I can safely say, never before in our lifetimes, we have experienced what we are living through right now. While we are processing the sheer scale of the impact the pandemic on our way of life, we are forced to retreat to the refuge of our homes and to live in lockdown conditions. Never before the comfort of our own home has been so precious, and yet most of us feel trapped.
As an architect interested in the impact of the built environment on us, I find it fascinating to observe the way our environment conditions us. The acuteness of the situation we find ourselves in has revealed exciting ways of adapting to the new conditions. This is particularly so when it comes to our behaviour. Many have shown incredible resourcefulness, from using technology as a way to stay connected with the outside world or learning how to preserve vegetables and backing bread to using a drone to take the dog for a walk, yes a drone! We are experimenting and doing things differently.
However exciting behaviour is, I am more attracted to capturing how the lockdown affects the fabric of our house and vice versa. Many of us are working from home, 50% of the workforce according to the press. Besides, all our school children are now homeschooling! This is where I invite you to start observing how you, your family and your house interact and the changes you make -or wish you could make- to get pleasure from being at home. You may ask, why should I do this? Some simple things affect us deeply in our environment as humans, and your house layout, orientation and internal fittings can be the reason. There may not be a lot you can do about it without going into huge expense, but you may find the contrary is true in some cases.
I have a few suggestions for things you may want to look at ;
# The movement of sunlight
Most people seek the sun as a source of warmth, light and general happiness. Are you aware of the sunny areas in the house at different times of the day? Are you able to harness this for the various activities in your day? Don’t leave it to the cat, take the best spot for the afternoon nap if you get a chance by arranging the furniture in a sun-friendly manner.
# Family time together
As socialising in person becomes restricted under lockdown conditions, I suggest we do not let the ‘together time with the family’ to chance. Making a den with the children in the sitting room may require removing some chairs or coffee tables that we can probably do without. There is value in empty space, and most houses are over-furnished. ‘Less is more’ when it comes to creating spaces for togetherness.
# Fresh air
The concept of ‘sick buildings’ is often related to air-conditioned environments, offices and public building, but homes can also become sick. Ventilation is the obvious solution. You can also look for the surfaces where dust and mites may thrive and get rid of those pieces of furniture, curtains or cushions that don’t give you joy. Bringing in house plants can also improve air quality.
# Quiet spot for working from home
Whether it is a corner in the kitchen or the spare bedroom, working from home requires the right amount of space and quietness for concentration. It also requires that you have access to your paperwork and office equipment. If this is the first time, you work from home, once novelty runs out you will need to try what best works for you. De-cluttering the area or room is often an excellent place to start.
# The relationship with the garden
Rain or shine having views of nature is always uplifting. The more time you can enjoy being in contact with the outside space, the better you will feel about being in the house. Treasure every window and door, treat them as your connection with the world.
Let’s set up a time to talk if you feel stuck. While I am conducting my own home social experiment, I am very keen to hear how others are going about navigating this ‘new normal’.
Life will go on, and we will look back at this time with all sort of memories. It would be fabulous to remember it as the time we reconnected with our loved ones and with our homes as the place we belong and feel the most secure. Stay positive, safe and in good health.
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