2020! The year we stayed at home. The year our doors were closed to guests, and our dining table was used for family mealtimes only. The year we entertained in the garden (when permitted) and our homes had to work harder than ever to fulfil our family, working and social lives. Guest bedrooms became offices, dining rooms became home-schools and living rooms became gyms (thanks to Joe Wicks!).

And here we are just a week into 2021, doing it all again – all elements of our lives merged into one space. This post was meant to be a review-of-last-year post but it seems my observations of how 2020 changed our homes are just as relevant now as we enter lockdown #3.

Obviously as a designer I am all too aware of the power a home has. Good interior design is far more than plumping cushions and hanging curtains; it can completely change the relationship someone has with their home. Our home should be a space we love. It should be our safe space; the place we kick off our shoes, put on our comfiest clothes and relax. It’s the place of laughter as well as tears and tantrums. It’s the place of intimate moments as well as the mundane. It’s where we let our guard down. It’s where life happens.

But our homes weren’t designed with a lockdown situation in mind, and never have they had to work quite as hard for us as they do now. So, how has the pandemic changed the way we use our homes?

It all happens at the kitchen table

The humble kitchen table has seen (and heard!) it all over the past year. It’s no longer reserved for mealtimes (and hasn’t seen a dinner party for nearly 12 months now!). Instead, it’s all things to all people; desk space, arts & craft table, homeschooling space, coffee & newspaper spot, snack-time spot (again!) as well as that sit-and-cry-that-the-world-has-gone-crazy spot. It’s still the place we come together at the end of the day, to share our stories – it’s just that this time, our adventures probably only happened in a different part of the house!

A space for kids to be kids

I do believe that children are more resilient than we necessarily give them credit for. However I also truly believe we need to support and nourish their mental health, especially during these difficult and anxious times. A child’s bedroom is the one place that is truly theirs. A space they should absolutely feel safe in. A space they can be themselves in. And whilst they may now also double as a school-room space (especially for older children), I think it’s even more important that their rooms retain a sense of fun and creativity. Kids need to be able to switch off from school-work, hide away from the reality of the pandemic and play!

Bathrooms providing sanctuary

I’m sure I’m not alone in admitting that there are times I’ve wanted to scream for this to all be over. The anxiety, the fear, the noise, the mess, the snacks, the juggling. It can all feel too much, and the bathroom is my go-to, have-a-moment place! Admittedly with a toddler I’m usually not alone for long, but the bathroom is much more than a functional space to shower. It’s an escape. And increasingly over lockdown, it’s a sanctuary for escapism and self-care. Whether it’s a full-on pampering night or just a hot shower to wash away some stress of the day, the bathroom has certainly been upgraded from its often just functional space.

The Outside In

Last year was certainly one of restriction and isolation. Whether lockdown, self-isolation or quarantining, it was easy to feel confined within the walls of your house. Only allowed to leave the house for an hour of exercise a day. Only allowed to leave for essential shopping. However much you love your home, it often felt tough, and it certainly made me crave the great outdoors even more. In summer it was easy, we could open the doors and windows and the house and garden kind of merged into one. This time round, in winter it’s a bit trickier. But (much to my husband’s horror) I still throw open doors and windows – not for long, but just long enough to let a blast of fresh air in. I’ve always been a fan of styling with plants but I’ve appreciated them even more over recent months. The house feels more alive, although you’ve got to remember to water them – dead plants don’t have quite the safe effect!!!

And the Inside Out

Speaking of the outside, we’ve certainly all used our garden space even more than ever. I even looked at buying new garden furniture in October to prolong my use of our outdoor space; usually I’d be covering everything up for the winter. But our outdoor spaces have become even more important to us, to help combat that feeling of confinement, and to give us the breathing space away from a busy household. When permitted, outside has been our only entertaining spot. I’ve kept our garden filled with fairy lights and I’m hoping that when restrictions ease we may be able to have a socially distanced hot chocolate with relatives around a fire-pit. Isn’t it funny how the things we crave have changed over the past year?!

The Heart of the Home 

Whether you’re baking banana bread (again!) or handing out the millionth snack of the day, the kitchen really is the heart of the home. Whether you’ve had the energy or time for cooking, or not, there have most definitely been more family meals prepared and served up in kitchens around the country (even if sometimes they are just takeaways). Our cupboards have been stocked, our cupboard space challenged. It’s where we gather to make our morning coffee and listen to the day’s news, or when it all gets too much switch on some feel-good tunes to distract us from what’s going on in the outside world.

But at some point our kitchens will be the hub of the party again. At some point our front door will be open to family and friends and our kitchen tables will see new faces pull up a chair to join us for dinner again. Until then our homes will remain our sanctuary, our safe place away from the world. Our place to turn off the news when we need to, and focus on our family. The reality of that may mean noise, mess and a few tears from time-to-time but we’ll have memories of our 2020/21 homes like no others!