What does the housing boom mean for interior designers?

In SD Blog|July 16, 2021|By Danine Alati

“The improved economy and millennials entering their peak homebuying years are fueling a residential housing boom. Low mortgage rates, combined with an increase in working from home as a result of the pandemic, have spurred a surge in housing demand, particularly in lower-density suburbs. In 2020, more existing homes were sold than in any other year since 2006,” according to Norada Real Estate Investments’ U.S. Housing Market Forecast. So what opportunities does this migration to the suburbs present to interior designers? And what design features are these new suburbanites seeking?

Homeowners Invest In Their Nest

Design by Rebecca Johnston, founder and principal of RJohnston Interiors | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

“While we are seeing an exodus of mostly younger home buyers moving back towards the suburbs, we see it as more of an affordability of larger space than a desire to be further from the city,” explains Rebecca Johnston, a Studio Designer client and founder and principal of RJohnston Interiors in Santa Clarita, California, citing young professionals who began working remotely and retirees who are no longer commuting to urban cores as fueling this trend. “The pandemic may have played a role, but for many it was just about creating that perfect space for themselves.”

Mimi Meacham, founder and principal designer of Houston-based Marian Louise Designs, notes, “Families and professionals are investing their resources into their homes like never before. Quarantine really highlighted the essential need for a well-functioning, inspiring space to live your life in, and that’s what we, as designers, can help create.”

Design by Mimi Meacham of Marian Louise Designs | Photo by Kaley Elaine Photo

“People have truly come to realize the importance of home—and of having a home whose style and function fits their family’s needs,” says Johnston. “It’s an opportunity for growth for a lot of designers as more folks are making that financial commitment to hire a professional.

“As designers, we work with our clients to find long term solutions,” she continues, stressing that her firm doesn’t believe in “fast fashion design” but rather “taking our core business practice of bespoke and heritage design and showcasing that to these new suburbanites.” She adds, “We warn clients when moving into a larger home to not panic buy to fill it up. Let it all sink in. Keep a door or two closed for a bit if the extra three bedrooms feels overwhelming at first. Then call a professional to help you strategize for the long game.”

Designs With Live-Work Adaptability

Design by Chris Eskra, principal at Kendall Wilkinson Design (KWD) | Photo by Matthew Millman

Flexible home interiors that can satisfy multiple functions and comfortable work from home space and home schooling areas rank as top requirements for many interior design clients. Chris Eskra, principal at San Francisco-based Kendall Wilkinson Design (KWD), a Studio Designer client offered, “We are thinking about how the work-from-home culture will exist beyond COVID and how those needs will translate to new and upcoming projects. Adaptability is key.”

For example, Eskra says, “We have designed several homeschooling rooms [by either carving out spaces within an existing room or completely renovating a former guest bedroom into a working classroom] so children have a designated area that’s well-appointed. Great design is always with intention.” He adds, “Home office design has really been elevated. We are creating entire environments geared to working but still with our level of luxury and curation, including custom-made desks, ample but elegant storage, and placement for technology to power it all.”

Johnston agrees with the need for flexibility and advocates for creating multifunctional spaces. “One client recognized that by taking the guest bedroom as her office, she would still need the flexibility of having a guest bedroom in the future,” she recalls. “Bring on the Murphy bed solution.” Meacham shares a strategy for a similar predicament: “We designed a custom-built desk and shelving unit for a home office, where the middle of the desk could be removed to fit a queen bed in case the family needed their guest room back,” she says, adding that kid-proof designs are another necessity as of late. “With kids at home more this year, parents were not going to invest in home interior design if it wasn’t tough: Life-proof wallpapers and fabrics have evolved with this trend and are fun to design with.”

The Greater Outdoors

Design by Mimi Meacham of Marian Louise Designs | Photo by Kaley Elaine Photo

Former city-dwellers, who only had cramped balconies or lacked personal outdoor space altogether, are especially enamored with creating outdoor living spaces that are tricked out with all the amenities. “Outdoor living is more popular than ever,” Meacham stresses, “so indoor/outdoor fabrics, rugs, pillows have been huge. Just because it’s outdoors, doesn’t mean it can’t be chic and inspired.”

According to a 2021 Outdoor Living Report conducted by Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens, partnered with The Harris Poll, “82 percent of American homeowners say they are now more interested in updating their outdoor living spaces than they were prior to the pandemic.” Specifically, full outdoor kitchen designs and souped-up outdoor living spaces with a range of seating options, fire pits, and outdoor bars have been top requests. Meacham admits, “Due to the increased interest in outdoor living and entertaining, I have learned a lot about outdoor furniture vendors. This sector has come a long way in style and design, and there are such fun options out there now.”

International Styles Converge

Design by Rebecca Johnston of RJohnston Interiors | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Another commonality Johnston sees among former urbanites is a penchant for more global and cosmopolitan influences, which have always inspired her work. “We love the functionality of European design, the classic lines of Parisian furnishings, and the Danish concept of hygge simplicity. We think clients coming from a more metropolitan lifestyle will seek a more globally inspired design style for their homes,” she says. “Ex-city dwellers were likely exposed to the up-and coming fashionable bars and restaurants, museums and galleries, street life and music venues—they are bringing that sense of place with them where they move. [Interior designers should] be ready for some fun and possibly more eclectic design work.”

Design by Chris Eskra of KWD | Photo by Paul Dyer

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FEATURED IMAGE: Design by Chris Eskra of KWD | Photo by Paul Dyer