Expert Reflections on the Design of the Times
Rowland+Broughton principal Sarah Broughton and architect Paul Bormann discuss how design is evolving to accommodate the changing social landscape
Change is a constant. How we adapt to it is an ongoing challenge in life as well as design. Over the past few months, I have been invigorated by the speed of change and the creative opportunity it presents. I have also been hyper-aware of a new intimacy, where “6 feet apart” has never felt so close or so far. How does the new intimacy translate into our homes?
Here, a sampling of the ideas that flowed from our discussion.
THRESHOLDS How we enter and exit our homes has become a more deliberate process. The manner in which we bring in everything from packages to visitors and how we safely transition necessitates change. The entry foyer is back and can exist in multiple forms. In our home, our mudroom acts as our foyer and also functions as our bar. We transformed the bar sink into a washing station, with an area for additional hand sanitizer, extra clean gloves and masks.
Spaces like this can serve as both an entryway and a cleaning zone. Vestibules also provide an easy transition from the public street to a private home. They act as a weather break, by keeping the elements from flowing directly into the house, and also provide a dedicated zone for guests’ coats and shoes. Depending on how much space is available, the vestibule can include hospitable considerations, such as a coat tree or a separate built-in closet for guests.
HOME OFFICES The home office or study used to be mainly a private space. This has been turned on its head, as our personal home working spaces are now seen by everyone via Zoom! This duality in function creates a need for a private, personal working space, with a desk, plus areas to charge devices, store laptops, collect important papers and the like. Natural light is ideal, because it spawns creativity, is pleasant and allows you to stay in harmony with circadian rhythms.
For home offices with dual private and public functions, purposeful planning is key. “What’s nice is being able to close the door,” Bormann says. “In our home, we have a hallway space that connects two bedrooms, and we did a built-in. So we have a countertop with cabinets below, where we can hide all sorts of office supplies, and then above we have a series of shelves where we can put a lot of decorative items.”
FLEXIBLE SPACES + STORAGE Planning for multiple functions with proper storage allows us to make the most out of our home spaces. The guest bedroom, which may only be needed for sleeping a small percentage of time, opens up opportunity. One of our favorite flexibility tools is custom Murphy beds. They are comfortable, worthy of even the most discerning guests, and when not needed, they stow away, transforming the space—for yoga, for exercise, for meditation, for crafting or as a playroom for kids. Ample built-in storage is key in these spaces, allowing items to be tucked away when not in use and enabling a swift transformation of the room.
Well-planned storage spaces can create a sense of calm. Built-in, easy-access storage that is not too deep enables us to anticipate and use what we have on hand. Take the basement, for instance. “Basements have a double duty,” Bormann says. “It [may be] a mechanical room, but if you buy some metal shelves in modular pieces, you can get quite a substantial increase in food and dry-goods storage.”
“If anyone wants to keep creating, THEY HAVE TO BE INTO CHANGE.” — Miles Davis
OUTDOOR LIVING Outdoor spaces that are transformable for safe socializing can be a utilitarian dream. Planning multiple areas where furniture can be easily moved or where people can stand comfortably at a distance is a fantastic luxury. At R+B, we like to use a combination of hard surfaces, such as stone pavers or concrete, and permeable soft surfaces, such as drought-tolerant ground cover or pea gravel that acts as a level surface for furniture groupings.
Levels can also be used successfully with built-in decks or depressed play areas that create outdoor rooms within the garden. Planted pots are a flexible and functional divider. Our sun in Colorado is an asset, yet it can also be severe at times, and outdoor coverings, such as trellises, pergolas, canvas umbrellas or expandable awnings, should be considered for protection.
In addition, thoughtfully considered serving areas allow guests to remain outside and limit entry into the home. Pass-through windows are great for this. And furniture that can expand and is easily stored makes outdoor entertaining much simpler. One of my favorite outdoor furniture lines is Fermob. Our Fermob table expands to double its length, which has allowed us to have small, safely spaced outdoor dinner parties this summer. The chairs fold easily and any extras are easily stowed away.
As architects, we have a huge opportunity to make our lives much fuller and more enjoyable through versatile home design. New ideas are emerging, as our private homes become public forums for our professional lives and as we re-examine them as a safe haven from public health concerns. Change has inspired possibilities, and through those, we’ve developed a new intimacy—a new normal.