Sheltering in place has shed new light on how we experience our homes. Functionality and comfort come to the forefront, as well as the ease to keep clean, find privacy, and to utilize spaces which might have been previously overlooked. Little annoyances which have been put off for years will become things that must be fixed now.

Changes in the home that make us feel more at peace are paramount, as more than ever our homes are our sanctuary in uncertain times. As our homes function as offices, classrooms, conference rooms and gyms, we realize how important the organization of our space is in promoting productivity.

Open-concept great rooms continue to be desirable with the addition of smaller spaces within them for privacy and community at the same time, along with more defined and multiple workspaces or offices. We will likely see bigger pantries, and the return of the mudroom as a disinfecting room, to shed shoes and street clothes.

A sink in the mudroom for hand washing before entering the main house could double as a spa station for furry family members.

Desirable design elements that optimize natural daylight are more important to our well-being than ever, through windows, skylights or sunrooms. Window boxes and places for urban farming as well as access to livable outdoor spaces are especially important.

Materials that are non-porous, easy to clean, and reduce the likelihood of infection are the top choice. As supply chains are interrupted, and we reconsider the safety and cost effectiveness of sourcing materials from non-domestic locations, we will have to be more thoughtful with our choices.

Local and regional products are more sustainable and support our local economy.

We want homes that are easier and less expensive to run long-term. For decades green homes with optimal energy efficiency have been important to consumers, and now more than ever are the gold (green) standard, as we are spending so much time in our homes and really evaluating their efficiency and comfort.  

In many ways, sheltering in place is a return to simple living. Post-pandemic, we will have a greater appreciation of our homes. Most importantly, we will think more about what is essential to the experience of how we want to live.

— Staci Caplan is the president of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. Contact her at