While safe spaces have always been a vital aspect of Premium properties, all Indian homes will have to adapt to a post-COVID-19 world, with thoughtful external features and innovative internal design.
“Design,” said Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, Inc, “is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
In our new age, defined by the COVID-19 #pandemic, people are increasingly looking at their spaces to see how they can ensure safety and maximize efficiency. Suddenly, our homes need to be multi-functional, and smart #design is crucial. Living rooms have turned into offices, dining tables have become virtual classrooms, and family members of all ages and occupations are negotiating personal space against conflicting demands. It used to make us smile when kids turned up on camera during important work calls, but as we move forward into this new normal of working from home, the need for professionalism at all costs will gain increasing importance.
Indian homes, in my view, will need to adapt to these circumstances, and as we spend more time in them, we will not only have to carve out #workspaces but also recreational areas for each member of the family. I have personally always believed that however small a home might be, space can be maximized through efficient and thoughtful design, and now, more than ever, we need to create homes that foster well-being as we spend extended amounts of time in them. With #workfromhome becoming the new normal, homes in cities like Pune, Mumbai and elsewhere can be fashioned in innovative ways that make spaces perform several jobs. Smart and clever design will be the need of the hour as we go forward after this pandemic.
Not just individual homes, residential projects on the whole, in fact, will need to keep certain parameters in mind, including open spaces with greenery, and safe recreational areas. Grade A developers have always designed properties with these features in mind, but now they will be increasingly in demand.
Premium properties often have an additional room or study rooms that can be modified into workspaces. Spacious balconies, which are also an important feature of many upmarket homes, also provide extra space to work for a change, apart from being ideal areas in which to relax when office work is done.
A lot of developers are redesigning apartments to accommodate separate small rooms for work. Some are replicating office environments at home, with enough electrical points, and privacy built in, not only through design but through detailing – doors that reduce sounds from other rooms, for instance. Eco-friendly, energy-saving features are also gaining traction.
Very coincidently even before the pandemic, we had planned a co-working space within our residential complex at Supreme Estia so that the apartment owners can take the benefit of WFH by just pressing the elevator button and work in a professional atmosphere with the convenience of not travelling .
Here are some of the trends that I foresee:
1) Transformative Spaces: While multi-functional spaces are important, people would not want to make work calls from what looks like a messy bedroom, or spend their leisure time in an area designed like an office. Once your workday has ended, it must be possible to quickly adapt the room to recreational or children’s needs. The home should look like a family space once office hours are done.
One way to ensure this is to have neutral colours on your walls that would work with any furniture arrangement. Wooden wall panels, bright white partitions, and tasteful rugs could make all the difference.
Bedrooms could be planned in such a way that one bedroom is closer to the entrance door and could hence act as an office by day (and accept work-related visitors) while private spaces such as the kitchen and other bedrooms could be further away.
2) Furniture: Another easy method to make the most of your home is to have flexible furniture that can be used for more than one purpose. Furniture that can be adjusted and adapted will be highly suited to such a situation. I was reading about one international trend where beds can be raised to the ceiling when not in use. Apart from saving space, this could become a unique ceiling and light fixture. The bed is moved with the help of a motor, but in case of a power shortage – as happens so often in India – it can also be moved manually. While this trend, I think, is yet to become common, in India we are familiar with sofa-cum-beds, and sometimes, beds that fold up against the wall.
Cupboards could have built-in spaces for small desks that hold the basics or even just a computer/ laptop. Folding furniture or a similar kind that can be pushed into a wall niche would work to transform a bedroom into a smart office. Partitions will also play a big role as they can provide an easy to access temporary private space. Well-designed partitions could add value to the aesthetics of the room rather than just functionality. Built-in cupboards with storage for desktops could work as a neat put-away office in a home that is compact and lacking extra space.
Other smaller items of furniture such as stackable chairs and coffee tables with storage would also be useful.
3) Balconies and Terraces: Balconies, and – if you are fortunate enough to have them – terraces, will also become sought-after features in the post-pandemic era; these are usually integral to the design of premium properties. Such features act as breakout spaces, bringing fresh air and a welcome zone for both work and recreation. They also bring natural light to an indoor space and connect interior and exterior environs.
4) Energy-efficient homes: Energy efficiency has been important for several years now and in our era of climate change, it is even more essential. As refrigerators get opened frequently by hungry stay-at-home family members, and air conditioners are on day and night, it is vital to ensure that technology is on your side. Energy-guzzling gadgets spell disaster for the environment, of course, but they can also hit where it personally hurts, in terms of your electricity bills.
5) Designated areas for appliances: While Indian homeowners have traditionally depended on household help for cleaning and washing clothes, the pandemic has forced us all to be more self-reliant. Washing machines have been a common feature in our homes for years, but relatively few people own dishwashers, dryers or even vacuum cleaners. Premium apartments are often designed to accommodate dishwashers in the kitchens, but now, I expect that smaller houses will also be built with these, and other gadgets in mind.
6) Lighting: A significant aspect of energy efficiency is lighting, and premium properties are usually designed to make the most of natural sunlight. As more family members seek workspaces at home, consider switching to LEDs.
Well-designed lighting plays a major role in the ambience of a home, but now one must also think about where they are placed, in terms of workspaces. If you are on a video call, and need to be seen, then a light on the face is essential for greatest impact. In these last few months, people have been discovering that while an area of the home may be perfect otherwise for such calls, the lack of adequate lighting makes it difficult to use.
There are many fundamental features that would transform Indian homes in the post-pandemic world, but small changes that homeowners introduce on their own could make a big impact too.