Evolving with an Era of Change

Just when we think we have things all figured out, the world changes, and we are forced to adjust our compasses to move ahead. The COVID-19 pandemic has altered our lives as it has caused havoc around the world, and we have racked our brains to determine the best path forward. Looking back at eras of major change, we can pin down points in history when color palettes and design trends evolved. With hindsight as our teacher, we can understand why those changes came about and predict what’s to come.


One of those times was following September 11, 2001. We saw a massive surge of interest in colors and textures that soothed the human spirit. Today, as the home has become the center of work and rest, we see a similar shift toward colors that calm us. Only a few years ago, we were writing about the “hiving” of the millennials as they were moving into the city, driving the creation of mixed-use developments, and purchasing “disposable furnishings” from places like Wayfair or IKEA. We now find the same demographic groups migrating to the suburbs, snatching up fixer-upper homes, and shopping for second-hand items that can be painted or reupholstered. While “hiving” once promised a variety of social opportunities, it now seems like an opportunity to become exposed to COVID-19.


I often make my most creative decisions when hardest pressed. Supply chain disruption has become an unexpected hurdle in 2020. Raw materials are taking longer to source, and stores have been closed indefinitely in various parts of the country. When one can find furniture at resale shops, it benefits more than just the homeowner. It’s an immediate sale by the local business where it was sold. It also brings instant character to a space, and generally offers a nice story of where or how it was found. Clearly, just as our color preferences are shifting, so too are the very materials we choose for our homes.


Bringing nature and sunlight indoors promotes a feeling of wellness. Brown, tan, green, and yellow gold are all colors from nature, and integrating those same colors in the home mimics the feeling of nature while solving the design challenge of merging the “second-hand” furnishings within spaces. Natural materials in their own natural colors are long-accepted healthier options over their synthetic counterparts. Hardwood species like white oak have intrinsic properties that are naturally antibacterial, as do metals like copper, brass, and bronze. Leather and performance fabrics are easier to clean, and stand up to the daily wear from cleaning.


Anytime we endure a hardship, we learn about ourselves. Those of us who have quarantined at home will forever consider things such as: how to live under one roof while a member of the family quarantines, how to sanitize surfaces, types of air filtration, and the importance of interior design. Recently, I pointed to the fact that many are now working or learning from home. Many have adapted to working this way, and actually prefer it over the previous pace of constant meetings and travel. With increased time spent at home, there is a need to examine how much square footage we need to allocate for specific activities, such as working from home, as well as how to best use each space.

It only takes viewing a few design shows on television to hear the words “open concept” come up repeatedly. From “Fixer Upper” to “Property Brothers,” tearing down walls has become an expected first step when refurbishing older homes. We can’t help but enjoy seeing the dramatic transformation on TV. All of this “tear down that wall” drama is changing as we see the need for “specific” spaces for “specific” purposes. We now can see the potential downside of wide-open spaces in a home. The future of interiors will include more precisely purposed spaces: a home office, a guest suite for quarantining, a media room, a game room, and a specific room with a well-designed backdrop for Zoom meetings.


Previously accepted “norms” are going to change in more ways than people moving from urban spaces to rural places. The norms of where our walls go (or don’t go) or the purpose of a room change the very fabric of our lives. Once considered luxuries, we now find that home offices, home gyms, outdoor kitchens, and outdoor living rooms are more essential than we could have predicted.

A home gym featuring “First Leaf” by Emily Morrow Home

Master bedrooms demand quiet and comfortable seating and an internet connection to host virtual meetings. Outdoor living spaces should offer a place where a family can congregate safely. Outdoor spaces will bring with them the need for smokeless fire pits, frost-proof/waterproof finishes, and performance fabrics for seating. Home gyms are another example of a space that has shifted from a luxury to a necessity in order to stay fit without going into public gyms.


For those currently living in a home with an “open concept” design, how can changes be made without moving or remodeling completely, and what does this look like for those of us in the floor covering world? While a shift in color from cool grey neutrals to warmer grey taupe, tan, and brown is notable, I see even larger changes on the horizon. The good news is that hardwood flooring is coming to the forefront with this renewed focus on health and wellness, and that benefits us all.

Emily Morrow Finkell is an interior designer and CEO of EF Floors & Design LLC in Dalton, Georgia, a provider of hardwood floors and home furnishings, and an NWFA design contributor. She can be reached at emily@emilymorrowhome.com.

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