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Solutions for Converging Design Panel at KBIS 2022

Last month I had the opportunity to speak about wellness design in the context of converging interior spaces at KBIS Orlando. This week’s blog is a summary of what I spoke about at the conference.

If you’re interested in the whole panel discussion and more of what Mollie Carmichael from Zonda and Hadley Keller from House Beautiful have to say on the topic, watch the video here!

What's the biggest thing that has changed in your personal life at home over the last two years?

What didn't change? I think the thing that is much more important in my life now is to understand the fact that we all are in different spaces at this point in time. Everybody is in a different place. And the thing that I've tried to incorporate is respecting where everybody is in the process.

I think one of the things that some people find interesting is that as an interior designer, I work on making interior spaces beautiful, but probably my favorite part of my job is, in a way, being my client's therapist. You know, it's really hard to remodel. It's really hard to make changes especially in New York City and I love holding their hand and getting them through it.

Have you changed any of your interior design given what’s been going on in the world?

I think COVID in general has brought out more of the same sort of thing that I've always done. You know, creating spaces that are truly functional and truly work for what people need in making that home that haven. That's always been part of my process.

Today versus two years ago, what are some of the big shifts that you're seeing?

The change that I've seen coming on much more strongly as time goes by is the focus on wellness design and the interest in it. I am a Feng Shui practitioner and I found it fascinating to have recently read an article in KBB magazine about the increased interest in Feng Shui and Feng Shui decor on Pinterest. Having homes that nurture and support us is really something that we're all paying attention to. And maybe it's COVID, or maybe it's the evolution of wellness design itself. We used to think of that term (wellness design) as just making sure that the home was a tight envelope of clean air. Well, this is way more than that. Now it's creating spaces that are nurturing. It's creating spaces that function for us in the ways that we need to.

What are you seeing in the cocooning world of things, specifically in Manhattan?

Working and living in a dense, urban area the way I do, and the way a lot of us live, teaches us one thing: That's very important to understand a space doesn't have to be huge to be functional. You know, you can totally live in a studio apartment by simply dividing it into sections. So it really has a lot to do with making it the right way, rather than just the big way.

What are you seeing in the safety categories?

The important thing to remember is that what makes for a safe environment for a five-year-old is also pretty much the same thing that just makes sense for a 95-year-old. It's applying things in a smart way, you know, making bathrooms that work for everybody in the space.

For instance, having a nice landing space if you're going to be getting in and out of a bathtub is really important if you are mobility challenged. But it's also really great when you're trying to lift a toddler up to put them in the bathtub safely. It's really working with the ergonomics of the human body. I think that wellness, design, technology, and safety all play together. Technology isn't really useful until we find a proper function for it.

A couple of years ago, I was listening Alex Capecelatro, the gentleman that created, and he was saying that what blew his mind was when they realized what the demographic for voice activated technology was; not the younger generation, but the boomer generation. To me, that was one of those head exploding moments where you realize, of course! people that are having trouble getting up and down a set of stairs or getting in and out of a chair are going to benefit the most from voice activated technology.

Are you seeing a lot of multipurpose based conversions in the home?

As someone who blogs, one of the things that fascinates me is the explosion of interest in certain topics. When I talk about creating a functioning and nurturing home office space, people are fascinated with what we do in our spaces now to make them do the things we need them to.

I am a firm believer in the idea of multi-generational living as we go forward. We have aging parents, we have two income families, we have childcare issues. We have all of these things that can be actually solved by living together and creating spaces that work for everybody.

Let's go ahead and make the home a space where multi-generational people can live, whether it's an ADU in the back or whether it's an addition and creating a master bedroom on the ground floor. How do we do it and make it work for everybody?

Are you seeing any office conversion to home at all?

There has always been some of that in New York City because we have all of these really amazing old buildings that were usually one thing or another. Maybe they were a mansion that got subdivided into smaller apartments, maybe they were at a Shirtwaist Factory that now is an apartment building. There's always been a fair amount of that. I don't know that it's grown yet, but obviously as these office spaces continue to not be used, they will be converted into something else.

What about the second home market? What are you seeing in that category?

Well there is a huge segment of the New York City population that did go out to a second home whether they had one already or acquired it once COVID came. I think that in a lot of cases, that's going to be the home base going forward. There may be a need to return to the city, but I see that as the part-time apartment and the beach house or the country house then becomes home.

55% of adults are experiencing mental health issues since this pandemic, with many design solutions for this. Why don't you talk about some of those things?

As I was saying before, wellness has evolved in such a way that not only does the space need to be physically healthy for us, but it has to be healthy for us from an emotional perspective. It has to nurture and support us. This may be decor, bathroom safety, or having a multi-generational setup. For example, it may be as basic as when you renovate the bathroom that you make sure that your tile design has a horizon line in the design. And guess what? That is a great way to avoid a dizzy spell in the bathroom, no matter the reason.

I think that really, it's just a matter of creating a space that works for you. The white on white, on white kitchen may not work for you even though other people have done it. I think a lot of what I see are people just wanting to be individuals.

We’ve talked about tech earlier, but are there any big highlights out there as far as tech in design goes?

I start talking about technology the minute I meet with people as we're walking through the space. We talk about what sort of technology is going to be important to them, what do they really need to have, and what is ultimately going to make their lives better.

The other important facet for me is when you're doing technology in the home, you have got to have a great integrator. At least three, four times a year I'm reaching out to my integrator to help me troubleshoot X or Y or Z. So having somebody that's really great on the backend is an important part of the process.

What do you think about electric versus gas in the home?

Having an opportunity to go to demonstration kitchens to actually work with and cook on induction, I became a convert very quickly. I mean, you don't at the beginning, it sounded a little, you know, wabi-sabi or a little woo-woo. But the point is, once you actually do it, it is amazing.

A lot of the buildings that I'm working in are kind of old since my work is primarily in New York City. They're pretty well-maintained, but the electricity load in a lot of locations won't allow for me to have an induction cooktop in the apartments. I do think it's a huge component in wellness. It's much safer and it can cook just as well. So if I can have it, I would, but I can't always,

Tell me about your takeaways on these top trends.

What I love about it is the change in the floor surface. Whether or not you understand it, that is a huge safety factor to have the floor surfaces change so people can tell when they're moving from one space to another.

As for the wall color, that's more decor, but the other thing that we have to remember is that a lot of times the color in our decor has an awful lot to do with our emotional state. For example color can under stimulate or over stimulate, and that can help or harm different people. So bringing that mindfulness into our decor process is very important.

This is another opportunity where we can talk about Feng Shui and Wood Element. The idea of bringing in the balance of Wood and the revitalizing nature of Wood Element into our home spaces. It's not about just wood furniture, it's about things that are representative of that particular element.

Anything else you'd add about big trends for the future and where you see things going?

We were talking about bringing nature in, and I think the biophilic design movement is going to be a huge trend as we move forward. The first time I heard that term was five or six years ago, and this was something people didn’t have much knowledge on. Now, everybody seems to know what biophilia is all about.

As a color there's going to be a resurgence in green, and as we move forward it's not anything other than just our love of nature. Some of the most loved and read blogs I have done are those that had something to do with elements that you can bring into a space, whether it's a home office space or commercial space.



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