If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.
That age-old maxim has taken on far greater meaning in the era of COVID-19 – and, along with it, a far higher level of import when it comes to the design and sale of kitchens, baths and other residential spaces.
Indeed, according to a consensus of global design experts, kitchen/bath space planners and other residential design professionals are currently at a pivotal time in history, with the lingering impact of COVID triggering major demographic changes, technological innovations, product trends and attitudinal shifts.
This significant new state of affairs is underlined in an illuminating report by the American Society of Interior Designers, which revealed that health and wellness have emerged as the top priority of homebuyers and remodeling clients, with growing numbers gravitating toward simpler, cleaner, easier-to-maintain designs, as well as products that promote both a sense of wellbeing and an escape from modern-day stress. The result, ASID predicts, is that wellness features and “healthy design” will soon become nearly ubiquitous in new and remodeled homes.
The current wellness trend, while certainly not new, has gained considerable impetus in the past two years, with the global pandemic sparking unprecedented attention on the incontrovertible link between people’s home and their health.
Recent market surveys reveal, for example, that higher-than-ever numbers of homeowners are either contemplating healthy home upgrades or are actively researching information to address growing health concerns. Younger, educated homeowners are reportedly leading the charge in this endeavor – a clear sign that, as the Gen Y and Gen Z population increasingly drives housing demand, the request for healthy home projects will only increase.
So, what does all this mean?
For one thing, it doubtless means that the marketing, selling, design and installation of residential remodeling projects – including kitchens and baths – will increasingly be compelled to reflect today’s burgeoning wellness mandate, with a growing number of products becoming focused at least as much on such factors as safety, accessibility, health and energy efficiency as on aesthetics and personal taste. It will also doubtless mean that designers, home builders, remodelers, architects and other space planners will increasingly be called upon to incorporate the ever-widening array of wellness-related materials and structural components into their residential projects.
Sanitation, it’s already apparent, has become an increasingly important consideration in kitchen and bath design, with a growing emphasis being placed on such components as anti-bacterial surfaces, indoor air quality (IAQ), non-porous materials, mold-resistant drywall, proper sealing and insulation, and no/low volatile organic chemical paints and finishes.
Also gaining impetus is a decided move by homeowners toward touchless living environments: motion-sensor kitchen and bath faucets and lighting controls; no-touch hardware for cabinets and vanities, and smart-home technology that reduces the need for homeowners to touch countertops and other surfaces, thus lowering the likelihood of infection.
Cleanliness upon entering the home will likely also assume increased importance, with a growing number of residences featuring sanitized “transition zones” that allow homeowners to access the dwelling through a bathroom, remove their garments, then shower, before entering the balance of the living space.
All this will no doubt spell both opportunities and challenges for kitchen and bath design firms vying for business in the wellness-oriented market.
Design firms will need to undertake a concerted effort to educate and train their associates, installers and subcontractors – as well as their prospects and clients – about the design and construction principles of a healthy home, and how to apply building science, wellness strategies, installation practices and product specification to meet current and future homeowner needs.
In a similar vein, professional certifications tied to wellness and healthy home design will become an increasingly important point of differentiation between design and remodeling firms. Marketing campaigns, product offerings and sales techniques will similarly have to be tailored to the changing market.
Adapting to the heightening wellness trend will result in both healthier homes and clients. If leveraged skillfully, it will also lead to healthier profits for kitchen and bath design firms. ▪