How COVID-19 Will Change Model Home Merchandising

By Kay Green

Many people think differently about their home after being quarantined in it for such a long time, and the COVID-19 experience will undoubtedly impact the decisions that homebuyers make in the future. While our industry has never before seen a global pandemic, we have most certainly gone through significant economic turbulence over the years. Drawing on my 45 years of experience as a nationally recognized leader in model home merchandising and interior design, here are a few insights on what new homebuyers will want in their home’s design, due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Home Sizes Increase, Responsibly

By becoming fast-forced-homebodies, Americans are recognizing all the flaws that make their current home too small for home offices and unexpected homeschooling spaces. I expect that homes will definitely need to become bigger, to the degree that the buyer can afford.

As employers are quickly realizing that their teams can work effectively from home (and thus small businesses can forego costly monthly overhead expenses), residential buyers will begin to need additional space devoted to a home office. Not to mention, many parents may feel more comfortable with keeping their children in the safety of their home, and plan to continue home schooling.

Homebuilders need to get creative with accommodating these work and study spaces, which can be done in a number of ways.

Changes that may take place architecturally:

  • Include a secondary bedroom large enough for partner desks
  • Create a dedicated desk space under the stairs
  • Build out a walk in closet for a pocket office as a work space
  • Design the master bedrooms with two walk in closets to offer the flexibility of an office alternative
  • Incorporate interior merchandising to show how homeschooling could take place in the kitchen, a section of the family room, bonus room or secondary bedroom

This loft space at the top of the stairs was designed as an office without requiring that a full room be devoted to a workplace. Buyers need multi-functioning spaces more than ever!

This Harley Davidson themed office is tucked away underneath the stairs. 

For maximum workspace, showcase a secondary bedroom as a his-and-hers office by using a partners desk.

Sanitation and Health is Critical:

Let’s face it – this virus has made us all germophobes! How does that change our homes?

We should offer sinks for hand washing near the main entry of the house, in the mudroom or vestibules.  Industry architects already have great solutions for this, like Deryl Patterson from Housing Design Matters, which designed a vestibule for package delivery that could also include a hand-washing sink.

This model home entry drop zone under the staircase will be a convenient place for fitting a hand-washing sink if a powder bathroom is not an option.

Copper faucets and fixtures will be more popular in the kitchen and bathrooms, as buyers begin seeking antimicrobial surfaces in their home. Additionally, sanitation-minded buyers will forego granite for a preference for quartz countertops. Quartz has a non-porous surface that will not harbor germs and bacteria.

In our kitchens, our pantry spaces will become larger to accommodate a larger stock of food. Homebuilders can differentiate themselves from their competition by offering upgrades like touch- or voice-activated faucets, instant hot faucets, tank less water heaters, and UV lighting. The selection of dishwashers builders offer is now more important because families are using them daily.

For buyers that can afford it, we should feature ways to grow vegetables and herbs in the home (likely the kitchen), to demonstrate self-sufficiency with healthy produce. Incorporate a large refrigerator size case with glass doors, ultraviolet lighting and watering and planting systems inside. As an alternate, showcase more affordable systems like Aero Garden, or Aero Garden Farm, Dream joy Hydronic Grow Kit or OpCom vertical hydroponic grow wall.

Well houses will be more desirable, as buyers have become acutely more mindful of their personal health. Popular products will include carbon filters and reverse osmosis air systems, sustainable cork flooring, natural light, water filtration and sanitation systems, low VOC paints and paints that are anti-bacterial.

Creating a Soothing Retreat:

Our “new normal” during COVID-19 is much needed rest. Families are exhausted from working and homeschooling their children full time. Creating an interior space that ignites a sense of calm will be the most compelling for homebuyers.

An experienced merchandiser can create a sense of coziness, similar to what psychologists in Denmark have identified as “Hygge” (pronounced hoo-guh), an atmosphere that makes people feel good. It’s like hot chocolate in front of a fireplace in the winter, or soft candlelight at night. In a new home, this sense of warmth can be created through the coordinated use of soothing color schemes, attention-grabbing textures, inviting furnishings, high-impact memory points and compelling theming based on the target buyer.

With families being all under the same roof more, we will need to design spaces within the home where individuals can go to be alone.  These can be small spaces and may be separated by pocket doors or moveable walls for flexibility. We may include better insulation in the walls for added privacy.

We want our homes to be a place of refuge, relaxation, security and comfort. To create an environment that feels like a sanctuary, start with a neutral palette using light-toned neutrals, and layer with textiles and simple patterns. Incorporate warm accent colors like pale brown, warm greys and muted gold tones to create some interest and cheer without going too bold. Soften hard surface floors with a cozy area rug, accessorize simply to avoid clutter, and furnish with plush seating that evokes a sense of calm. The design team at Kay Green Design utilizes a variety of resources for sourcing the perfect furniture and accessories, one of which is Wayfair.com.

This great room in this model by John Cannon homes was designed with soothing hues and plush soft goods to create a “Hygge” sense of calm.

The bathroom can also be one of the most calming retreats from the stress of COVID-19. The Nanobubble Experience Bathing Technology by Americh incorporates oxygen into the water, improving the health of your largest organ, the skin. Showers will be also be important to buyers with various faucet options and perhaps steam.

As families spend more time together in the home due to Coronavirus, bathroom retreats are critical

This bathroom environment has been designed with all the finishes and features for an ultimate luxury escape from the world, including a dedicated fireplace. 

Entertainment spaces will increase in importance, as people consume more media – and let’s be honest – alcohol. Homes can be designed with multi-functional spaces like a movie room that features seasoned popcorn and an escape-from-COVID-reality cocktail bar or mini fridge. But then that room can adapt and transform to become a place where families can connect and interact with loved ones through an Apple portal. Grandparents can read bedtime stories to their beloved grandchildren, without risking exposure to and spread of the virus.

In this bonus room we merchandised the space to function as a media center, fitted with a full cocktail bar and entertainment center

Kids need a getaway too, and this loft movie zone also doubles as a game space

Another strong trend that will only become stronger with this season of change is the current love for plants and nature – biophilia. New homes can be merchandised with plants, artwork and outdoor views to incorporate stress-reducing and mood-improving elements that improve cognitive function and creativity. It all happens on a sub-conscious level for your buyers, but a talented interior merchandiser is strategic and intentional in creating that compelling environment.

Interior Design Expertise During COVID-19:

Utilizing the expertise of an Interior Merchandiser to evoke the right emotion in a buyer is more important than ever for new homebuilders. Buyers will be looking for houses that make them feel good when they walk from room to room.

Americans want something – anything – that will help them to momentarily escape the discomfort and anxiety of a global virus.

When you present your target market with a home that functions well for working from home, features desirable styles, promises relaxation, and fits our culture’s new standards of safe hygiene, then the interior merchandising has convinced your buyers that your house is the one!

For more information on how to suit your new home to today’s COVID-19 conscious buyers, contact Kay Green Design at 407-246-7155 or email me directly at kay@KayGreenDesign.com license #IBC000336