What people want from their new home is changing as Covid-19 hits self-builders’ psyche, says Co Kerry architectural designer Niall Healy.
As the lockdown experience has required us to reimagine the place we call home, perhaps we can learn some lessons and appreciate that, in the words of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, perhaps less is more.
Think of the reduction in our carbon footprint alone if we collectively reduced commuting miles by 20 or 40 per cent by working from home one or two days per week, as for many, work is what you do, not where you go.
The increase in the number of people working from home will probably be one of the biggest cultural changes to come out of the pandemic. But creating a dedicated space for the home office is not as straightforward as it might seem, especially in an existing house.
From a wellbeing point of view, it is important to have a workspace that can be completely abandoned and out of sight at the end of a working day.
My own home office is at the end of the garden and it has, from time to time, become the spare guest room, the gym and the occasional karaoke club with friends on a Sunday afternoon.
In fact, adapting spaces and repurposing them for other functions, such as an exercise class, is taking on greater importance than it might have had in the past.
Our relationship to spaces can encourage habit; during the pandemic in our home we have installed a curtain track to easily transform a utility space into a calm sanctuary. The result is a haven conducive to mindfulness practice.
Good design always took into account these requirements; but for households that spent most of their time away from home, a different layout and design would have been created than one suited to a stay-at-home family.
Design is never a one size fits all exercise, but as our relationship with our homes becomes more intimate we need to get them to work harder than ever before.
Finding a (re)purpose
During the lockdown wedding designer Peter Kelly designed and built a Cayman Island summer shack at the bottom of his garden with daughter Jessie Mai; a little oasis to read a book, have a cocktail, paint or take a zoom call.
He reflects on his experience: “The best part of it is the memories of building it with my daughter. Showing her how to create something out of things that others may have thrown away; for example we repurposed an old chest of drawers into a bar and coffee table.”