Interior designer Alexandra Rae predicts a surge of interest in two surprising spaces.
COVID-19 has robbed us of many things this year, but few pleasures have been as wildly different as the experience of dining out at restaurants or drinking in bars. Even with SoCal’s extra months of warm weather that allow for safer ways to imbibe in the outdoor spaces of our favorite spots, big group gatherings are out, masks stay on and, well, viral risks do remain. So perhaps its no surprise that a growing desire to re-create the feel of a restaurant or bar at home is a trend that some designers are seeing arise in real time. Alexandra Rae is one of them.
“I’ve had so many more requests for bars—and for more entertaining spaces in general—but specifically bars,” the Westlake Village-based interior designer notes. “At a house I just installed, we gutted the living room and built a massive wall of cabinetry and a bar top height island, all lacquered in a dark teal.”
Rae, known for her ability to create timeless rooms by blending traditional lines with modern pieces, believes that many of us are so actively missing the act of dressing up to go out that we’re seeking new ways to recreate the experience in private. “I think there will be a return to formality—and not super stuffy formality, but to sit-down dinners instead of casual BBQs or just eating at the kitchen island,” she says. “My parents always had people over for nice dinners and they threw cocktail parties at home. I think we’ve gone away from that in recent years. And I think we’ll start to see a return to home entertaining on a more formal level.”
Dining rooms are another space Rae predicts will grow in popularity. And she’s probably onto something. Even pre-COVID, Lonny declared the dining room as 2020’s comeback kid, citing design startup Modsy’s recorded 156 percent increase in dining room designs between 2018 and 2019. Rae believes that design fatigue with great rooms and open floor plans is another contributing factor driving an interest in more walls. “I’m seeing more distinctions in living areas and separation of spaces, like proper dining rooms where the kitchen can be closed off,” she says. “Maybe the caterers are in the kitchen, out of sight, and people are having cocktails there. It’s old-school entertaining.”
Of course, the pandemic has made space a premium in homes, so there’s also a movement to make the dining room more multi-functional—rather than the place utilized only when the occasion calls for fine china. Multiple designers interviewed in a recent Home Accents Today survey called out dining rooms as key multitaskers: As work spaces for kids, as potential convertible home offices and as places with the potential to make at-home entertaining even better. It’s only practical, between kids’ Zoom schooling and so many adults working from home.
Rae is right in the midst of that world herself, with three kids, and she often works from home. But even though her regular design work hasn’t slowed this year, she’s found time for a pandemic project. She’s launching her own online boutique with custom furniture, her own line of textiles and dozens of one-of-a-kind pieces. “It's basically like bringing my own personal Pinterest board to life, it's a glimpse into my head,” she says. “It came out of this need to say, ‘Look at this gorgeous antique I found! Look at this beautiful painting I picked up for a client that didn’t work!’ I get so excited over beautiful finds.”
Her web store is slated to launch next spring (and her goal is to have it live by her April birthday). “Being in the workroom is what I love the most, like the crafting of tiny design details, and just being able to design exactly what I want to use. That’s what pushed me to do this,” she says.
We’ll be watching and waiting—both for her online shop and to see if her bold predictions for the home come true.
Follow Alexandra Rae on Instagram at @alexandraraedesign