In this world of shifting realities, thanks to the pandemic, we’ve all been spending most of our time cooped up indoors. The residential interior has transformed to be a multi-functional space that supports work, recreation, and rest. This is one of the many effects of the pandemic on the world of interior design that encourage designers to creatively deal with the challenges of everyday life in the pandemic.

Largely, different kinds of interior spaces, such as offices, residences, hospitality, retail, and public spaces are being re-designed or re-arranged to support social distancing. The way we occupy and interact within an interior space has changed drastically over the past couple of months. Human behavior and anthropometry is the main driving factor of interior design. The needs of every space are highly personal, especially in these times. This drives the interior design community to come up with personalized design solutions for different interior spaces.

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Plex’eat hoods for post-pandemic restaurant dining, by Christophe Gernigon. Image Credit: Christophe Gernigon Studio ©Dezeen

Sustainability and self-sufficiency are two words that are commonly thrown around during this pandemic. The importance of a self-sufficient lifestyle, as well as a self-sufficient building and environment, is paramount during times like this. In the residential realm, sustainability has gained importance due to the increased occupancy, which demands highly efficient building systems. Relying on the natural environment for light and ventilation, access to outdoor or semi-outdoor green spaces are the simplest of design strategies that have had a huge impact during the pandemic. The use of local materials and craftsmanship is also gaining prominence, with even large firms choosing to work with smaller indigenous businesses.

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The Farmhouse, by architects Fei and Chris Precht is a project that connects the urban living with agriculture as a means of sustainable living. Image Credit: Christophe Gernigon Studio ©Dezeen

There is an increase in the attention to detail provided during the selection of interior materials and finishes. It has become increasingly important to ensure that the surfaces are easy to maintain and disinfect at regular intervals. Various research studies all over the world are looking into scientific data about the behavior of this particular virus. In general, there is a shift in the type of materials that are used in interior and exterior spaces, to curb the spread of infectious disease. It is also interesting to note that in historical times, there was a shift from using textiles extensively in the interior, to the use of ceramic tiles and similar materials as a result of infectious epidemics such as cholera.

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Apartment A, by Atelier Direct. The use of subway tile in bathrooms replaced the earlier Victorian use of textiles and wood, as a result of the epidemic. Image Credit: Atelier Direct ©Dezeen

Most offices have shifted to remote working, bringing up the question of the relevance of huge office spaces that we used to work in. Remote working is now considered more effective, especially in cities where workers spend hours on end in traffic jams on their commute to work. Studies indicate increased productivity as a result of the work from home culture. This questions the need and relevance of brick and mortar workspaces that were an indispensable part of our work culture. It can be predicted that there will be a reduction in the requirement of actual workspaces, and increased consumption of coworking spaces, due to the practical and financial implications of the pandemic.

Since most design studios and offices also work on digital modes of design and representation, the transition to remote working was relatively smooth. The use of materials from our immediate surroundings to make models, or represent ideas posed interesting challenges that provided an opportunity to be creative with design representation.

Similarly, the shift to the online culture that has been happening gradually, but has become increasingly pronounced during the pandemic, makes us question the relevance of retail and commercial facilities. Online platforms provide all the goods and services that are necessary, while retail outlets have now slowly shifted into becoming a warehouse of sorts that supports the online market. That being said, retail spaces in certain locations still experience huge amounts of traffic. Redesigning spaces such as these are the need of the hour. An interesting concept that has been used by small businesses in India is to display their stock at the storefront, the store entrance behaving as the cash register. This design strategy is extremely simple, but it has dual benefits. It prevents the general public from entering the store and also provides the store with much-needed visibility during these trying times. This goes to show that people are adapting to survive the present, and a lot can be learned from the world around us.

Biophilic design has gained increased prominence during this period. This stems from the lack of access we have to green spaces. Most homes in urban concrete jungles have little or no access to private green spaces. This access has proved to become more important during the pandemic, indicating that biophilic design might be a trend that emerges as a result of the pandemic. Blurring the boundary between the interior and exterior, and using the power of design to transform small, dingy spaces to look larger and airy have also been proven to be effective design strategies that contribute to the well being of occupants. Privacy has also become important, leading designers to question open plans and less private spaces that constitute modern interiors. This provides the community with a great opportunity to question and think critically about existing practices and principles of design.

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Ribeirão Preto Residence, by Perkins+Will, in Brazil. Image Credit: Perkins+Will © Dezeen

A couple of other prominent impacts worth mentioning are that most design firms are working their way towards increasing their scope to provide a larger range of design and build services. The social media presence of a design firm is becoming increasingly important, as it serves as a strong visual marketing tool for the influx of clients. One of the last, but the most crucial things, ever since the world has come to a standstill, is that the design community is becoming more aware of the power they hold to address global issues through design, be it climate change, poverty, or anything else. This pandemic has truly tested the resilience of all our communities, and it is safe to say that the design community is working diligently to design a better tomorrow.


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Anashwara Mandalay is an Architect, currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Interior Design. She believes that the true success of design lies in creative solutions to everyday problems, which drives her interest in minimalism and sustainable design practices. While her work encompasses graphics, product, interior, and architectural design, she is drawn to academia and journalism. She finds inspiration in the most unexpected places - her inclination towards travel, film, visual art and photography play a leading role in her work as a multi-faceted designer.

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