For many, 2021 was a startling glimpse into a future where Covid-19 is a constant and fighting climate change is a top priority. The design world is all about solving problems, so it’s no surprise that the year also gave designers a real chance to shine. In these 10 stories, we showcase some of the best examples of how design can help us live better. Indoor-outdoor spaces give us fresh air and a greater appreciation of nature. Wisely planned renovations of old houses preserve the character of neighborhoods and are often eco-friendly. The pandemic, for many, meant spending more time with family. Good design created more space for gathering, as well as space for work and recreation—all within the confines of home.
While many had never even heard the term Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) before 2021, this year saw a mini-construction boom in backyards across the country. These spaces, often the size of a shed, can serve as guest rooms, home offices, gyms, artist studios and more. This article offers some beautiful examples of ADUs and offers key tips for adding one to your property.
In moving from L.A. to Marin County, Harry and Patti Cocciolo had one goal: “We wanted a place surrounded by nature,” Harry said. They found just that in a quirky old Dutch colonial on a leafy acre-and-a-half property. After a serious plumbing leak damaged much of the home, they decided to do a complete home makeover, adding an inviting front porch and huge glass walls to connect the home with the beautiful nature around it. The new home still has rustic details with a modern twist.
In Mill Valley, California, Emilia and Tad Buchanan revamped their dark and heavy house from the late ’90s to give it a “Zen, spa-like vibe.” The bathrooms and kitchen were gutted and renovated with sleek modern fixtures, along with crisp and calming lights and flooring throughout the home. The couple even added solar panels to the exterior, putting the house on entirely green power.
Unforeseen disaster led to new growth in this Sonoma Valley home after Howard and Tami Epstein were forced to evacuate due to a wildfire just days after closing on the house. It was completely destroyed, but the catastrophe created an opportunity for the couple to build their dream home. The modern ranch they ended up with seamlessly blends indoor and outdoor, using an organic blend of wood, glass and concrete.
The art world has recently entered a Golden Age of Craft, with critics and collectors alike embracing artists who work in tradition craft mediums, such as fiber, clay and metal. Fiber art has become increasingly popular, especially in the design world. Artists like Windy Chien, Adia Millett and Michael Rohde create bold, engaging pieces that add texture and depth to interiors.
Nestled into a 30-acre Wisconsin estate sits a stunning structure that seems to hang in mid-air; it’s called Shadowcliff. Built by a lawyer and railroad tycoon in the 1960s, the space recently got a modern update. The new design maintains the space’s midcentury roots, while adding dramatic new features like a glass wall with a Murphy bed. An oculus on the floor at the center of a sunken seating area creates a feeling that, in the words of designer Ruth Johnson, is “very ‘007.’ ”
Susan Noyes, the founder of Make It Better Media Group, was at first skeptical of living in Malibu, despite her husband’s love of California. “But when we rented a home here for a couple months, I fell in love with the town, the climate and the view,” she said. When the pandemic turned the family’s life upside down, they decided to buy a 5-bedroom Mediterranean-style villa where they could shelter-in-place. The myriad outdoor spaces make the villa ideal for family gatherings, whether there’s a pandemic or (hopefully) not.
Sister Act: North Shore Interior Designer, Jodi Morton, Transforms Her Sister’s Glencoe Midcentury Home into an Eminently Stylish, Soothing Retreat
When Wendy La Varre bought a single-story midcentury home in Glencoe, she knew it was a job for her sister, interior designer Jodi Morton. “We are so on the same page with style, and I knew she would bring my vision to fruition painlessly,” La Varre says. Together they gave the home a full gut rehab, resulting in a large, gleaming kitchen and a sleek, contemporary dining room, among other spaces. In designing a home for a family member, “there’s a whole different level of pressure,” Morton says, “but I’m so proud every time I walk in the house.”
While many hibernated through the worst of the pandemic, Jo Annah Kornak, SVP/Executive Creative Director of furnishings brand Holly Hunt, did not. She’s been working tirelessly with artists and launching new products that keep Holly Hunt at the forefront of design. She talked with SPACES about design trends, Holly Hunt’s new bespoke wallcoverings, and the future of the brand.
A Historic Home on Chicago’s North Shore is Revived With Contemporary Interiors and Lush Landscaping
When a couple on the North Shore of Chicago bought a lush, one-acre, ravine-front lot in Highland Park, they were startled to find that the house on the site was in a historic district, so they couldn’t tear it down. That problem became an opportunity when they decided to embark on a down-to-the-studs renovation and addition that effortlessly blends the historic and the modern. They added a new kitchen in the center of the home, and created a spectacular outdoor space with a pool, an outdoor fireplace and abundant landscaping.
More from Better:
- 10 Gorgeous Home Design Books That Belong on Your Holiday Shopping List
- ‘80s Chic: This Home’s Idiosyncratic Blend of Art and Pattern Was Partly Inspired by “Home Alone”
- 5 Holiday Gifts for the Home That Will Delight Design Lovers
RB Smith is a freelance writer who was born in Chicago and raised in St. Louis. He has worked for The Daily Star in Beirut, Lebanon and The Nome Nugget in Nome, Alaska.