Contributor: Rachel Calemmo, LC LEED® AP
To learn more about Rachel, click here.
We are in a chrysalis moment. The year 2020 has presented us with new and unique challenges. Many of us find ourselves in our homes quarantined to avoid the COVID-19 virus. “Embrace the in between.” These powerful words resonated with us as we began to wonder how embracing such an uncertain time applies to not just our family, but everyone else who is living through the pandemic.
Our homes have become cocoons, transitioning us into a “new normal” way of life. Whether you live in a 1 bedroom apartment or 5 bedroom house, there are solutions in technology and space planning that are both new and tried and true, but may need to be applied in modern and creative ways to meet the current and future needs of our life at home. We identified 5 key areas that can be improved to increase function and safety. These are as follows: Entry, Kitchen, Social Space, Wellness Space and Work/Learn Space.
After each precarious venture outside of our quarantined domain, we come home stressed about bringing back an invisible virus. Our goal is to reconceive the high-traffic mudroom and begin to think of the ‘mudroom’ as our entry portal that is complete with sterilizing technology and ultra-violet light scanning. We need a place to change out of our clothes and shoes and wash and examine ourselves and our pets. It sounds daunting but this is the reality! There are some simple ways to upgrade these spaces, like adding a handwashing or pet washing station with touchless faucets that save energy and encourage washing by running the water for 20 seconds per CDC handwashing guidelines or adding antimicrobial hardware to our doors and cabinets that use the natural metal properties to kill bacteria and viruses. Then, there are more advanced solutions like adding a UV sanitizing portal. A ten second pause in the UV light is safe to humans, yet will eliminate 90% of contaminates from viruses and bacteria. Ultraviolet under cabinet lights can help to sanitize the sink basin to reduce cleaning using chemicals and can be used to cleanse incoming packages and groceries if left on the counter for a few minutes under the light.
The sequence of how we move through this entry space needs to be reconsidered as well. Typically, the mudroom is a high-traffic thoroughfare that tends to fill up with personal items. The entry spaces must become their own space rather than part of the circulation throughway. We envision two spaces: one to clean and to sterilize and one for organization and storage. This will allow a family to enter the house, clean up, and then store their items in a safe zone. The intention of these improvements will give family members peace of mind once they enter their home.
Under quarantine, our family has been cooking 3 meals and preparing snacks and baking each day. We love to gather in our kitchen to cook and clean, but it now takes up much more of our time than ever before. Food storage, preparation, and waste management have become a near scientific process. For safety, we have been instructed to remove superfluous food packaging and store dry goods in containers in the pantry. Luckily, there are options for shopping at zero/low-waste dry goods grocers that make this easier. However, if you don’t have this available in your area, you will find yourself re-organizing your pantry with glass and plastic stacking containers, which actually look tidy.
Responsibly discarding this packaging becomes the next step. Having an organized and clean method for trash disposal is critical for proper waste management. Consider building these bins into your kitchen cabinets, if you have the space. If not, there are many space-saving receptacles that allow for single-stream recycling to be separated from landfill waste. Composting is a key component to reducing landfill waste as well. Some cities have organized composting efforts on a grand scale. But you can take matters into your own hands by composting on a smaller scale—wherever you are.
Alongside the regular line-up of kitchen appliances, there are now indoor gardening appliances, which can grow fresh greens like herbs, microgreens, vegetables, and flowers for residences. So, rather than compromising your immune system by running to the grocery store for fresh produce every few days, why not grow some fresh greens right in your own kitchen and boost that immune system!
In order to reduce single-use plastics, you can install a hydro-tap that will provide you with clean, filtered water from the tap - chilled, boiled, and sparkling. You’ll be better hydrated than ever before, and we all need that for an instant health benefit!
The pantry is an excellent place to undertake some of these tasks and incorporate these new appliances. Our new pantries will more or less become an extension of the kitchen, while still maintaining the ability to be closed off. We may consider creating a space within the pantry to package and store foods (purchased or home-grown) for longer durations in order to minimize trips to the store.
Now that we are “separate together,” socializing has an all new meaning. We’re reaching out to our communities via Zoom, FaceTime, and other web-based calls. We are utilizing technologies like smart TV screens that can act as art and photo displays when not in active use in our living and dining rooms, but when we need them to become a video conference or impromptu happy hour or extended family dinner, they can accommodate. Having a small pocket cabinet or closet that can be converted into a small dry-bar or coffee station can help make these moments more special if you can spare the area.
Home has become our office and school, and suddenly we find ourselves co-working at all age levels. This creates many challenges, and not all can be solved easily. However, organizing schedules and workspaces is necessary. You will need flexible spaces for gathering and working together as a family or via screens for meetings with clients, co-workers, and classroom teachers, but you will also need quiet space for concentration, focus, and creativity.
We should consider smaller offices for each parent rather than one larger, shared home office. Additionally, a well-equipped study space that is separate from the parent’s home office is ideal. The goal is to use space as efficiently as possible to provide each family member a private space to conduct work or learn. Locating these spaces in the basement (if you have one) may be a perfect solution to achieving the privacy required.
Having an office or learning and play space in a basement presents lighting challenges if there is no access to daylight. Incorporating tunable white lighting into these spaces can help keep you energized, on schedule, and focused. A dynamic LED system of lights can follow the tone and intensity of daylight. This keeps our bodies’ circadian rhythms working properly, which leads to better sleep and a productive day (even when we’re in loungewear).
Wellness needs a dedicated space in our homes and in our lives more than ever. We’re not going to church, the doctor’s office, the gym, or even nail and hair salons. HELP! We still need self-care for our mental and physical well-being. Carving out space for these activities can be difficult, but there are many solutions to finding adequate space to accommodate them. There are now whole fitness centers and virtual trainers that can be accessed from a mirror on the wall.
You don’t need to have much space to find inner peace, but having an indoor or outdoor place that can be quietly used for meditation or to access an online church service will do.
Set aside an area where you can set up a mani-pedi station or haircutting zone for some much needed, or self-indulgent personal care.
If you should need medical attention, many doctor’s offices and hospitals offer telemedicine and digital equipment that will give them the opportunity to diagnose you by video conference.
Lighting in these spaces is critical. You will need bright task light and good facial illumination in high CRI (color rendering index) for grooming and telemedicine (check your Lighting Facts)! However, you may want to bathe the room in a color for a workout or a meditation session. If you can’t go to that extent, a wall-box dimmer that is compatible with your light source will do.
The spaces that we have used consistently in the same manner for over the past one hundred years are taking on new meaning. We have only addressed a few interior areas, speaking nothing of the resilience and energy efficiency that architecture must incorporate. However, reimagining just some of the areas of our homes will help us emerge from the chrysalis ready for the new challenges and opportunities we are facing as we move solidly into the next 20 years. The future is now!
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