The house of the future is energy efficient, flexible in its functions, and probably made from weird recycled materials.
Reports from the recent Milan Furniture Fair identified sustainability at the top of the design agenda. True to form, Milan has made the ecological aspect glamorous. Elle DÃ©cor reported recyclable aluminum outdoor furniture with cushions made from recycled plastic bottles; recycled glass from discarded computer screens; and floor tiles made from eggshell waste. Talk about walking on eggshells!
Other trends in Milan were driven by the experience of the pandemic and the drive to make interior spaces more versatile. Sliding doors, concealable kitchens and workstations in closets, all were included. Hilarious, but many of us have been known to walk into a walk-in closet to make a phone call.
âPeople come to me to tell me that they need a place to make a quiet call,â explains Bernard Gilna, an architect specializing in sustainable design. “You know when you have to make a really horrible work call and there are kids screaming in the background and the sound of someone making teaâ¦”
While many are back in the office, Covid has not gone away. âWorking from home has to be an option,â he says. âIf one of your children catches Covid, you are punished for two weeks. “
Soundproofing is important, as is natural light. There is also the need to separate or conceal your workstation. âYou have to be able to hide the fact that you work from home. You don’t want to glance at your computer during the evening and see it flashing back. Historically, this has been achieved with a desk on casters.
In the aftermath of the blockages where cohabitants struggled to separate from each other, many prophesied the end of open concept life. Reports from Milan indicate that, rather than slapping the walls, designers and architects are using movable walls and sliding glass doors to divide spaces flexibly, without compromising the flow of light.
âI don’t think the open plan is dead,â says Gilna, âbut people need to be flexible about their spaces. An open space needs a comfortable room; every minimalist home needs a cluttered room; and there will always be laundry. True dat. Passive homes don’t have ventilation cabinets or heaters to hang laundry on, and their owners tend to avoid dryers for environmental reasons.
It leaves them a bit stuck. Gilna recently worked on a passive house that included a drying room where occupants hung laundry at night. In the morning it would be dry.
“What is interesting at the moment is not the return to normalcy”, specifies Patrick McKenna. ” It going. “
McKenna is the director of Wabi-Sabi, a company that designs and manufactures fitted furniture: bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, paneling, sliding screens and stairs. âCustom-made furniture is an overlay of architecture. Rather than this idea of ââgetting your furniture, you build it as part of the house.
He recently built an interior wall with built-in storage, a sliding screen and hidden doors, which divide an open living space into zones that can be changed to suit the needs of the people who live there. âIt creates a piece of need,â he says. “Whatever that need.”
âOpen plan living spaces are always very popular,â says Jane Witter of Dulux. “But multigenerational living brings so many functions to a space that we have to do what we can to refine it and distinguish the different uses.”
This is called zoning and one of the cheapest ways to do it is with paint. The Dulux Color of the Year is called Bright Skies and comes with several coordinating palettes. âLet’s be honest. It’s pale blue, but it’s great on the ceiling,â says Witter. âIt’s a recessive color, so it’s good for small spaces and it makes you feel calm. I feel like that. it’s good for the soul.
Rather than painting an entire space in one color, she suggests using a palette designed so that all the shades blend well. Thus, an area for work can be subtly dissociated from a relaxation area. She also suggests getting rid of the white ceiling and lowering the color so that it extends to part of the wall. âIt’s about trying to find those moments around the house. You can’t touch it. It is a question of going around and asking yourself: what does this space offer? “
On the one hand, this versatility is a lesson learned from containment that underscored the requirement for areas within a home that can be flexible throughout the day: breakfast in the morning, homework in the afternoon, and relaxation in the evening. Taking it a step further, it is also about universal design and spaces accessible to all, regardless of age, ability or disability.
âI can see it’s much stronger, moving forward,â says OisÃn MacManus, interior designer and director of Ollas Design. âHow can our spaces transform as we transform? She quotes architect Ali Grehan who once said, “If we don’t design our buildings and places for everyone, who are we designing them for?” We design them for no one.
On a more immediate note, the experience of the pandemic made her think about the toilet and how it might be located in the house. âIn the country, everyone comes in through the back door and cleans themselves. They wash their hands and change their boots for slippers. These rooms, she observes, are usually messy.
âWhy can’t they be located at the front door and designed as a thoughtful space? In the lingering half-life of the current pandemic, we still have to wash our hands. And protecting yourself from the germs of the future is not a bad plan. While creating homes with decontamination areas seems far-fetched, having a convenient place to wash your hands when entering the house is very helpful.
MacManus is an interior design advocate declaring a global collective response to the dual urgency of climate degradation and biodiversity loss. The movement was initiated by architects and recognizes that buildings and construction account for nearly 40 pc of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.
âAs designers, Covid made us react,â she says. âNow we have to find solutions. I don’t like the expression – a new normal – I don’t think there is a new normal. But if we don’t create a new way of life, we’ll be in trouble.
See gilna.com, wabisabi.ie, dulux.ie, and ollasdesign.com.