A dramatic shift in what Australians want our homes to be and how we interact with our surrounding communities is creating a new and reimagined lifestyle Zeitgeist.
COVID-19, and the copious amounts of time we have spent isolating at home, has served to hasten the pace of these changes and strengthen our desire to adapt them.
At its core is the re-emergence of the village at the heart of our daily lives, and also the desire for greater privacy or ‘me time’, including ‘the nude factor’.
“The biggest issue COVID-19 has brought about is the rise of the village,” said Adam Haddow, architect and urban designer at SJB Architects.
“Modernism previously told us we couldn’t have working, living, sleeping and recreation all together but coronavirus is encouraging that. We are living more locally.
“It is radical in a way. The villages are prospering at the moment, suburban strips of shops are going gangbusters while in contrast the CBD sits empty.
“Knowing about where you live and the community you live in has become much more important. You are getting amenity from your local goods and services, you know the man or woman who owns the local shop. You have a link with the dry cleaner.
“It does fundamentally change the way you live.”
The domino effect of this village-centre approach will be at the heart of new designs and developments.
“This all plays into the expectations of projects,” Mr Haddow said.
“People want diversity. They want some level of a supermarket, a coffee shop, a baker, a newsagent and a butcher and it becomes more about locally not nationally.
“It is not about gaining an income for the strata through mixed retail space, it is about adding to your life. Do you feel safe, healthy, that you are living a quality life? All of these things are very much front of mind now. That sense of amenity is vital. We realise now we don’t want to drive across town to get what we want.”
At an individual, couple or family level this has also led to a revision of our lifestyles.
“The COVID-19 scenario has meant a review of what living means to us, creating spaces that are meaningful and flexible and that can give that space where you can work quietly,” said Fabrizio Perilli, CEO of TOGA Development and Construction.
“From an apartment block perspective that means reviewing that community space, those dedicated, shared spaces, Outdoor areas, common, landscape areas where you sit outside and reflect, to be a space of sufficient size, welcoming and providing privacy.
“That flexibility in the home itself can be equally provided for an apartment or a house.”
Time spent working from home has also challenged our ideas about what our home should provide.
“People now really appreciate that other room, or study room, they can close off,’ Mr Perilli said.
“They have also come to enjoy the privacy that an enclosed kitchen can provide and the more efficient use of storage space. There is also the usefulness of a multipurpose room. That’s not a living room or a bedroom but a flexible space that can change as you or your family does.”
More time at home and more time to ponder our lives, as a result of lockdown and isolation during the coronavirus epidemic, also means we know exactly what we want.
“People have now spent a lot of time at home and they are seeing the value in what they have and what they don’t have,” Mr Haddow said.
“They need a quiet spot where they can sit on the computer. They want to have a bit of a backyard so they don’t have to take the dog outside and around the block to pee.
“It is a more local way of living. It is more connected. You will see a return to more Juliette balconies, more communal living space in the bigger developments. People know what they want more than they ever did before. Before they wanted what was nice, now they want what is essential, what they are going to use.
“In apartments, people don’t want a big open space any more. That makes it difficult to live in. People want separation and visibility. Even recently we were designed with an amazing sequence of space. But it’s no longer one size fits all. It’s turning back to customised.
We also want a strong sense of privacy.
‘I call it ‘the nude factor’”, Mr Haddow said.
“People feel they should be able to walk around in the nude, they don’t want to have to be dressed and worry about what the neighbours think because they can see what they are doing.”