SPACES WITH PURPOSE
Last March, when we all started spending a lot more time looking at the inside of our homes, many people started examining their spaces with a much more critical eye. That redecorating and renovation wish list suddenly became much more top of mind. The home improvement industry in Tampa Bay, and around the country, caught fire.
“When people started feeling a little bit more comfortable to spend money, about two months into the pandemic, the phone was ringing off the hook,” says Michael Morabito, the owner and principal designer of Tampa’s Coco Design Group.
“Being stuck at home with the stay-at-home order, people were really living with their space and seeing how it functioned,” says Lisa Lamb, interior designer and founder of the South Tampa-based Lisa Lamb Interiors. “They [remembered] the list they put on the back burner — I need to attack this living room, or I need to find art for these walls, or my children need their big-kid room — I think they finally started to focus on that.”
But beyond general home renos, there were specific trends that caught on because of the unique conditions fomented by the pandemic. From our need for home workspaces to a newfound desire to re-create the travel experience in our own backyards, here are just a few ways 2020 changed interior design.
MAKE IT WORK
Unsurprisingly, with the rise in working from home, requests for home offices went through the roof this year. And it’s not just your standard desk, chair, bookshelf setup. Now, Morabito says, clients need “Zoom-worthy” spaces with elaborate backgrounds, interesting textures and finishes, and lighting that will flatter during video calls.
“Home offices are not just to get the work done,” adds Michelle Miller, principal designer of Madeira Beach-based Michelle Miller Design. “We’re doing elaborate offices with chandeliers and wallpaper and comfy chaise lounges because people are spending so much time at home.”
While homeowners who already had a home office are taking this opportunity to elevate them, designers are helping others get creative with the available space in their home to create new or additional workstations wherever they can to accommodate the entire family. Morabito says a big part of her pandemic-era design has involved breaking open-concept floorplans into separate work and homeschooling areas.
“Maybe it’s just some dead space where people have put art or a console table or a bench,” Morabito says. “We’re redesigning it to be more of a workspace.”
Both Miller and Morabito have seen home offices make their way into more and more construction plans for their clients building new homes. Miller thinks it’s one trend that will be sticking around long after COVID is gone thanks to remote work’s ability to bring families a little closer together.
“I had one client mention to me that it’s so nice to have breakfast with his kids in the morning. [Working in the office], he left in the morning before them and came home late at night, and now he’s actually able to spend time with his children.”
HOSTS WITH THE MOST
One of the spaces clients really homed in on was the guest bedroom, says Lamb. “After not being able to see extended family for so long, they were ready to make that space so inviting that, when everything cleared, they could have family in town as much as possible within their own house,” she explains.
With the widespread closures of public spaces and the difficulty of travel in 2020, many people turned to hosting small groups of people at home and sought ways to make their domicile feel like the places they longed to visit — in a way, bringing the outside world in. That starts with looking to the places you like to go and letting that influence how you design your own space.
“I think people are realizing when they create these design-influenced spaces, it’s making it easier for them to stay home,” Morabito says. “When you think about it, the reason why we leave our houses for the most part is centered around some type of design and socializing. You really gravitate to these places that are beautifully designed. If you think about hotels, they’re always so luxurious and over the top. If you can kind of bring that back and create that in your own home, it makes you think, why would I even leave my house?”
For some clients it’s as simple as a home gym with rubber mat flooring and a mirrored wall, and for others, it’s a mini cocktail lounge created in an unused room. “A lot of our clients are focused on home entertaining with small groups of people because of COVID,” Miller adds. “The whole idea of a separate lounge or cocktail area with a bar cart — that old-school, dinner party idea seems to be an ongoing trend.”
Just as the interior designers have seen their businesses pick up, so too have their pool and outdoor living contractors. “The number of people who are asking who to use for pools to add to their existing backyards has increased a ton,” Lamb says. “Everyone wants to have their home functional and kid-friendly and [have a place to] let the kids get some energy out. There’s definitely been a bigger focus on the outdoor living space and outdoor kitchens.”
While luxurious, resort-style outdoor spaces have long since been a given in high-end homes, Miller says they became a must-have for every homeowner this year. “Outdoor living is a completely different dynamic right now,” she says. “There’s fire pits and cozy sectional sofas, lounges and blankets and pillows. It’s an extension of the living space, but it’s outside. Everybody’s looking at their outdoor spaces now, and I think that’s huge.”
CREATURES OF COMFORT
More than anything, people want to feel safe and comfortable in their homes. For some, that might mean installing touchless faucets and antimicrobial countertops in the kitchen to reduce touchpoints and fight off germs. For others, it means creating a bathroom that reminds them of their favorite spa every time they enter. But for most homeowners, it’s about creating comfortable, cozy spaces that make living through tough times a little easier.
“We’re really seeing people want more of a comfortable environment,” Miller says. “We call it ‘comfortable couture.’ They want that designed look, but they want it to be user-friendly.”
“In the living spaces, we’re layering more,” she adds. “When we do a [design] presentation, we do a full presentation with furniture, area rugs, accessories and artwork. We’re layering on cozy blankets and additional tossed pillows. Just really getting back to that cocooning and enjoying being inside.”
She adds that clients are more willing to dive deep into the details of their designs, from choosing soft but hardy fabrics to picking warmer blues, greens and even subtle black tones in the kitchens, because they’re spending so much time in the home. After years of stark grays and whites dominating interiors, color is making a major comeback in response to the proverbial dark cloud cast by the pandemic. The 2021 Pantone color of the year, which designers look to as an annual trendsetter, is a bright yellow, while Benjamin Moore’s is a bold teal.
“People want color,” Miller says. “Warmer earth-tone colors or really bright lively pops of color — turquoise, pink, bright blue, jewel tones. It seems like people are really trying to incorporate color into their home to lift their spirits and make it a little more appealing to them.”
“I think people have now realized how their homes can affect their mood,” Morabito adds. “People are now seeing when you are creating these curated spaces that reflect your personality, [spaces] that can be lived in and enjoyed, I think they’re just happier at home. I do think that now people are realizing that, they’ll continue trying to keep making design a priority, [even after the pandemic is over].”
Lamb adds that, during this time, you’re creating memories for the whole family. By designing a space where everyone feels comfortable and safe, you’re actually helping reframe a dark and difficult time.
“When you look back on your childhood, people remember such vivid memories of their home,” she says. “I want people to remember, ‘My family made such a wonderful space for us. It was the coziest house.'”