home design behaviours

Shifting behaviours influence home designs

The pandemic has created a strong desire for comfort and security
Thursday, July 29, 2021
by Jennifer Heffel

The demand for goods and services in the home industry has never been greater. Since March of 2020 we have found ourselves in a pandemic frenzy of navigating a shift in consumer behaviour, psychology, and focus. And for many design firms, this shift also came with managing a rapid business growth to serve our clientele. In 26 years of business, our firm has never been so busy.

There is no question the events over the past 18 months have had a direct influence over the business of the home and I am always surprised how similar we all are in wanting to create comfort and safety for ourselves. As the pandemic forced us all to retreat to our small bubbles and the time spent at home increased, many people directed their passion for travel, art and social gatherings to redecorating, renovating or building new.

Time and money were limited for us to spend outside the home, so why not invest in your home? Projects were on the uptick in the beginning and then by mid pandemic – we were finding ourselves scrambling to keep up. It was a roller coaster in the opposite spectrum of what some other industries were facing.

Through this time period we found a delicate, underlying emotional need that led most of our clients to subtly request that the finished product evoke a feeling of comfort and security. They asked for timeless designs which would provide a feeling of reassurance and not overwhelm the senses.

Designers of all products, including kitchen and bath design as well as soft furnishings answered that need by creating a balance of functionality and expression by using healing, earthy colours, minimalist forms, softer shapes, and tactility which appeal to the senses and tend to reduce or ease anxiety and stress.


2021 brought in warm and nature inspired palettes. Iridescent green hues of pine, sage, kale especially paired with warm woods created spaces that felt harmonious, healing and renewed. Using these tones would also help us bring the outdoors in, creating a Biophilic sense of connection to nature. Alongside green, other plant-based tones of amber and oatmeal have and will continue to take the place of stark white and grey.

For the more bold and brazen clients, mixing these colours with dark elements brings a theatrical mood and strength. Dark carbonized woods or stones are rich and moody with an elemental simplicity that heighten the senses.


The blending of materials is encouraged using woven materials, raw fibers, and mixed metals with contemporary silhouettes. Matte brushed metals and handmade textural tiles, fabrics, and furnishings all will see a spread in use as the sense of touch is important in these tactile products.

The Curve

And finally, we have the massive resurgence of one of the biggest trends from the 1960s – the curve. The continuing softening of interiors with curved shapes and organic rounded edges is everywhere from architectural design, kitchen and bath millwork, lighting and plumbing fixtures, staircases, right down to sofas, rugs, and pillows.

Humans are naturally drawn to rounded designs, which create a great comfort and safety in their softness and general happiness in the circular shape. The curve makes me think of the simple yellow smiley face invented in 1963 by the late Harvey Ross Ball, an American graphic artist and ad man. Ball produced the image in 1963 when he was commissioned to create a graphic to raise morale among the employees of an insurance company after a series of difficult mergers and acquisitions.

So, as we’ve all been facing this unprecedented situation together, the use of the curve is very appropriate, leading all of us to feel more optimistic for the future to come.


Jennifer Heffel is principal and owner of HB Design Consultants in Vancouver. She is also the current president of the Interior Designers Institute of B.C.


Photos: L – Barry Calhoun Photos; R – Kristen McGaughey Photography



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