Design forecast 2022: Micro offices, smart storage and color pops


SDL Residential Design:, 707-508-8828

FletcherRhodes Interior Design:, 707-721-1682

Melanie Turner, Pfau Long Architecture:, 415-780-9706

As we approach a third year of the coronavirus, it’s clear the pandemic that changed the world also has changed how we live — and work — in our homes.

People have had to adapt their living space into classroom space for kids, workspace for themselves and maybe a spouse and leisure and recreation space when everything else is closed. Entertaining that once took place inside or at restaurants has increasingly moved to the backyard.

With no immediate end in sight, the pandemic already has had an effect on architecture and interior design. So what is in the design forecast for 2022? We talked to several Bay Area and Sonoma architects and designers who highlighted some common themes: people increasingly want their homes to be flexible, with functional spaces for work, learning and recreation, while also offering a calm sanctuary.

Melanie Turner, director of residential design for the residential studio of Perkins & Will with Pfau Long Architecture of San Francisco

The home micro office: With more employers transitioning to a work-from-home model, homeowners are looking for a more permanent office space.

At the beginning of the pandemic, people suddenly sent home to telecommute annexed space wherever they could find it, whether it was a guest room or the kitchen table, thinking it was only temporary. But Turner said many people now want a more defined and permanent workspace, away from the typical open floor plan that offers no privacy.

She foresees more demand for home micro offices, small private workspaces hidden within a large room like a den or library. Think pivoting book cases, hidden doors and sliding wall partitions.

“Separating work from home doesn’t have to be about physical distance,” she said. It’s more about creating “a mental commute.” Turner, who works from home in the small San Francisco apartment she shares with her husband and son, created her own work nook in a walk-in closet that has a window for natural light.

Smart storage solutions: People living in small- to moderate-size homes are looking to maximize their space for all the purposes a house needs to serve.

One way to find extra room is to condense your storage, freeing up space for a micro work area in a closet (or mudroom or laundry room), Turner said. This may involve installing new shelves or cabinets. Use your wall for shelves and go high, even floor to ceiling, and/or go deep. Put things you use only infrequently in the back or up at the top.

Clean materials: The pandemic has put more focus on indoor air quality, health and well-being, Turner said. People are paying more attention to what they bring into their homes and to the safety or potential toxicity of paint finishes and cleaning products.

Turner said she is working with a client who is building a home near Occidental and is committed to using as much wood as possible culled from their own land for projects such as a dining room table and outdoor furniture.

Indoor/outdoor living: The pandemic has made many people more interested than ever in creating incredible outdoor spaces for relaxing, playing and socializing safely and bridging the gap between indoors and outdoors.

The hidden TV: For decades, the TV has been the centerpiece of family and entertainment rooms. No more, Turner said. In 2022, we’ll see a shift away from this, with TV screens hidden or camouflaged.

Samuel Lowe, principal with SDL Residential Designs, Sonoma

ADUs: There has been a big uptick in demand for so-called accessory dwelling units, partly enabled by a relaxation in the requirements for building them in Sonoma County, said Lowe, who has offices in Sonoma and other parts of the Bay Area.

Also, the need for a place to self-isolate if exposed to the coronavirus or to work from home during the pandemic has boosted interest in creating separate, freestanding studios and cottages.

“Just having another space on your property where you can isolate has been so fun for me personally,” said Lowe, who does both architectural and interior design work.

“We designed an ADU for friends in Sonoma County and then right at Christmas, when omicron was kicking off, we stayed there in the ADU because we were spending Christmas with them and it allowed us to quarantine until we got our test results.”

Outdoor rooms: The trend is toward landscaping for outdoor living. People want outdoor rooms with some cover, such as a gazebo or pergola, where they can cook, dine and talk with friends yet easily access the house. These open-air rooms are equipped with permanent under-eave heaters. Fire pits, outdoor kitchens and comfortable lounge furniture remain hugely popular for those long hours and days confined to home.


SDL Residential Design:, 707-508-8828

FletcherRhodes Interior Design:, 707-721-1682

Melanie Turner, Pfau Long Architecture:, 415-780-9706

Easy-clean surfaces: The pandemic has stirred concerns about cleanliness. Homeowners are seeking surfaces with fewer fine details where dirt and grime can collect and that are easier to clean and sanitize. That means no materials coated with finishes or plating that might come off with heavy cleansers.

“Leathered is a popular countertop finish that has this slight texture to it. It feels gorgeous. But it’s a little bit harder to clean” Lowe said. “We’re seeing more honed and polished counters, such as quartzite and granite.” Popular bathroom counters like marble don’t withstand certain cleaning solutions.

Pops of color: Lowe predicts this will be an exciting year for color. Believing the pandemic will recede, he sees a sense of optimism on the horizon, similar to that experienced during the waning days of the Great Depression and other difficult periods.

“I expect we’ll see more whimsical pops of color-contrasting sheens, like matte versus polished,” he said. “They won’t be aggressive. They’ll be tempered so they’re easy on the eye. People still want to come home and find respite from the outside world. Colors won’t be garish, but we’ll see a lot more playful and whimsical color combinations mingled with hopeful anticipation.”

Pastels, he added, will continue to be popular. Brighter shades will show up in accessories such as a lampshade or vase for flowers.

Emily Mughannam, creative director for Fletcher Rhodes Interior Design, Sonoma

One-of-a-kind art: In the past, younger homeowners were afraid to buy fine art, but now they’re more willing to invest in something high-quality and unique, Mughannam said. They’re going for emerging artists, whose works are more affordable, allowing them to start collections.

Natural and cozy fabrics: As they spend more time at home, people are seeking out comforts, such as softer, natural fabrics. “I’m working with a lot of linen,” Mughannam said. “Belgian linen is so broken in and soft. Boucle, a heavy fabric made from looped yarn, is also increasingly popular in upholstered furniture.”

The designer sees homeowners sticking with more calming neutral colors, such as shades of cream, white, gray and beige with pops of green or blue or subtle rusts and oranges.

Antique revival: Younger generations are notorious for rejecting antiques. But there is an antique revival afoot, Mughannam said.

But rather than outfitting entire homes with old things, people are now interested in mixing the old with the new and re-purposing antiques in a modern way.

That may mean taking an old chair with beautiful bones and reupholstering it with different fabrics.

“People are being more conscientious consumers,” she said. “Why do we have to create new things when we have beautiful things already out there?”

She attributes the swing back to antiques partly to a rising eco-consciousness but also to shortages and supply chain issues that make it difficult to buy new products. Vintage and antique furniture and accessories can be found closer to home.

And with websites like Instagram, Pinterest and Houzz showing off the latest must-haves, consumers have seen it all, Mughannam added. A re-imagined antique is more interesting and a conversation starter.

Longterm value: Mughannam sees clients seeking design solutions that will last longer than the latest trend.

“Especially with all the madness of the last couple of years, people are becoming more aware of our international impact, (of) using resources from outside the area and shopping and carting stuff across the ocean. We live in an amazing place. Whether local or California-based, it’s better than something shipped over from Asia.”

You can reach Staff Writer Meg McConahey at 707-521-5204 or OnTwitter @megmcconahey.

Meg McConahey

Features, The Press Democrat

Like most everyone, I love a good feature story that takes me somewhere I’ve never been or tells me something I don’t know. Where can I take you? Who in Sonoma County would you like to know better? I cover the people, places and ideas that make up Sonoma County, with general features, people profiles and home and garden, interior design and architecture stories. Hit me up with your tips, ideas and burning questions.


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