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Sheltering in Place

Area designers share observations and suggestions on weathering the pandemic with style and grace

Every industry has been touched by the covid-19 pandemic. But given months-long orders to shelter in place, interior designers have a unique perspective on the challenges facing residents as they are forced to work, play, study, dine and exercise at home. Though at press time some communities are beginning to reopen, the crisis is far from over. Here, local designers share experiences and insights on how they and their clients are coping. All agree that understanding, patience and civility are paramount when doing business today.

HAVE NEW TRENDS ARISEN DURING THIS TIME?
“Clients are looking to find more relaxing gathering spaces beyond traditional family rooms. We have been upgrading screened porches and outdoor spaces to accommodate more time spent at home. Also, as many believe it is safer to be outside than in closed environments, our clients want to make the most of their outdoor spaces for entertaining guests.” —Melanie Whittington, Whittington Design Studio

“My clients are conscious about ease of cleaning. We are careful to use high-performance fabrics like Crypton on heavily used furniture like sofas and sectionals. Many quartz countertops are antimicrobial and offer the added benefit of coming in light colors that are stain-resistant.” —Christie Leu, Christie Leu Interiors

“Families have found themselves spending an unprecedented amount of time homeschooling and working at home. Bright primary colors such as red and orange encourage focus and would be my recommendation for an area of learning, while greens and blues create a calming workspace for adults. In my opinion, we will see a shift from all-neutral or all-colorful palettes to homes that embrace both color and neutrals—providing a perfect balance so residents can work, learn and relax under one roof.” —Bonnie Ammon, Allied ASID, Bonnie Ammon Interiors

WHAT HAS MOST SURPRISED YOU ABOUT WORKING WITH CLIENTS IN THIS CRISIS?
“I’m surprised by the optimism and the strength of the bounce-back we’re seeing. I have one project where we are literally changing an entire home for repeat clients. We started outside and are now moving into the lower level. Next month, we will be working on the entire home, wearing masks. —Charlene Kennerknecht, Monarch

“Clients are generally more engaged and focused on the design process. Decisions are being made more quickly and they look forward to our interactions. I’ve also done more video calls with clients than in the past.” —Mike Molesky, Michael Molesky Interior Design

“Forgiveness! As a designer, one of the biggest fears is not being able to deliver on schedule, but every once in a while something will happen. As a whole, clients have been incredibly patient and understanding.” —Laura Fox, Laura Fox Interior Design, LLC 

“Our clients have not been more price-conscious through this period. Some have reached out to redo spaces because they’re noticing the need.” —Arlene Critzos, Interior Concepts, Inc. 

HOW HAS THE CRISIS CHANGED CLIENTS PRIORITIES?
“Most of our clients are distracted by the need to take in adult children or elderly parents, and they are cautious about the state of the economy moving forward. The exception is DIY homeowners painting, organizing closets, building shelves and buying art on sale.” —Barbara Hawthorn, Barbara Hawthorn Interiors, Ltd. 

“People value their homes more than ever. Home offices that are light-filled, quiet and comfortable, with adequate family space, are suddenly much more important. A designer’s challenge may be converting an old space into one that fulfills a new or higher-priority function.” —Wendy Danziger, Danziger Design LLC 

“Our residential business has gotten busier. But not all clients are willing to understand that with covid-19, the industry
has shut down and shipping is not a 10-to-12-week lead anymore.” —David Anthony Chenault, David Anthony Chenault Interior Design

DEFINE STRATEGIES TO CREATE MULTI-USE SPACES FOR WORK AND FAMILY.
“Having multiple family members at home together puts a huge strain on a home’s Internet service, especially when you add video-conferencing, movie-streaming and gaming to the mix. A high-speed Internet connection and a reliable WiFi network are key to success.” —Andrea Houck, ASID, IFDA, A. Houck Designs

“Invest in good lighting and try to maximize natural light. A writing desk and a supportive chair are a must for remote work, but a flex space is more than a home office. Remember to mix in comfortable seating, end tables and a coffee table if space permits. Give the space some personality and minimize clutter. Don’t forget to designate an area to conceal projects and paperwork. Outfit a closet, use filing cabinets, portable carts, baskets or a few totes to keep everyone organized and happy.” —Melissa Broffman, Allied ASID, Melissa Broffman Interior Design 

HAS THE CRISIS AFFECTED INTERACTIONS BETWEEN CLIENTS AND SUPPLIERS?
“It has been hard work getting supplies to the residential builders that we deal with so they can continue with construction. Coordination and flexibility are everything, with some plants closing and others opening.” —Gina Fitzsimmons, ASID, Fitzsimmons Design Associates, Inc. 

“Oftentimes, in the throes of a project deadline, we lose sight of what matters most. As we feel the effects of this shutdown, there has been more grace and compassion for our neighbors. We see and respect it in the lives of others—from vendors and manufacturers to clients.” —DuVäl Reynolds, DuVäl Design, LLC

HOW HAVE YOU PIVOTED TO WORKING REMOTELY?
Interior design is such a hands-on profession, and working remotely has added a new layer of challenges. We have been having client Zoom meetings and sharing new apps with our clients. We’ve also had to rely on clients to do some of the work we would normally do, such as moving furniture and measuring spaces in specific ways. I am looking forward to getting back to working directly with clients, but being forced to work in new and creative ways has given us some new tools and practices that we’ll continue to use day to day.”—Laura Hildebrandt, IFDA, NKBA, Interiors by LH, LLC

WILL THIS PERIOD CHANGE THE WAY YOU WORK IN THE FUTURE?
“We are doing more client meetings virtually on Zoom calls, but some clients still want to come in and touch and feel the fabrics. We wear masks, socially distance and sanitize as needed. We will have to wait and see how long the situation lasts and how people react.” —Kristin Peake, Kristin Peake Interiors

“Although I don’t think open floor plans will cease, I do think that young families will prioritize workspace and how their homes need to be multi-functional.  Our hope is that we don’t experience anything like this again, but it certainly makes you stop and consider how your home can serve each family member.” —Rebecca Penno, Penno Interiors