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OPINION: What will COVID-19 mean for our homes in years to come?

Now that the end of the pandemic is within our sights, thanks to arriving vaccines, it is fascinating to reflect on how this incredible era will change us.
Working from home
Working from home has meant some pay more attention to how their homes present on screen, such as with decorated trees in the backgrounds.

Now that the end of the pandemic is within our sights, thanks to arriving vaccines, it is fascinating to reflect on how this incredible era will change us.

Such things often do, according to architectural historian, McGill University professor Annmarie Adams.

Think of the Second World War and the housing and baby boom that followed it; or how tuberculosis created those little porch rooms still found in old houses.

Adams can’t say for sure what this pandemic will lead to in terms of permanent lifestyle and design changes, but she is already seeing some shifts in our behavior in our homes.

Think of how so many of us put up our Christmas tree early this year in Squamish. It isn’t a coincidence.

Holiday decorating is an annual tradition that makes it feel like a regular year, Adams told The Chief.

“For many, decorating is deeply comforting, a ‘nesting’ thing,” she said, adding that nesting often occurs after disasters.

 “[The early tree decorating] is probably linked to the 2020 emphasis on home as cozy, comfortable, safe, a refuge from the pandemic outside — like bread baking was for many.”

Adams also notes that thanks to video conferencing, many of us are now voyeurs into our co-workers’ homes. “Our colleagues now see into our homes, holiday decorating is a form of self-expression. A way to beautify a home, show preparedness, care, taste,” she said, noting how some situate themselves in front of their holiday tree for work Zoom meetings.

Many of us are also renovating and beautifying our homes in ways we may not have, were it not for the year spending more time in our houses.

“Because our own worlds are suddenly so contained, we are willing to invest more in them. More time, more money …. will be devoted to interiors,” Adams wrote in Parlour magazine.

“Decorating is an ‘inviting’ thing. In some ways perhaps a stand-in for absent guests,” she said.

She noted that a striking recurring image of the pandemic is the empty space — abandoned streets, empty office towers, fan-less stadiums, and student-less universities  —  which is likely making the interior of buildings even more important.

“Because we are thinking of the outside as this empty place and the inside as this kind of refuge and a safe place in a way that we have never really done before,” Adams said.

One silver lining of all the negative publicity around long-term care homes during this pandemic may be that they get some design attention, Adams said.

“Long-term care has always been considered such a low prestige architectural commission. It doesn’t get awards and it has such low budgets. Now, I think this call for innovation will mean that they get a lot more attention. I think we should be teaching long-term care design in architecture schools and some sort of national award for innovation in long-term care would be fantastic.”

The pandemic has given us a glimpse inside care homes that, unless we had a relative in them, we didn’t see. “It is just so shocking for many of us,” she said.


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