How to Design a Live-Work Home for the Post-COVID-19 World

Expert tips for work-from-home spaces.

“People used to think of working from home as a cute idea, something that millennials were very into,” says award-winning Filipino architect JJ Acuna, founder of JJA Bespoke Architecture. “As designers, we may be asked by our clients, whether it’s a developer or a private residential client, to really carve out a space, a live-work environment that’s not just a selling point.” Acuna, along with global design experts, recently discussed the effects of COVID-19 on home design in How is COVID-19 Impacting the Future of Design?, a webinar organized by Hong Kong-based communications firm CatchOn.

Let’s face it, COVID-19 will have us cooped up for a while, and after this is all over, working from home will become the new normal for many. But don't feel like home is some prison. We can learn to adapt and embrace new routines and lifestyles. Those of us who can work from home now have the chance to take a good look at ourselves and our home environments.

Architects and designers are aiming to make the home more than just a last refuge but also the preferred environment for stimulating creativity and productivity. Design industry experts have addressed our concerns about personal space, wellness, and sustainability, identifying key trends and tips for what the homes of the future should look like.

Create shape-shifting spaces.

“What I would like to see is more flexibility,” says Charmaine Chan, design editor of the South China Morning Post, “more homes that are shape-shifting, more furniture that is multifunctional.”


A “shape-shifting” home is about applying multiple purposes to a single space or object. This might entail a seat in a window bay where you can work, meditate, or read, or even a foldable desk and counter. You may have to re-consider your personal boundaries between your notions of work-life-play, as turning your home into a shape-shifting space should be a personal process.

Bear in mind demarcating a calm space you can retreat to. Work or childcare should not overwhelm every compartment of your life at home. In the room you use as a home office, the transition from work to leisure should be smooth and simple, your work materials easy to put away to one side.

Shift to zero-waste households.

The aim of maintaining a zero-waste home has been a growing trend in recent years. Many professionals in the design community expect this crisis to enforce the emphasis on the basic tenets of reduce, reuse, and recycle. This may spell the end of planned obsolescence in the design industry. The modern home should be built and organized in a way conducive to sustainability. It should not require you to go out to shop and hoard extra household goods you do not really need.   

“When you design for zero-waste, you’ll realize there isn’t as much of a need to get new things all the time,” says Hong Kong-based interior designer Rowena Gonzales. “We’ve designed so many roof gardens flourishing with passion fruits and all kinds of herbs.” Whether investing in plants and growing your own herbs, or maximizing natural light and airflow to save on your energy bill, or installing a bidet or smart-toilet to save on toilet paper, your home could be so much more eco-conscious, cleaner, and simpler to maintain.    

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Choose local over global.  

“China and Italy are relied on for so much of furniture and construction trades, so it’s an opportunity, perhaps, for other companies to step in and step up,” Chan reflects. “It wasn’t until this crisis hit that we realized how little is made locally.”

The disruption of global supply chains has an obvious solution that could be embraced in the long term. Supporting local designers and manufacturers and making the most of native materials are recent trends on the rise that could continue well past 2020. Let’s do away with this perception that a stylish home must have marble floors or pinewood imported from Italy. Durable wicker meshes for sofas, baskets, tables, and chairs made from abaca or rattan can be easily sourced in the Philippines.  

Treasure the things we touch.

To optimize the experience of living and working at home, we’ll have to jump on the Marie Kondo decluttering bandwagon. Interior designers will advise you to reorganize the workspace and think deeply about the little objects that your hands will touch, choosing wisely what really matters to you and your everyday life. Especially in a time of radical readjustment, it is the sensory, ergonomic aspect of furniture and household objects that could be the guiding principle of your home redecoration.

Suzy Annetta, editor in chief of Design Anthology, says that she is “reassessing the things that we’re touching on a daily basis. In small spaces where we can’t splurge on a nice big sofa or things which take up a lot of space, it might be cabinetry, or the taps in the bathroom—these things we touch every single day can bring quite a bit of joy.” 

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