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Could Interior Design Trends Reflect the ‘New Normal?’

George Frey

The world, despite the present risks, is beginning to reopen. While restrictions still impact freedom of movement, individuals around the world have begun to emerge from lockdown and businesses begin to reopen to customers, albeit, with major differences in service. In the United States, many businesses, such as coffee shops and grocery stores, have imposed a limit of customers who can enter the store at one time. Many states and cities around the country have also imposed mask ordinances, such as New York, others see the virus as an issue of the past.

Whatever the response, however, there is no denying that businesses, restaurants especially, have been impacted substantially by COVID-19 and, like many, have been forced to adapt to the new rules and regulations. What comes with those regulations, is a change to the interior designs of businesses, some temporary, some permanent. In the U.S., as well as some other countries, plastic barriers and signs have been placed to keep customers as far away from each other and as socially distant as possible. In regards to this, one question remains; ‘could interior design change entirely due to this pandemic, and could it remain changed indefinitely to prevent pandemics of the future?’

The answer, according to various interior designers, will involve the placement of furniture, fixtures, etc., to minimize contact between patrons within the space. The goal for many seems to be to create an environment which is safe, yet does not present a totally visible cue as to the potential danger the new design is protecting the public from.

To understand how this sort of subtle change is done, we need no more than to walk down a city street. Observe, exterior design, especially in larger, frequented areas has been adapted subtly to combat potential terrorist threats. London is a city which comes to mind.has been struck by a variety of vehicular attacks along its bustling streets, most famously along The capital’s famous London Bridge, on Jun. 3, 2017, saw a heinous terrorist attack that rammed into pedestrians walking across the bridge, killing 9 in total (excluding the perpetrators) either upon impact by the massive vehicle, or in the case of one man, propelling his body into the Thames River below, where he subsequently drowned. Several other victims were later stabbed in the nearby Borough Market. In response to this, and the later Manhattan vehicle attack on Oct. 31, 2017, which killed 11 (excluding the terrorist) along a riverside bike path, the use of ‘bollards,’ became widespread. Effectively isolating vehicles from vulnerable pedestrians to the ignorance of the public. Blending in with the layout of their environments.

The goal for interior designers is to effectively mirror that subtle change, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, without inciting fear in the public. Interior Designer Stanley Sun told Forbes, “Public interior spaces will include universal cues to assist in creating comfortable social barriers without being distracting, obvious or non-approachable. Products will be farther apart, people will not have to crowd together in order to see something.” It is subtle changes like this, as well as the overall placement of furniture and fixtures, mentioned previously, that will direct the public to obey new social distancing measures without even realizing they’re doing so.

Interior Design is not just an effort to keep up appearances of space, but to make individuals feel comfortable with their surroundings. It is a practice that relies on studying the movement of humans and their mental patterns in order to create the best, most accommodating interior spaces. Speaking of mental patterns, traditionally, adapting to a new situation is a challenge for many, but over time it will become normal and perhaps even customary to make an effort to maximize personal space. Effectively changing the cultural notion of gathering places and personal bubbles.

In the end, we will let interior designers do the work, as they and we attempt to adjust to the post-pandemic era we will be experiencing, albeit, with them trying to be as subtle as possible and us trying to adapt to this new world.

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