Interior designer and design thought leader Toni Sabatino, owner of Toni Sabatino Style, has experienced first-hand the shift in home design trends that have come from 2020. Living in New York City and the president of the NKBA Manhattan Chapter, Toni was central to many conversations that were happening regarding rethinking how people live—and work and recreate—in their homes during the peak of the pandemic in NYC earlier this year. We took a few minutes with her to find out more about how she sees the technology and design industries coming together in new ways in light of COVID-19.
How have you seen 2020 reshape our ideas of home?
The home space and rethinking how we use it has certainly been at the forefront during these COVID times. The need for a decent network and technology to connect with others, arrange deliveries, as well as managing everything online, from finances to homeschooling to telehealth and more, has caused professional interior designers to find a new level of importance around getting the technology in the home ‘right.’ I’ve been an advocate of the need for smart home technology to be professionally designed into homes for years, and I’ve been at the forefront of the design-technology intersection that our industries are seeing, but 2020 has placed the need for all homes to be smart and connected even more front and center in my mind, and it is now also on the minds of my family and friends.
How do you see interior design and technology evolving to meet today’s home needs?
I think the need to integrate technology in a seamless way in the home has grown. The need has become more obvious, but I know many designers are still trying to figure out what the answer to that need looks like. For me, it is technology being designed into a home to meet human needs. For example, I have always loved family movie night. That big screen provides an intimate setting for sharing laughs or thrills or comedy with your loved ones, and it is important to focus on creating a space that fosters these great feelings. But now, a big-screen should also be designed into a home so that, in addition to entertainment, those alone can have life-size company via a videoconferencing service or so kids schooling at home can get a great experience that feels more natural.
What are some key changes to the interior design business that you see rising out of 2020?
I think one of the biggest changes to how we approach design will be around how we talk to our clients to find out what they need in their home. Maybe one of the first questions we need to ask the client now is, “If you were stuck in your house for a month what would you really need from the space?” People are going to be living in their homes differently now, and it is our job to help them think about what is most important for them, and these challenging times provide us with new insight into how to achieve that for our clients.
How do you see technology playing a role in this new view towards healthy home design?
I feel that people really want technology to simplify life and help them feel as connected as possible. With the rise of Zoom exercise classes, Peleton bike use, even workout mirrors that are now on the market, technology is helping people connect with others while doing more activities in their home. Healthy cooking is certainly on the rise as well, and this brings with it a desire for fresh produce. I can see things like smart appliances that grow veggies and herbs becoming more standard over time.
Where do you see technology and design coming together more in the home?
More tech in the bathroom! As a place of self-care, I think the bathroom has become more important as we are all staying home and need to find ways to care for ourselves both physically and mentally. The idea of technology-assisted steam showers for aromatherapy or the all-important smart lighting are things I think people could really use right now to keep them healthy and relaxed, especially after an online workout! In addition to technology providing better self-care in the bathroom, it can also provide people with different abilities more independence and autonomy in their homes. For example, an elderly parent can stay in their home longer through the help of connected sensors and voice control in the home, or smart toilets can provide someone with limited mobility more dignity. These may seem like small innovations, but they make all the difference, which is why I always take a Living In Place approach with all my designs.