It’s been one year since the UK recorded its first Coronavirus case. Since then, multiple ‘Stay at Home’ orders have come into effect, and humans have lived up to their name of being one of the most adaptable species.
Not only have we seen significant social change, but the pandemic has also altered how we interact with our homes. And while these new behaviours may seem unprecedented, the truth is, our homes have seen it all before.
A Brief History lesson
Previous pandemics have left their mark on the houses we see today. The 1854 Cholera outbreak in London adapted our homes to feature the ‘modern bathroom’, and the 1918 flu pandemic propelled the movement for cleaner homes.
Le Corbusier, a Swiss-French architect and designer, was a leading pioneer in this. His writings in minimalism and hygiene in home design introduced built-in closets to aid in easier cleaning, and if you were to look closely around your home today, chances are you’ll find one.
History indeed repeats itself — another pandemic; another change to our homes. But of course, we’re in the 21st century, and home life looks a little different from how it did 100 years ago.
So, how have humans adapted this time, and how has COVID-19 changed the way we use our homes? Stick around, and HomeHero will reveal all.
A greater Shift to Smart Home Technology
Let’s kick things off with a modern, and perhaps, futuristic change to our homes; Smart Technology.
It’s no secret that smart home technology has been rising through the ranks for some time now. Amazon and Google have sold 150 million smart speakers in four years, and 23% of the UK’s population owned a smart home device in 2018.
In 2019, this number rose to 57% according to a Smart Home Week survey. 4 in 10 adults use smart technology to control the television, and a further 45% said they had every intention of making their home even smarter.
Fast forward to 2020 and Statista, the internet’s leading statistics database, found that 130 million units of smart home devices were shipped worldwide — compared to 120 million units in 2019.
While these figures reflect a natural, growing consumer trend towards easier living, it would be interesting to know the part the pandemic played in this. Well, you’re in luck.
A Hands Free Future
To keep our homes more hygienic, using voice-controlled technology such as Alexa or Google Assistant allows us to use our homes freely and without the fear of contamination.
Light switches, TV remotes, thermostats and kettles are all hotspots for germs, and while antibacterial wipes have been our saving grace during the pandemic, they’re hardly eco-friendly.
Due to their ‘single-use’ nature and synthetic fibres that prevent them from being compostable, many disinfectant wipes end up in landfill.
They can also end up in our shores, as the number of wet wipes found washed up on the UK’s coastlines increased by more than 400% between 2006 and 2016.
In the race to mitigate the viruses spread, smart technology will continue to promote healthier home living. At the sound of our voice, we can control appliances and even lock doors with ease.
And with the dreaded possibility of the next pandemic hanging over us, the use of smart home technology helps to make our homes more energy-efficient.
So, there’s no wonder why a new survey found that 51% of consumers purchased at least one smart device to improve home living during the pandemic.
What we once considered a convenient ‘nice-to-have’, our heightened relationship with touch and the looming issue of climate change will transform smart home technology into a necessity — and it’s a growing trend we don’t see wavering.
Farewell to the Open-Plan Living SPace
According to a survey by Xiaomi, a multinational electronics company, 66% of consumers made makeshift spacing arrangements to accommodate new lifestyles at home during the pandemic.
So, it’s out with the old and in with the new. The reigning, open-plan living space trend is dying out, and instead, we’re segregating space to create new uses for them; from a home office to home cinemas.
While 82% of respondents agreed that homes with smart devices posed a significant advantage in achieving this, many homeowners have made big design changes to create separate zones for different functions.
Simply Loft, a loft conversion specialist, reported a 54% increase in orders last year compared to 2019. According to Forbes, homeowners are also requesting larger kitchen islands with built-in seats to accommodate multiple activities.
Home decor is also playing a pivotal role in separating space for different functions. Between April and July 2020, paint, wallpaper, and plant sales boomed, and new colour trends emerged; from calming blues for relaxation to vibrant greens for concentration.
The pandemic has encouraged us to take more pride in our homes by investing money and resources into optimising each room to fulfil a purpose.
But where does this leave tenants renting in the private sector?
More Creative & Decorative Freedom
It’s no secret that tenants can’t exercise the same creative freedoms as homeowners can. Most landlords prohibit tenants from decorating their homes; from painting the walls to hanging up artwork.
In 2015, insurance provider Endsleigh surveyed 1,000 tenants about this issue. They found that 43% said they’d be willing to pay more rent if landlords allowed them to personalise their homes.
A further 19% stated they’d want the option to paint the walls in a colour they like, and 17% of tenants want to fix screws in the wall to hang heavy pictures or mirrors.
And while it isn’t feasible for tenants to extend or renovate their homes, strict tenancy agreements can cause tenants to never feel truly at home.
But amid the pandemic, this is where filling our homes with accessible, sensory stimuli has come in handy.
Using Our Homes to Stimulate the Senses
Sensory stimulation boasts a whole host of benefits; from reducing anxiety levels to improving our concentration.
Numerous studies have also revealed that humans are the happiest and healthiest when experiencing nature — whether by seeing, hearing or smelling it.
And since leaving our homes is a risky venture, and not everyone has the luxury of escaping outdoors, many are bringing the outside world to them by tapping into the senses.
Home fragrance sales have surged throughout the pandemic, and candles with traditional British scents, such as rhubarb and rose, have dominated the market.
Nature documentaries and music playlists are also proving popular. The BBC is undertaking a ‘unique’ research project into the benefits of virtual experiences of nature.
Onboard the project is nature sound recordist, Christ Watson, who believes virtual experiences can yield the same psychological benefits as in-person ones.
“One of the liberating aspects of sound is that you don’t need to be in the rain or uncomfortable or walk miles to go somewhere,” he tells the BBC.
‘We can slow down; we can internalise those sounds and think about them in quite an interesting, creative way.’
Growing your own veg and plants has also surged during the pandemic, as it’s allowed us to use our homes for self-sufficiency and to satisfy a ‘nurturing instinct’.
Whether it’s through sensory stimuli or smart technology, COVID-19 has encouraged us to create little moments of happiness within our homes.
It’s moved from a place where we lay our heads to one where nature can thrive and be appreciated.
For this moment in history, the pandemic has made us rethink home design yet again. We’ve transformed it into a hub that facilitates work, leisure and home life in innovative ways.
But if one hasn’t changed, it’s the desire to create cleaner homes. And while design layout may aid in this, it’s smart technology that will carry this into fruition — benefitting both us and the environment in the future yet to come.
How very 2021.