25 Jun 2020
We’ve all been trapped in our homes a lot recently (some of us still are!), and the swathes of employees successfully homeworking will encourage lots of companies to consider having more staff work from home more regularly going forward. For those with long commutes, or responsibilities of care (either for tiny humans or fluffy companions), or even just those who prefer to work in pyjamas, this will come as good news.
Homeworking isn’t all plain sailing, though. With none of us having spent this much time consistently within the four walls we own, it’s become glaringly obvious what does – and more importantly, what doesn’t – work for us. This presents a great opportunity for self builders to think about what would make life easier. If, as the Government has hinted, we might have to get used to a ‘new normal’, it’s worth considering how your new house can adapt to this.
The most obvious use of space that those of us are probably wishing we had right now is a home office. The dining table might be convenient if you’ve just got a laptop, but if your homeworking set up also includes a monitor, diary, notepad, work phone, you’ll very quickly monopolise a lot of space. And this becomes even more inconvenient when you have to move it all to make way for the actual purpose of your dining table; facilitating mealtimes.
If you lose the fight for the dining table with another member of your household, you’ll probably have to arrange your set up in a corner somewhere and pack it all away at the end of every workday. Needless to say, this is less than ideal, and a problem that a home office would address. And if two of you are homeworking, why stop at one? A house we’re designing at the moment is being built with two home offices, to allow its family members maximum convenience when working from home.
Another consideration is whether you want open plan or not. Open plan is an increasingly popular option amongst self builders, but it does come with its pitfalls. As anyone who’s tried to purchase flour during lockdown has probably noticed, the UK is going crazy for baking. All that extra time spent in the kitchen is fine, provided no one’s trying to work in the same space. A separated room layout will mean anyone who does have to work at the dining table is not interrupted by another family member having a coffee break.
If you’re one of those who has found a new hobby during lockdown, why not incorporate it into your new home? If you’ve discovered a love for painting, you could include a studio. An avid amateur baker might consider a pantry to stockpile ingredients and keep big food mixers out of sight, or even consider purchasing a bread oven. Lockdown has been a wake-up call for everyone, and if you’re planning to self build it’s worth considering which rooms will be tailored specifically for how you want to live, rather than just being functional.
The weather we’ve been fortunate enough to experience recently has definitely made lockdown more pleasant. Working from home isn’t so bad if it’s in the sunshine with a cool beverage accompanied by a birdsong. With this in mind, it’s only natural that you might be thinking about using your new home to really exploit the outdoors.
There are a number of ways to do this. You can combine a new passion for cooking with one for the garden – think a garden kitchen or, if you’re a fan of all things Italian, a pizza oven. There are also all kinds of outbuildings to consider. If you’ve got a hobby that requires concentration, putting a studio in your garden will be much more peaceful than if it was in the main house.
A side effect of working from home is that your electricity bills will be higher than usual. If your whole family is working from home, and there are now four laptops charging every day, the increase could be significant. So, self building an energy-efficient home should offset the higher electricity requirements with a much lower heating consumption. And there are other things you can do, as well. Strategically place office and working from home areas to catch the most sun, so natural light will replace the need for artificial for as long as possible.
Designing a house post-Covid is the new type of futureproofing, and there are loads of ways you can use space in your new self build to accommodate the way you want to live.