For most people, home is an indescribable mix of comfort and familiarity. However, the outbreak of Covid-19 has created an endless flurry of change that has made our homes feel almost unrecognizable. The past few weeks have made it clear to us that it will take a long time before life will resemble what we used to consider normal, yet it is at this time when we need a sense of place, a sense of home, more than ever.
As we collectively battle this wave of uncertainty and change, it is important to treat our homes as shelters not just for our bodies but also for our minds and souls. We asked some Filipino interior designers and also people from our own team about how we can redesign our homes to mentally and emotionally strengthen us during our time in quarantine. After all, it is especially in times like these where there is no place like home.
Words by Chantelle Muñoz
Illustrations by Therese Luna
1. Build a Home for All the Senses
Being warm and cozy are two of the things that make us feel the safest at home, and they have a lot to do with our different senses (as evidenced by Instagram’s recent sourdough addiction). There is more to comfort than just a hug between friends or wearing a comfy sweater, both of which are nearly impossible today. At a time when home is very much in need of warmth, we can turn to our various senses for the extra dose of comfort we need.
If you’re not big into whipping things up in the kitchen, try lighting some scented candles to get those delicious scents. Create a playlist of your favorite songs to soothe you like we did with our quaran-tunes playlist. Curl up in bed with some tasty snacks while indulging in an aesthetically pleasing film or a pretty read (like our first volume of The Serious Review which you can download for free here). Clock in a workout or learn a dance or two. Paying attention to which of our senses we find the most comfort in and creating a space conducive for those senses helps us slow down and stay grounded in this time of rapid change.
2. Bring the Outdoors In
It was never a secret that nature is extremely calming and a good stimulant for rest. There was already a strong interest in incorporating nature indoors even pre-quarantine and now that we have been temporarily cut off from its natural sources, we yearn for it even more. Thankfully, there are many ways we can get a dose of Mother Earth from the safety of our homes.
Arnold Austria, principal architect of Jagnus Design Studio, suggests bringing in plants (and maybe even rocks!) from your garden as a way to work in some greenery, something that’s particularly soothing during and after a long day of work. DIY garden kits like Qubo‘s are a great place to start if you’re looking to grow your first plant baby during quarantine. Much like our leafy friends, also allow yourself as much fresh air and sunlight as possible. Sit by the window if you can, and maybe spend a few minutes on your balcony or your rooftop. And if you miss the sound of the outdoors, look for recordings of nature sounds to transport you anywhere from the mountains to the seas. One of our favorites is Headspace’s Sleepcasts, collections of beautifully curated ambient sounds that help lull you to sleep.
In the long run, we can expect nature to play an even bigger role as we rethink the importance of home and beyond. The lack of urban planning and design in our cities can no longer be ignored, and we may even see a desire to move back to the provinces as a way of decongesting our cities and becoming more in tune with the environment. Those who will continue to live in urbanized areas will also find ways to ensure the presence of nature in their homes. “The push towards self-sustainability has a lot of us taking up urban gardening by planting fruits and vegetables in our balconies or gardens,” Misty Floro and Pai Edles, design principals at Morfosis, tell us, adding that there will also be new requirements for both residential and non-residential spaces such as access to sunlight, outdoor spaces, and good air flow. We can only begin to imagine how all these changes will reshape how and where we’ll choose to live in the future.
3. Prioritize and Minimize
Now that we’re home all the time, we’re starting to notice all the little things we never paid much attention to—largely because we never needed them in the first place. Take this time to declutter your home (and your life) as you figure out what truly matters to you. But tidying up is more than just about hygiene. Equally important, Misty and Pai share, is that restoring order by putting everything in its rightful place helps bring a sense of calmness and comfort in these messy times.
If you’re up for a bigger change, you can also consider restrategizing your home based on your specific needs. “The more time you use the space the more you learn about yourself and how you it,” says Mara Manalo, an interior designer. “If you spend more time in the kitchen, why not make it half of your house and make the living room smaller?” Making these changes will not only maximize the limited space you have, but ensures that you’ll see your home as a rightful place for you too.
4. Make Time and Space for Ourselves
None of us are used to being surrounded by the same people 24/7. And while we’re glad that we aren’t quarantining alone, sharing the same few rooms makes it challenging to take time for ourselves and disconnect when we need to.
Everyone has a different way of making their home and family situations work since it boils down to the habits and relationships between each person in your household. Misty and Pai share that they asked their team what it has been like for them, and they had a variety of answers. “Our design associate Mariella shared that their family does scheduling on who uses a certain space at a certain time. This is useful especially for bigger families who now find themselves all together at home at the same time.” On the flip side, design associate Mac says that “the goal is to create a space where everyone can thrive and feel good in. Focusing on dividing spaces may lead to more conflict or claustrophobia.”
They agree, however, that communication and respect for each other are key to avoiding conflict at a time like this. Two of their design associates advise informing household members of your schedule is you’re working from home. This helps make sure that your responsibilities at home won’t overlap with your responsibilities at work or school, and takes away the unwelcome feeling of intrusion when someone interrupts you in the middle of the day.
Regardless of your family dynamic, it’s important to always practice and communicate with empathy to make sure everyone has the time, space, and privacy to breathe and take care of themselves. In these stressful times, remember to be kind and considerate of one another and also yourself.
5. Make Room for Different Functions
For the longest time, we prided ourselves in our tech savvy and subsequent ability to work from anywhere. Our current situation, however, has forced many of us to almost completely blur the boundaries of work, rest, and play—yet there are boundaries we have to set to keep our lives in balance.
Both Arnold and Sonny Sunga, co-principal architects at Jagnus, emphasize the importance of designating different areas of your home for different activities to retain a sense of order in your environment. Arnold adds, “a home should be a flexible place where you can live, work and play happily.” This is easier to do if your home has designated areas for each, but can still be done even within one room. Mara, who has always been working from home, shares that she does this by making sure the view from her bed is free of any work clutter, which she gathers in one corner of the room. While she sometimes prefers to work in different areas of her house, having a dedicated work area makes sure she has a space conducive for focus that makes her less anxious about not being productive enough.
On the other hand, she says that her other worry is working too much. True enough, some people have reported working longer hours now that they’re working from home (Bloomberg says that the people they interviewed reported working 3 hours more each day). If setting strict working times makes you anxious or is difficult for you to stick to, Mara suggests placing your work area near the window so that sunlight can serve as a gentle reminder to end your work day. She notes, however, that what’s important when it comes to designating space and time is to take a look at your working style and to figure out what’s best for you.
Lastly, Sonny reminds us that rest and play are equally important parts of your life and deserve your time and space too. Keep your rest area clear of any stressors, and continue to engage in things you enjoy doing. Create a routine that will provide you with the sense of balance and control you need during this quarantine period. It will make it easier for you to transition to whatever is up ahead.
6. Remember Our Home Beyond Our Walls
Lastly, home will never fully feel like home until we’re free to venture outside again. Ikea’s Life at Home Report for 2018 touches on this by explaining that home is a vast but personal network of places and spaces. This includes the various establishments we have long considered part of our neighborhoods, like our go-to groceries or favorite restaurants. Today, the pandemic is threatening that very network with many SMEs struggling to stay afloat if not already on the brink of closure.
If there is anything we have learned throughout these past weeks, it’s that we have the ability to help others power through these difficult times. In addition to donating to different groups and organizations, we urge you to also help your local businesses the best way you can during the quarantine period. Support them by making a purchase, buying a gift card, or even just sharing some words of encouragement. Right now, our SMEs need and deserve all the help they can get. And with our support, we might just be able to see them be part of our homes for a long time.
These are hard and stressful times for all of us, and no one will emerge from this pandemic completely unscathed. Covid-19 will forever change the way we see and do things, and the very thought of how different our futures will be is overwhelming. There are many ways we can help from the comforts of our home, and that includes helping ourselves by making sure to keep our minds and souls strong for whatever lies ahead. After all, they deserve to stay safe too.
Misty Floro and Pai Edles are design principals at Morfosis, a Philippine design studio that specializes in interior design and creative direction with a portfolio of both residential and commercial projects. The studio was awarded the Kohler Bold Design Award for the leisure category in 2017. Head to their website for a look at their extensive portfolio.
Mara Manalo is an interior and production designer. Some of her recent projects include store designs for local footwear brand Renegade Folk and vintage clothing store It’s Vintage. Visit her website or check out her beautifully crafted spaces and thoughts on Instagram.
Sonny Sunga and Arnold Austria are the co-founders and co-principal architects of Jagnus Design Studio, the architecture and design firm behind some of the cities most iconic buildings. One such structure is the Ronac Art Center where their studio is currently based. View more of their work on their website.