Interiors with flexible furniture are set to dominate our post-pandemic interiors well into autumn and beyond.
How long the coronavirus stays with us is anyone’s guess, but interior designers are already preparing for an extended version of the new normal.
One assignment at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond in the United States this spring focused on solving challenging and timely spatial problems arising from pandemic-enforced lifestyle changes.
Students focused on the smaller spaces they have spent the past year in while #WFH. The ask? “We had them start with their desk and we said, ‘Think of the project site as your desk, and then your room, and then your home,’ because many of the students were at home last summer, whether it was an apartment or a house or somewhere, and then their city street and then their block,” assistant professor Emily Smith explained in a VCU blog. “We said, ‘When you think about it, your world feels really small right now because all of us are locked down. So let’s think of examining this as a site and then scale it up.’”
Homes are now divided into noisy and quiet zones to demarcate, study, work, entertainment, cooking, or relaxation, making them a truly multifunctional space.
Their findings prompted the students to question why their homes look the way they do. One student, for example, found that her personal workspace was really in the middle of shared family space, prompting questions about flexibility in interior spaces.
Ankita Khemka, of the UAE-based interior design practice Rouge Windows, says flexibility has become central to our home interiors spaces. “Homes are now divided into noisy and quiet zones to demarcate, study, work, entertainment, cooking, or relaxation, making them a truly multifunctional space,” she says. “This has brought a renewed focus on function and flexibility on top of aesthetics as we navigate a new normal.”
She too has had to reconsider her approach. “As a designer, we likely need to start thinking in ways we haven’t had to before. We don’t need to design for ‘when we go back to normal’. Instead, we should reimagine what this new normal should like and how it can better respond if (or when) a pandemic like this happens again,” she says.
Little wonder that multifunctional sectionals were a big trend at Salone del Mobile, the industry’s biggest interiors trade event, held again in Milan this month after being postponed last year. Designed to be reconfigured and moved around into different configurations to suit your mood – or indeed, your purpose, they were visible across the event, from brands such as B&B Italia, Flexform, Cassina and Edra. Upholstered in luxurious, welcoming fabrics such as suede and velvet, low to the ground and generously proportioned, these versatile new sectionals were likened to a room that you’d never want to leave. Expect them to be everywhere in 2022.
Nowadays, the use of savvy furniture pieces are becoming a hit trend. For example, a side table that also features Bluetooth speakers, a lamp with settings to create different moods.
Flexibility similarly showed up in what Giulia Molteni, Head of Marketing and Communication at the Molteni Group, calls the first nomadic workstation that caters to both office and home requirements with quick reorganisation. Touch Down Unit is an innovative workstation designed by Studio Klass for group company UniFor, and is now part of Molteni&C’s new home collection. Likewise, nomadic furniture in the kitchen caters to both convivial, family gatherings but doubles up as a space for study and work. “Sometimes, an emergency forces you to go beyond your ‘limits’,” she said in a Salone interview.
The pandemic forced us to recast our home spaces as sanctuaries. As we take greater comfort in our home spaces, we’re willing to spend more on them – but they must go above and beyond in terms of function. A pretty object isn’t enough on its own, as we’re seeing from the likes of Ethan Allen and Indigo Living.
A sort of liveable luxury, where the accent is on comfort and versatility, will continue to play out into autumn and beyond.
“Nowadays, the use of savvy furniture pieces are becoming a hit trend. For example, a side table that also features Bluetooth speakers, a lamp with settings to create different moods,” says Narita Mangaran, Design Manager at retailer Indigo Living. “In short, furniture pieces are becoming more versatile to compensate with the multitasking environment.”