In Brief

Design for life: how transforming your home can make you happier

Survey finds that seven in ten UK homeowners believe their living spaces have affected mental well-being during Covid crisis

With more time than ever spent at home due to Covid-19, increasing numbers of people are searching for ways to upgrade their properties in order to improve their personal and working lives.

Since lockdown, the UK property market has seen an uptick in demand for both bigger houses and more outdoor space. But many homeowners are improving their living conditions without moving, by transforming the design of their current abode. 

Indeed, the impact of the pandemic on how people want to live and work at home has been “significant”, with UK homeowners increasingly demanding properties that “better support their new ways of living, as well as their mental health, happiness and family cohesion”, according to the findings of a new survey commissioned by the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba).   

How design affects us

The survey of 1,500 UK homeowners found that the majority (70%) believe the design of their home has affected their mental well-being during the coronavirus crisis. Some respondents said that spending more time at home had made them more stressed (11%), anxious (10%) and depressed (10%), and that they had found it harder to relax (9%) and be productive (6%).

But 23% believed that a better-designed home would increase their happiness, with other benefits cited including being able to relax more (31%), sleep better (17%) and live more harmoniously with fellow inhabitants (11%).

Commenting on the findings, Eleanor Ratcliffe, an environmental psychologist and lecturer at University of Surrey, said: “For many of us, our home is our favourite place and an important part of our identity. Over recent months, our homes have had to become the workplace, school and gym, and yet still be a place to relax and recover from all the everyday stresses and strains - impacting entire households. 

“The research demonstrates that many people realise that their home in its current form does not cater for all these different uses and users.”

Duncan Cottage in Bath by James Grayley Architects (Image: Riba)

Goals for happier homes  

Eight out of ten respondents (79%) in the Riba survey identified one or more changes that they’d now like to make to the design of their home. The research found that:

- nearly a quarter of homeowners (23%) would reconfigure their existing spaces- a fifth want to create more space by extending their home- nearly one in ten (9%) would change their open-plan design to create separate rooms, while 14% would make their home more open plan- 40% want more environmental-design features, including increasing the amount of natural daylight, improving the energy-efficiency of their home and adding more sound-proofing - 8% would like more flexible living, such as rooms that can easily be divided- 17% would create an office space to support working from home- 7% want to be able to accommodate an extended family including parents, grandparents and grown-up children- 12% need more personal space.

Riba president Alan Jones said: “It’s clear that the impact of Covid-19 will affect how and where we choose to live for years to come. For many of us, our homes are our sanctuaries, and this research clearly indicates that many people are keener than ever to adapt and improve their homes.”

Main image: this house in Manchester was designed by Martin Gibson of GA Studio Architects. It was the Riba North West Award winner and longlisted for Riba House of the Year in 2016

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