘How To Renovate Your Kitchen An Not End Up In Tears.’

San Francisco interior designer Caitlin Flemming designed a two-tone kitchen that was popular on instagram for its simplicity. She used Farrow & Ball’s Pigeon paint for some of the brass-adorned cabinets, then installed a plain white quartz countertop instead of one in veined marble. It is all about flowing together – sometimes marble can be a little distracting.

All-white is less popular in kitchens with people getting more down-to-earth, leaning towards more wood, and two-tone kitchens. Image via Devol Kitchens.

Less Open Living Spaces:

It turns out an open floor plan isn’t acoustically ideal for multiple simultaneous conversations, something many of us didn’t fully realise until the coronavirus quarantine forced us to work from home alongside our partners and children.

The only place where we can peacefully talk on the phone and participate in video calls is the garage, or outside. Private nooks have become important.

Art in the Bathroom:

Bathrooms are getting their own updates by blending neutral colours with interesting textures to make small spaces seem larger. In one of Houzz’s most popular photos, a painting hung above the loo with shower tiles expanded to the entire bathroom create a cohesive modern space. This makes it more like a room, than just where to use the lavatory. Views are also becoming important in the smallest room in the house. Read more, ‘Affordable Art Exists – Here Is Where To Find It Online.’

Wooden beams throughout and the arched windows b y @katya__rudenko architects and @mininat_designs in living areas which are increasingly using high-contrast black or blue elements with wall colours switching from darker hues to simple whites.

Statement Lighting:

When it comes to dining areas, homeowners are focusing on statement lighting or modern wood elements that give a polished feel and set the spaces apart visually from the kitchen. Living and dining areas are using high-contrast black or blue elements.

The wall colour has switched from darker hues to simple whites.

A Suburban Renaissance:

People are going to find that their dollar goes a whole lot further in the suburbs, 0r country, in which case they may be able to pick up a house and renovate it and furnish it. They’re moving from a 70-square-metre apartment in the city to a 400-square-metre house in a beautiful area.  Suddenly you have an entry, a living room, a dining room, a den, a kitchen with an eat-in area, and a mudroom—rooms you forget exist living in a city.

Warmth on the Patio:

The pandemic appears to be boosting demand for warmth on the patio, whether at the end of an electrical cord or a fire poker.. Searches for “outdoor fireplaces” and “fire pits” on home-goods site Perigold are up 72% year over year. Eight of the nine fire pits that Martha Stewart released through Wayfair this spring—in styles from faux fieldstone to black powder-coated steel—have sold out. We want to use our decks year-round.

One potential inspiration for families who have reallocated eating-out budgets to outfitting their backyard hangs: the al fresco dining arrangements of high-altitude restaurateurs. Ideas such as chairs draped with fleecy faux sheep pelts with creamy woollen throws on hand ready to cosset folks enjoying drinks by the light of hurricane candles. Historically speaking, outdoor restaurant dining goes back to the Spanish flu. They thought about it in 1918 for the very same reasons we think about it now—to extend the space in the streets of Paris.

Approaching cold fronts are inspiring designers to layer outdoor rooms with accessories nearly as cosily as interior ones. On walls behind main seating areas, are is being installed with a hidden agenda: Custom infrared-heated wall panels.

Many homeowners are asking for easy-to-open walls that can create indoor-outdoor spaces to bring in fresh air and make it easier to entertain during a pandemic.

What Dreams Are Made of:

Start with a concept. Decide on your design brand words—for example, luxury eco-resort spa—to guide the design process. Every choice you make, must share the same filter. Decide on must-haves. For instance, natural wood throughout. Or things such as a hypoallergenic sofa without MDF elements, and a latex mattress. Or a high-end water-filtration system. Customize. It might be about perfecting form and fit. You might go as far as to measure the length of your thighs to tailor build-in seating around the fire pit; custom indoor sofas to the same measurements. Or study the sun to determine the best angle for an outdoor canopy. For most families, the idea of a dream home shifts with their values and goals. That notion of I’m going to do this once and it’s going to be done is kind of a misnomer.

We grow, so our spaces are going to grow.

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