COVID-19 forced many Americans indoors in spring 2020, so interior designers found themselves having to get even more creative.

Working from home and at-home schooling quickly became pervasive “design dilemmas,” says Tanna Edler (’88 Busi.), whose design for a modern farmhouse-inspired kitchen snagged top honors from the Interior Design Society in 2020. “With families gathered, stay-at-home mandates, and dining in, our kitchen design has elevated, and clients were begging for easy solutions.”

That’s only one way the pandemic changed trends in home design. Spending more time at home influenced people’s overall use of personal space.

Trends include “kitchen-type” zones throughout the house, from bars in basements and home offices to small refrigerators in family rooms and even master bedrooms. Edler also saw a rise in designated spaces⁠—such as bonus rooms, libraries, and places family members can escape to when needed⁠—as well as home-office remodels, in-home gyms, and more heavy-duty, performance-based fabrics and easy-care surfaces.

“Our ‘live easy’ mantra says a well-designed home makes us happier, and that is our focus,” says Edler, whose eponymous Tanna By Design is based in Yakima.

In Spokane, Shaleesa (Mielke) Mize (’13 Int. Des.) stayed busy helping clients get more organized. They were wanting to contain their lives in a tidier way “or fix the little things in their home that have irritated them for years,” says Mize, who started Pacific Design Company in 2017.

Some clients have also sought indulgences like soaking tubs and saunas, notes Mize. Her company includes an online home décor shop that epitomizes hygge, a design trend derived from a Danish word equating to coziness and comfort.

Keys to Mize’s approach are empathy, communication, organization, and⁠—because the persisting pandemic has pushed out lead times on products and supplies alike⁠— flexibility.

“We can do our best to strategize and prepare, but I’m finding that both designers and client need to be willing to roll with the punches since there is just no predicting what could happen next,” Mize says.

The push for more flexible spaces, sustainable building practices, and more and smarter use of technology are the trends designer Mallory Fair (’15 Int. Des.) saw throughout the pandemic.

HVAC systems that better circulate air are another design imperative, says Fair, who interned at prestigious firm Olson Kundig in Seattle, joined KDA Architecture in Yakima, and now works on both commercial and residential projects for the Bend, Oregon-based Pinnacle Architecture.

In one of their recent community medical clinic projects, says Fair, the firm incorporated more technology-driven touch-free systems, as well as more isolation areas. High-durability finishes and non-porous surfaces that are easily cleaned and sanitized also became increasingly popular, Fair notes.

She advocates for collaboration toward a cohesive, whole-building design. It’s a service-oriented approach she honed at WSU while working with the Rural Communities Design Initiative as well as through the national LEED Green Associate program, which focuses on sustainable building practices. The professional accreditation prepared her “well for my National Council for Interior Design Qualification certification,” Fair says.

“I want to provide spaces that better people’s lives rather than being a box,” she says. “WSU’s program emphasizes designing with purpose.”