Article by Neil Ginty, WDA

While these lockdowns have made many of us realize that working from home is feasible, being stuck in the house so long has probably solidified for homeowners where their homes are falling short.

Even when the coronavirus restrictions are lifted many are expecting remote working to remain popular – which makes this downtime an ideal opportunity to consider how your home could work for that purpose. There is a tsunami of great advice about how to work from home efficiently without going crazy but most of it is about time management and technology.

Here at William Duff Architects, we have been thinking about the design of a fully functional modern home and what it is going to look like so that it fulfills the needs of a modern family.


Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Prairie” style pioneered open plan design in American homes. It evolved into the familiar Great Room beginning in the 1950s but has not really changed a whole lot since. While an open concept enables the monitoring of home life, it is not so appropriate when the home needs to be a workplace and so many other functions.

 Linkedin CEO, Jeff Weiner, spoke about the importance of carving out buffer time while working from home during the shelter-in-place order. He recommended establishing buffers in your schedule and treating them as important appointments to be kept. Applying physical design treatments to your home could be even more successful version of that.

It is one thing ensuring perfect lighting and a well-appointed book shelf background for your Zoom call, it is quite another tricking the kids into constructing a fort out of a mattress and sofa cushions to ensure you have the acoustic control you need.

“The open plan concept might need to evolve or be refined with partitions to dedicate space for working so that more than one person can work from home at the same time,” said WDA Residential Practice Manager, Jim Westover.

“Your open plan home doesn’t need to be sacrificed though,” added our founder, William Duff. “The key is to create nooks that can be adaptable to your needs,” he said. “It is important that your home office can, somehow, be closed at the end of the day to preserve a work-life balance.”

“This could be a hybrid where the communal spaces are open plan, but they are supplemented by adjacent, partitionable spaces that can accommodate the silence necessary for focused activities or work,” he said.

Breakfast nook 


Homes have many roles to fulfill nowadays compared to their traditional function of rest and entertaining. Staying healthy at home probably needs as much consideration as being able to get your work done there.

While many home gyms had been underused, quarantined households have likely found them to be a crucial respite. “They could form part of a whole system, part of the enhanced layout of components that make up the new modern family floor plan,” said residential Project Manager, Dustin Foster. “This doesn’t necessarily need to be a dedicated gym room, but it should be a place in your home with enough space to avoid punching a window out.”

A house can also be made healthier with simple things like ensuring a good light and air quality. “Great lighting can make a space feel and function better. It can provide a healthier environment especially when supplemented with new technologies that can be programmed to match our circadian rhythms,” Jim said. “The same goes for air filtration, such as the addition of anti-bacterial UV filters and increased air exchanges,” added William.

home gym



While American homes are 2.5 times bigger than they were half a century agoa team of UCLA-affiliated researchers found large portions of family homes are just not being used. The next move, then, could be about creating different spaces in the house that are flexible and fully functional (and not counting ‘storage’ as one of those functions). Adaptability will be key with products like Murphy beds making a comeback.

“Homeowners, quite likely, do not need to add any physical space – it will be more a case of making sure that all the existing space is efficient and useful,” William said. “If you do need more space though, a lot of thought will go into how it will be used, in particular how it improves the functioning of the home environment,” he said.

open floor plan 


All this considered, now could be a great time to go ahead with your project. The economic tumble has left interest rates at pretty much zero and it likely means quality builders are going to be more available to complete your project quicker and possibly for a reduced cost. You will also, doubtless, be better able to explain to your architect what improvements are needed having been stuck in the place so long.



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