Months of pandemic-induced social isolation has led to a shift in how Australians view their homes, with more people increasingly seeing their homes as “lifestyle hubs” for a range of different activities.

“COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we live our everyday lives,” says Julie-Anne Bosich, head of mortgages at ING. “Lockdown taught us to work, exercise, entertain, learn, and parent all under the one roof. It’s turned our humble homes into essential multi-purpose lifestyle hubs.”

How Australians spent time at home during lockdown

According to ING’s new homeownership report, a quarter of those surveyed share Bosich’s sentiment.

Most respondents say coronavirus restrictions have drastically altered the way they work – with many spending at least six hours a day at home doing work-related tasks. But beyond work, there was also an increase in the amount of time spent exploring other hobbies, such as reading, art, or cooking (up 20%); watching television (up 19%); and exercising and gardening (both up 13%). 

Despite offices, gyms, restaurants, and other public spaces gradually opening as restrictions ease, respondents still expect to spend an average of 5.9 hours more at home per week than they did pre-lockdown. According to the report, Australians will spend more time at home exercising (29%); socialising (25%); dining (22%); working (17%); starting a hobby (17%); and learning online (16%).

As more time is spent indoors, more than two-thirds or 68% of those surveyed say they need additional space or need to alter the space they already have at home to convert it to a comfortable lifestyle hub. Redecorating is an option for 13% of respondents, 10% say they plan to renovate, and 9% are keen on setting up a permanent home office space. 

How to create your home hub

Given the current economic conditions, most people don’t have a lot of resources to spare on costly renovations. Interior design expert Jen Bishop understands this and shares simple ways on how to create “a fit-for-purpose space” to improve working, entertaining, and exercising at home without “breaking the bank.”

1. Think big, even when small

In ING’s report, Bishop explains the importance of maximising the use of the space already available in the house to create a multifunction home hub. 

“Try and get out of the mindset that you need separate rooms for your different activities and think multi-purpose,” she says. “For example, custom cabinetry, furniture, and storage can make a huge difference in smaller homes, enabling you to make the absolute best of every inch.”

2. Smooth connectivity

One of the things the lockdown has taught Australians is the value of staying connected. Bishop says there are ways to improve Wi-Fi strength at home, while also making the wireless router seamlessly blend in with a room’s design.

“For many Aussies, fast internet has and will continue to be essential for working, socialising and streaming entertainment at home,” she says. “Keep Wi-Fi boxes in a central location (e.g. living room) for better connectivity throughout the house. You can easily tuck them away on shelves using books, photos, and indoor plants like ivy to hide them from plain sight.”

3. Ambiance is key when entertaining

“Outdoor lighting (this can be solar-powered) and a patio heater are great ways to turn your balcony or backyard into a year-round entertaining area,” Bishop says. “Inside or out, bar carts have never been more popular and [also make] a great decorative statement all week long, they’re a great cocktail station come the weekend when friends come over.”

4. It’s easy being green

Apart from giving the house a fresh look, studies show that a little bit of greenery at home can improve concentration and productivity, reduce stress, and boost the mood.

“Houseplants are on trend and they make great décor,” Bishop says. “For beginners, you can’t go wrong with the hard-to-kill devil’s ivy (pothos), and if you really want to look like you know what’s in, then go for a Monstera – the ‘it’ plant of the season! Add an herb garden on the kitchen windowsill, and you can’t beat a plant in the bathroom (ferns love humidity) to give it a more spa-like feel at the end of a long workday.”

5. Working out how to work-out

Bulky exercise equipment often disrupts the house’s flow, especially if proper storage is lacking. Bishop adds that a messy space can also affect a person’s motivation to work out. 

“Avoid your living room looking like a gym by having good-looking storage zone for your rolled-up exercise mat, dumbbells and resistance bands,” she says. “This can be as simple as an ottoman with a lid or a big basket. If your gear’s where you can see it, but without looking messy, you’ll be more likely to stick with it!”

6. Rise of the home office

The pandemic has pushed many to shift to remote work. However, Bishop understands that “not everyone has a spare bedroom to convert into an office,” adding how important it is “to think outside the box” to create a conducive home office space.

“Do you have unused space in a hallway, on a landing or somewhere in your open plan kitchen/dining area that could accommodate a desk and storage? Investing in built-in cabinetry and a desk nook that you can quite literally shut the door on at the end of the day is a great way to make use of previously dead space,” she says.

7. ...and keep it all in budget

Bishop says now is a “great time to embrace the cosmetic makeover” with many “understandably nervous to invest in expensive renos” as this does not entail heavy financing. 

“Never underestimate the power of paint in general, whether it’s chalk paint to upcycle a piece of furniture, giving a room a fresh white look or even spray painting your fence,” she says.