This is the time of year when we learn about the top colors of the year, which decade is making a style comeback, and whether wallpaper or stainless steel appliances are in or out right now.
This trend report won’t answer any of those questions, as its focus is on macro design details that impact the safety, accessibility, functionality and health-enhancing potential of people’s homes. With Americans facing more time in their residences because of yet another wave of COVID, these wellness design trends can have a tremendous impact on their overall well-being.
1. Calming, Nature Inspired, Personalized Spaces
“After two-years locking down, we will see more place-based relationships between homes and the distinctive ecological features surrounding them,” predicts Kerrie Kelly, an award-winning interior designer, author and trend forecaster for Zillow and Houzz. “This means an increased use of local organic materials while maximizing sunlight, fresh air, plants and other natural elements,” she explains. “Home needs to be a safe haven that is restorative and regenerative, especially in our bedroom spaces,” she adds, and involves creating transitions between work and rest spaces, simplifying decoration and supporting a calmer lifestyle.
Simple doesn’t mean minimalistic however; it means choosing personalized details that speak to the resident. “As people are traveling less, they have more expendable income, so creative expressions of personality infuse interior design. Furnishings, rugs, art and paint reflecting travel destinations bring this idea home and ‘feed the soul’ via personal expression,” she adds.
2. Increased Use of Technology
Hands-free and voice technology are definitely here to stay, asserts Janice Costa, design industry veteran and founding president of the KB Designers Network. “While everyone hopes the pandemic will wane in 2022, we’ve gotten so used to the no touch thing as part of our germ avoidance strategy, we’ve come to realize that it’s just smart from a hygienic standpoint.”
This has turned into touchless options for faucets, toilet handles, lights and other essentials. Costa notes that while many homeowners have grown less virus-phobic at home, “Touch-free isn’t just about avoiding germs, it’s about food safety, general cleanliness and convenience.” As Siri and Alexa have become ubiquitous, we’ve also seen a greater reliance on voice automation. “It no longer feels artificial or surreal the way it once did,” she observes.
For bathrooms, which have become even more important as personal escapes in crowded home settings, the industry executive says advanced lighting will be a strong trend. “You’re seeing incredible mood lighting in showers that can recreate a vast array of experiences; there are products that make you feel like you’re showering in a forest under a full moon, or like you’re standing under a sparkling, sunlit waterfall.”
Light therapy grew in popularity during the pandemic, she notes, and predicts, “I expect to see that really blossom in 2022 as we realize the power of light to impact our mood, lower our stress levels, increase our energy level or soothe and calm us after a tough day.”
“People will become familiar with opening and closing shades by voice, letting kids and pets in or out of the house, being able to see what’s happening in the home and across the property (you’ve been warned, porch pirates!) and sharing that information with authorities, quickly, if needed in case of an emergency,” observes technology professional and podcaster Katye McGregor Bennett, consultant to residential products manufacturers and the Home Technology Association.
Part of the technology discussion is privacy, she adds, and with more affordable devices flooding the market, “The formidable challenge we face is in the broad-based adoption of off-the-shelf technology that typically doesn’t offer the type of security or data privacy needed to reduce the risk of a cyberattack or cybercrimes in general. It’s unfortunate, but price points and easy availability drive purchases and invite inherent risk.”
3. Health Supporting Features and Layouts
“Acoustical privacy, air filtration systems and natural light among interior spaces will be essential and we will see more biophilic design, flexible rooms, sliding doors and walls, and soundscaping applied in home offices,” Kelly comments.
One major COVID-inspired change Costa anticipates is a shift away from ‘open everywhere’ floor plans. “That trend didn’t hold up well during the pandemic – when multiple people are using a space together, you get noise pollution, you get odors that move from one room to the next, you lose much needed privacy, and you don’t get the same sense of cleanliness. While I don’t think we’re going to see walls everywhere, I do think we’re going to see more spaces designed with privacy niches in mind, so you get the feeling of openness without it being one big open space.”
Bennett expects to see increased use of home fitness areas, reading rooms and media or home theater spaces. “It’s my belief that we will see music, lighting, and shading playing a much stronger role in these environments and throughout the home,” the technology pro says.
Unlike in past decades when showing off your big screen or massive speakers was the trend, subtle will be the dominant trend going forward. “Products that support these experiences will take a lead position; discreet speakers that deliver great sound but blend into the room and motorized shades and lighting that can be programmed to seamlessly create a zen-like scene. Screens or TVs that hide away until commanded into use help maintain aesthetics but also reduce visual clutter.”
4. Increased Functionality Without Fuss
Costa points to low maintenance surfaces and organizational enhancements that support health and well-being as strong 2022 trends. “People are spending more time at home, whether it’s adults working from home, or kids doing remote learning. Both mean homes are seeing more traffic and more wear and tear, making it tougher to keep them clean. This is going to continue to be a key driver toward easy care surfaces and organizational products because no one likes clutter, and no one wants to do more cleaning than they have to!”
She also sees these trends impacting space planning. “I think we’re going to see a growing interest in mudrooms where people can decontaminate, removing dirty shoes or outerwear before coming into the house proper.”
In all-important kitchen spaces, Costa sees design moving away from micro solutions like UV sanitizing cabinets and vegetable cleaning modules to a macro approach. “We want fresh, clean spaces that are aesthetically appealing, and that incorporate hygiene seamlessly. That can mean everything from high quality air purifiers that are whisper quiet to products like faucets that incorporate ozone into the water to better clean vegetables to self-cleaning sinks and dishwashers with high-quality sanitize cycles – things that fit seamlessly into the design rather than calling attention to their hygienic benefits.”
Laundry areas, for those whose homes have them, have grown in importance. They’ve adapted to the pet popularity trend, Costa notes. “Those pets need space for feeding stations, litter boxes, toys, beds, crates, grooming stations and storage for supplies.” Crafting is another trend that has grown, and makes sense to land in the laundry room with its low maintenance surfaces, water source and storage potential.
Laundry appliances themselves are getting more functional and wellness-focused with steam and mood-lifting colors. Laundry rooms themselves are getting brighter and more decorative as they serve more purposes.
5. Enhanced Outdoor Living Spaces
With people seeking to avoid crowds, especially with the increased transmissibility of COVID’s omicron variant, private outdoor spaces have gained more importance. “Outdoor design is shifting focus away from aesthetics and space layout to occupant well-being and experience-driven environments among friends and family,” Kelly observes. This translates to the full spectrum of outdoor possibilities, from work to play, study to healing. All will be “used by all occupants in fuller and deeper capacity,” the designer predicts.
Part of this trend is enhanced outdoor cooking and entertaining capacity, Costa points out. “Forget burgers and hot dogs – you’ve had people preparing full holiday meals outdoors, experimenting with smokers, rotisseries, flat top grills. They’ve discovered that today’s outdoor appliances offer a huge degree of cooking flexibility, and they’ve discovered that eating outdoors feels good, the meals taste better, entertaining is less stressful and there’s a certain intimacy, gathering around a fire pit to tell stories, or watching a movie together on a big screen TV with this great sound system under a beautiful night sky; it’s expanded our vision of what entertaining can be.” This trend will continue post-pandemic, she believes.
Technology will be a force in creating these premium outdoor living environments, Bennett notes. This will take the same discreet aesthetic as indoors with hidden speakers, path lighting for safety and ambiance, TVs that can withstand the elements and hide away when not in use and highly desirable space adaptation. “Motorized shades that quickly convert an open-air patio into a cozy, semi-enclosed space that helps control temps and keeps bugs out are highly desirable. Apps that control each of these make it more enjoyable and will be front-of-mind for many, but the emphasis will be on ease of use.”
6. Alternative Building Strategies, Technology and Materials
As builders and homeowners have seen supply challenge shortages, price increases, storm damage and other climate change impacts that drive up the costs and timeframe for new, rebuilt or improved homes, the appeal of innovative thinking is growing. Kelly points to 3-D printing technology and concrete construction as two prominent examples.
“Concrete block construction delivers benefits such as the strength to better withstand weather extremes (e.g., hurricanes and fires).” Producing them with 3-D technology could deliver those benefits faster and more affordably, getting storm-ravaged residents and first time homebuyers into safe new homes faster.
Bennett comments on the importance of smarter home technology as part of whatever construction approaches are taken: “Peace of mind and mental health should play a significant role in wellness design, and that starts with the foundation. Not just the physical foundation but the digital foundation, the network which facilitates fast, secure, and safe connectivity throughout the home and that prevents cyberattacks. Without a robust network, technology cannot function as intended and people become weary, leery, and frustrated.”
Technology leaders are looking at this issue and creating a single smart home standard, but whether this will come to fruition is unknown at this point. The fact that global brands that work far beyond the home space want us to have such a standard may emerge as 2023’s top trend.
Author’s Note: Bennett, Costa and Kelly will be participating in a Clubhouse conversation on Wednesday, January 5 at 4 pm Eastern (1 PM Pacific) to discuss these trends in depth and answer participant questions. This session is open to everyone. Those who miss the live event can find a recording the following Wednesday on the Gold Notes blog.