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What high-net-worth clients are looking for in post-pandemic interior design

Designers Candice Olson, Elizabeth Metcalfe and Jane Lockhart on trends in high-end interior décor

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COVID-19 has transformed interior design in surprising ways.

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The pandemic created a need to transform the home into a completely functional space whilst retaining its elegance. At the same time, people feel a need for the separation of different residences, such as vacation homes, from the primary residence through décor choices. And, as mental health emerged as a big theme through the pandemic, one design response has been to bring the natural world indoors to boost well-being.

Here, three renowned interior designers share their perspectives on how their clientele are forgoing up-to-the-minute trends in fixtures, textiles, and furnishings in favour of durably sophisticated, timeless pieces, as they continue to navigate the impact of COVID-19.

Candice Olson

After so many years of pandemic-related trauma, what are high-net-worth clients seeking in their home décor?

“Like everything over the past few years, the home has had to change and adapt quickly. It’s had to become all things to all family members; office, school, gym, daycare, play space, entertainment venue, as well as our sanctuary.

“It’s also seen a blur of public and private spaces. Words like ‘functionality, efficiency, durability’ are now at the forefront of client conversations, even before any discussion of style. ‘Smart’ whole-home technologies, custom ergonomic detailing, acoustical considerations and performance finishes are key and not just back-burner ingredients in the luxe recipe.

“Sure, style and beauty guide the aesthetic, but having spent so much time in our homes, it’s become very apparent that the joy a beautiful home affords means that it’s able to be lived in, not just looked at!”

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Are clients seeking to match their home décor themes with their vacation homes and offices, or are they seeking to clearly separate each space with their design choices?

“Your vacation property is your ‘home away from home,’ but who wants to escape to a home that’s the same-old, same-old?

“A vacation or holiday is about getting away from the daily grind and routine of both our professional and personal lives and their respective environments. As such, clients are mostly looking for more kick-back, carefree, casual vacation spaces to counter their modern, urban or more formal day-to-day aesthetic.”

What lessons have clients learned during these times, in terms of décor choices that have mental health benefits?

“Biophilia is the science that explores and links our connection with Nature, with having a greater overall sense of well-being and happiness.

“This need or desire to connect could not be more apparent than during the pandemic’s harsh lockdowns, where a walk in the park or simply an open window to the outside is where we found respite and rejuvenation.

“The fallout has resulted in a design/science mash-up: biophilic design. At its core are nature-inspired patterns, palettes, textures, forms and materials aimed at bringing the feel-good factor of the outdoors, indoors to the home.”

Elizabeth Metcalfe

After so many years of pandemic-related trauma, what are high-net-worth clients seeking in their home décor, especially in terms of artistic comfort?

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“At every level of experience, humans search and crave comfort and beauty. Scans have shown our brain respond positively when exposed to things that we find aesthetically pleasing. Beauty has the ability to slow us down, calm us, relax us and allow us to be fully present.

“In our chaotic and uncertain world, we are turning towards our homes, asking how to create authentic spaces that define who we are and what we value. More than ever before, it should fill us with happiness and a sense of well-being. We’re appreciating our homes, not only for their sense of security, a place to sleep and eat, but examining how they enhance our daily lives.

“Our clientele are investing in items for the long-term: iconic pieces such as Pierre Paulin’s Ribbon Chair, Mauro Fabbro’s Scramble Floor lamp and a vintage Carlo Scarpa Poliedri chandelier. It’s exciting to see that clients are embracing work by artists and artisans to add individuality to their homes. Handmade products are genuinely unique. No two products are ever exactly the same – uniqueness is part of their inherent identity and beauty. These are the pieces that tell a story, not only of the maker, but of the client as well.”

What are some trends that address practicality and personal expression?

“The trends that we see are a result of a newly expanded definition of how we use our home. Elegance and beauty must incorporate ease, comfort, functionality and versatility. We’re entertaining at home and welcoming guests for intimate dinner parties and larger outdoor get-togethers.

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“Our clients are adding wine lounges, martini bars and wine rooms on their main floor. Four-season rooms and patios are transforming our outdoor living spaces to accommodate social gatherings. Spaces are being carved out for at-home personal care services and training. Once-seldom-used home offices are being designed with Zoom calls in mind and a focus on technology for a highly functional professional workspace.”

Are clients seeking to blend their home décor themes with their vacation homes and offices, or are they seeking to clearly separate each space with their design choices?

“Holiday homes should always feel authentic to their location and fit within their cultural context. They are a perfect opportunity to explore a decidedly different design point of view that feels more casual for entertaining and relaxation. Clients are open to designs that have a high-end resort feel that create a separation from their main residence.”

What lessons have clients learned during these times, in terms of décor choices that have mental health benefits?

“Investing in your home is an investment in the quality of your life. A home is very personal. It should feel authentic, comfortable, connected, and safe. A home should, above all, support and sustain your physical and emotional well-being. A home is not about impressing friends or fitting into a trendy cookie-cutter mould.

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“For some, it’s about getting rid of items that no longer represent you or are not needed. For others, it’s about creating a peaceful, quiet space in an open-floor plan to retreat – a quiet reading nook, a personal gym, or soothing bathroom.

“Re-evaluating and addressing how you live, what works and what doesn’t work, is a step forward to improving your mental outlook. Surrounding yourself with things that you love, bring you a sense of joy and make you happy have mental-health benefits.”

Jane Lockhart

After so many years of pandemic-related trauma, what are high-net-worth clients seeking in their home décor?

“Clients are looking for a space to get away from the day-to-day. They’re incorporating wellness rooms and high-end gyms, and they’re putting in their own salons so people can come in to do their hair and nails.

“Clients want function and beauty in their home, but they want it to be an extension of themselves. People are dedicating entire rooms just to communicate – Zoom rooms are very conscious of background décor and acoustics. Panels are being built that look beautiful and are used to absorb and control sound.

“Today people want their hobbies on display, moving them front and centre. For example, wine cellars are moving up into their main space, looking much more a part of their home décor.”

Are clients seeking to blend their home décor themes with their vacation homes and offices, or are they seeking to clearly separate each space with their design choices?

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“We’re seeing that clients absolutely want a variety of experience, and to be true to where they are. A cottage is a cottage, a ski chalet is a ski chalet. They want the décor to reflect exactly where they are. It’s about having a refresh, a restart, a change, and shifting gears. You want the environment to reflect a more serene, relaxed, or adventurous space. Something different from the day-to-day.”

What lessons have clients learned during these times, in terms of décor choices that have mental health benefits?

“They want a space where they can tune out. Clientele are requesting interior water features and living walls where people can put plants and bring the outdoors inside. People are bringing folding floor-to-ceiling glass doors to eliminate the barriers between indoors and out.

“Smart technology is also a big part of sustainability. It allows you to control temperature, so you can have your floors preheating on the way to your ski chalet, or, as we approach summer, being able to control the air conditioning before you arrive at your second property.”

Responses have been edited for clarity and length.

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