Micro Living in the Post-Covid World

By Peggy Roalf   Friday February 5, 2021

Last summer, four students in the School of Visual Arts BFA Interior Design: Built Environments  program took on the challenge of COVID-19 by dreaming up hotel-style spaces for the 14-day quarantine experience. The description for Carol Bentel’s course states that these innovative structures, each completely unique, hold up to 20 inhabitants, allowing guests to feel less isolated while still being apart. Above: Quarantine Hotel design by Fuad Khazam

All four projects offer highly designed solutions for micro living by responding to the current crisis. Each imagined hotel seeks to offer an elevated experience through remote connection with others during this tumultuous and lonely time as they combine dreamy escapism with practicality. L

Belowdesign by Fuad Khazam

I invited the designers to speak about how their own experience during lockdown contributed to their design process and its outcome; here are some of their comments: 

Peggy Roalf: How did your own experience of isolation due to COVID-9 restrictions influence your design process for the hotel project?
Fuad Khazam: During the lockdown, being indoors for long periods of time heightened the importance of human communication—even if it was only through observing people walking in the street below. The glass floors and transparent  rooms of my hotel design allow the visual experience of the cityscape and neighboring spaces while still providing privacy through frosted glass walls. 
Kayla Nestor: As many others came to realize during COVID-19, I also wanted more outdoor space, but not an overcrowded public park—and also not just a concrete balcony to look out from.  Keeping these ideas in mind I decided to create two large outdoor terraces, providing enough room for all residents to get comfortable outside while remaining safe. A single, larger terrace allows for plenty of shaded semi-private space where you could read or compose with a fresh breeze, or to soak up the sun, and even perform music as a group while being socially distant.
Yangkai Lin: Curfews and quarantine resulted in my reduced interaction with others, so delivery services became the only access to daily necessities. And that generated the idea of the “transporting system” as the key feature in my hotel design, where almost everything can be brought to the customer without human interaction or the need for sanitizing. Below: Design by Kayla Nestor

PR: What is your personal take on the idea of “micro living spaces” to plentitude of experience?

FK: Micro living might not allow us to move about indoors as much as we would like to, yet it is what makes it valuable to post-Covid living. Scaled down living spaces encourage us to look outside our comfort zone at home and look for life experiences with others in the city or in nature. I see modern-day living heavily reliant on indoors, especially in cities. Micro living can also provide a better, more economical option, for the majority of people to live independently.

Right and below: Design by Yangkai Lin

KN: Micro living spaces can be of great use to society; personally, however, I would become very frustrated in my environment if I had to stay inside for too long. 
YL:  “Spacious” and “High-end” might be nice qualities of a residential space, but a smaller space with exceptional design quality can bring warmth to the experience. Oftentimes a large proportion of space in a big apartment is not much used because people simply spent most of their time in one place (e.g. working from home, most people remain at their desk much of the time, leaving the living room almost unused). Additionally, the ability to access natural light and fresh air adds to the valuation of a space.

PR:  If you were to spend 14 days in one of your hotel rooms, how would you spend most of your time? 
FK: I would rather spend my time looking at the city through the comfort of my micro space while reading a book or writing than to risk exposure outside. I'd also listen to music and enjoy some tea while people-watching from above. In a way, we become part of life in the street even while staying indoors behind our large windows.
KN: I’d likely spend all my time people watching and reading. While living in the city during lockdown, whenever I felt lonely I would look out to the streets and see life; watching everyone go about their daily lives brought me some calmness in knowing that I wasn't alone in this.
YL: I would probably spend half of the time at the desk and half on the bed. Since the two are not far apart, it’s easy to switch, depending on how focused I need to be. 

School of Visual BFA Interior Design: Built Environments Info

Note from my desk at the Home Office:
This feature is part of a series on how and where readers spend their working hours in the post-COVID-19 world. If you have a story, please send it in; the guidelines are simple:
Tell us how has your work and practice changed since last March, in 250-350 words. Here are some subjects to consider: Have you been doing more personal work than you usually do? Have you been engaging with other artists in online drawing, reading, movie-watching meet-ups? How have you modified your living space to accommodate working at home? How do you diffuse situations of too much togetherness or too much isolation? Send your text along with several horizontal photos of your workspace to choose from [one square detail is also good]. The next deadline in this rolling CFE is Friday, February 19, Midnight anywhere. —PR