What the pandemic has taught us about our homes

We reveal how to make the most out of your living spaces and adapt to the ‘new norm’.

It would be fair to say the pandemic has had an impact on the way we live. Good or bad, there are some things that seem to be well and truly here to stay almost two years on – such as working from home. And there are some things that have simply become a thing of the past (yes, we are talking about you zoom quizzes).

Our lives have undoubtedly changed forever, and we are now living with what has become affectionately referred to as the ‘new norm’. One of the biggest elements of our lives we’ve had to adapt is our homes and the ability to maximise our living spaces during these times. But how should we be adapting? Award-winning, national homebuilder, we have compiled a list of expert advice to ensure homeowners across the nation nail post-pandemic living.

What the pandemic has taught us about our homes image

1. Make room for hobbies

There’s absolutely no doubt that the pandemic has made everyone more aware of their own health and wellbeing. In a joint survey by PwC and the Urban Land Institute, property leaders throughout Europe were asked about emerging trends for 2022 and a massive 92% said they believe health and wellbeing will remain a very important factor for homebuyers[1].

With more time spent indoors than ever before during the pandemic, households across the UK began searching for ways to entertain themselves. Many people took up new hobbies, meaning their living spaces have had to adjust accordingly. Furniture has been shifted to make way for an exercise class in front of the TV and favourite chairs have had to be rehomed to a spot with the best light for reading.

RIBA’s recent research sought to understand the mental and physical benefits of living in a better-designed home, and the findings highlighted that 23% believed a better-designed home would increase their happiness; they’d be able to relax more (31%) and sleep better (17%)[2].

For example, a spa-like bathroom or en-suite has become increasingly important for those looking to achieve the feeling of a pamper session or some ‘me-time’ relaxation away from the rest of the family. For others, a dedicated TV room might be a game changer, or a porch or conservatory to provide a bit of peaceful respite.

Top tip:

When looking for your perfect home it’s important to remember those hobbies that bring you happiness and joy, and how your home will make way for them. If home workouts are your thing, can you picture the best place for your own gym space? It might also be worth considering some storage solutions that will keep your fitness equipment neat and tidy when not in use. With these changing lifestyle factors in mind, we offer a range of hidden storage spots to avoid cluttering your living space.

If you’re looking for some much-needed TLC every once in a while, spending a little extra on some bathroom upgrades will create the idyllic living space you’re looking for. From the right tiling to built-in accessories, it’s worth considering these factors whilst you’re finding your home as it could sway you from one house to the next.

What the pandemic has taught us about our homes image

2. Space is essential

There is a definite shift towards the realisation that we need more space – especially if the new normal involves us spending more time at home due to factors such as hybrid working. Homeowners want extra bedrooms to convert into home offices and are looking for more space generally throughout their home to contain feelings of claustrophobia.

The trend for open-plan living is growing, with our recent research showing that searches for open-plan layouts surged by 168% from 2019 to 2021[3]. More specified searches for “open-plan kitchen living room floor plan” were up 400% from 2020 to 2021 – and up 6285% when compared with searches from 2019! And it comes as no surprise that from 2020-21, searches for “open space home office” also increased by 167%

Top tip:

Not everyone has a spare room they can use for a home office, but most people do have a quiet corner that can be converted, be it a space under the stairs or corner of the kitchen. There are lots of user-friendly workstations that fold up for easy storage, or you could also consider freeing up a kitchen cabinet as your dedicated office storage to work on the kitchen island during the day.

We pride ourselves on providing open-plan living in every single one of our homes. By building large multi-functional rooms, we creates spaces that bring families together, are perfect for entertaining, and allow for lighter and brighter living. Plus, it can actually add value to your property in the long run.

What the pandemic has taught us about our homes image

3. Say hello to the outdoors

One of the post-pandemic positives for most of us is that we have embraced outdoor living massively – with monthly searches soaring with over 8k. Spending so much time indoors has reignited our love of the great outdoors and as a result sales for garden furniture have rocketed.

Garden offices, bars, outdoor kitchens, fire pits and living room-inspired furniture are all ways to bring the inside out. Not only does moving things outdoors free up space inside, but it also boosts our mental wellbeing and gives us a chance to get some much-needed fresh air.

Outdoor heaters allow you to maximise time spent outside, because let’s face it, in the UK even summer doesn’t necessarily mean warm weather. The pandemic has made chefs of us all and stone-baked pizzas are enjoying a massive surge in popularity – as searches surrounding outdoor pizza ovens have grown by 243% over the past year[4].

Top tip:

Garden pods are an ideal addition to any home, especially for those looking to extend their homes to outside. These attractive little additions not only make a great feature in your garden, but they’re useful for a whole host of things such as working from home, relaxing, exercising, or even as a playroom.

But for families that aren’t looking to move, there are plenty of ways to invest in your garden. From filling it with flowers and planting some produce, to rejuvenating furniture, adding a water feature, and of course making sure it’s well-lit (fairy lights are a good shout!). You want to create a space you’ll be happy to spend your time in. If done right, the right garden space can almost feel like an extra room or extension of your home.

What the pandemic has taught us about our homes image

4. The future is smart

What is smart living? Put simply, it’s things that make our life easier. These are original and innovative solutions aimed at making life more efficient, more controllable, economical, productive, integrated, and sustainable.

For example, think of a smart TV. Smart TVs are the most popular smart home product in the world[5]. They pretty much work themselves and allow us to surf the internet, play music, watch TV, and can turn themselves on and off when programmed.

You may have also heard of smart meters. These self-reading meters could save you money by changing your usage habits – something particularly useful now many of us are charging laptops every day. They monitor energy usage, showing where energy is being used around the home and where it may not currently be needed (e.g., lights left on!). If every household in Britain invested in a smart meter, the CO2 savings Britain could make would be equivalent to the savings made by roughly 70 million trees[6].

Another easily installed smart device is a doorbell that alerts us to visitors on our phone, meaning that we never miss a delivery driver, and we can see who is at the door without having to move.

Top tip:

All our properties come with the option to upgrade your home appliances with smart living features – such as the Nest Learning Thermostat. Aiming to make your life easier, they free up time for you to focus on the things that are important to you. We highly recommend taking the time to think about any smart living products that could benefit you within your new or existing home. Not only do they help save time when doing jobs around the home, but they also allow you to enjoy great cost savings too.

What the pandemic has taught us about our homes image

5. Living Sustainably

Spending more time at home means we naturally use our home appliances, water, and heating more than we would have before the pandemic. Not only can that take a large toll on our wallets but also the environment too.

There are many products that can be used within your home to help suit your family’s lifestyle. For those not working from home, a smart thermostat may be an option. This will make sure to switch off your heating when you aren’t at home and turn it on in time for when you’re back.

Smart home apps are a great option too, especially for those with kids. You can use the app to make sure that all lights in the house are turned off when you aren’t there – very handy if you’re prone to forgetting to switch them off! Also, replacing household lightbulbs with LED bulbs is a simple step to take but with great benefits – such as having a longer lifespan and an improved environmental performance.

Top tip:

Good insulation, water efficiency and light efficiency are key sustainability features which are a priority in all of our homes. The walls, roof, and floors go far beyond standard requirements to help reduce energy wastage and the cost of heating the property overall. Our range of homes have been designed to maximise daylighting and solar gains due to larger windows and high ceilings. Plus, water restriction devices used within all showers offer betterment in water efficiency of 12% relative to regulations. You can find out more about how we hope to boost biodiversity and create sustainable environments here.

What the pandemic has taught us about our homes image

6. Let there be light

Spending more time at home highlights features of your space that you may not have noticed before – and it’s not always a good thing. Whether it’s a squeaking door that’s never sounded louder, or dining room chairs that just aren’t as comfortable as you once thought, being around these features more often can you make you want to make changes.

One thing that may have become more apparent whilst being indoors more is a lack of natural light – something that is very important to homeowners. Natural light helps to enhance mood and energy levels through the release of endorphins and serotonin in the brain[7]. It opens up our living spaces and brings us one step closer to nature – making us feel calmer and more productive.

Top tip:

Research has highlighted that homeowners always feel more positive when they live in light, airy spaces. For those looking to adapt their current home, we recommend keeping windows as exposed as possible – with blinds and curtains fully open during day to fill your living space with natural light.

But for families looking to upsize it’s important to consider the natural light when on the hunt for your dream home. We are renowned for our large windows and high ceilings that open up your living space – bringing the outside in at all hours of the day. This goes hand in hand with our open-plan living spaces. Consider patio doors in kitchens or living rooms where you spend a lot of time to give a more spacious feel – and easy access for your little ones to the garden!

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