Interior design guru Aida Aliyeva on post-pandemic trends

Words by
Sarah Bridge
Photography by
Arte di Casa

5th August 2021

The Kazakhstani entrepreneur and philanthropist reveals expert insights into what’s new in high-end home design following Covid-19

Presented by Sarah Bridge

While it takes a certain kind of confidence to make predictions on post-pandemic life with any kind of certainty, Kazakhstani entrepreneur and philanthropist Aida Aliyeva certainly has the courage of her convictions.

"We have seen a revolution in our work and home lives and it would be a mistake to assume that normal service will be resumed once the virus has abated," she says. "I believe that lockdown measures, brought about by governments around the world responding to coronavirus, will have huge long-term implications for us and in particular, what we need from our homes when it comes to furnishing, design, layout, its purpose – the whole nature of what it means to be at home. Everything has changed and what I’m seeing from my clients is that their priority now is to adjust their homes to reflect the new reality, and to do so in a way that will stand the test of time."

Standing the test of time is something that mother-of-four Aida knows all about. After all, she was just 20 when she launched Arte di Casa, the interior design business that catapulted her into the international design scene. Since, alongside entrepreneur husband Nurali Aliyev, she has founded the charitable organisation Zhanartu (meaning ‘renewal’ in Kazakh), which helps to provide financial and practical support to talented young people in Kazakhstan who are seeking to pursue careers in IT, business and innovation. The couple also run ‘Mother’s Home’, which supports mothers in need in Kazakhstan in the aim to reduce the number of children placed in orphanages there.

Now operating in several countries with an enviable client list, Arte di Casa gives Aida exclusive insights into what a post-pandemic home life will look like in high-net-worth homes.

"That huge numbers of us have taken to working from home has become a commonplace observation," she says. "Less frequent is any kind of discussion of the longer-term implications, not least for the arrangement, the furnishing and the design of our homes." Expanding on her theme, she adds, "Our attitude to our homes used to follow what I call a ‘hotel paradigm’. A home was a place to sleep, to relax at weekends, sometimes to entertain others. Life took place mostly outside: in the office, the bar, the restaurant, theatre, sports ground and so forth. Events occurred in the public sphere, beyond the home, and the home itself was essentially for shelter.

"For millions of people, that has all changed,’ she continues. "The ‘outside’ had to be brought inside: work, schooling, catching up with friends online, even Zoom cocktail hours; things which were unthinkable just a few months before."

Cramming all these activities into the home raised significant challenges for us all, notes Aliyeva. "Some people were fortunate enough to be able to have their property extended or to put an office shed in the garden, but many were not," she says. "The priority for my clients now is to adjust their homes to reflect the new reality and to do so in a way that will stand the test of time, a task which requires creativity and fresh thinking. People are having to ask: what do I want in my home if I have to be here seven days a week?"

This, she says, is a far greater, almost seismic shift in the world of interior design than has even gone before. "Even if coronavirus disappeared tomorrow, people have come to look at their homes in a totally different way - one that will endure. One obvious point is the need to accommodate one or more workspaces in rooms around the home, such as the kitchen, or bedrooms, where previously there was none. People want their homes and the rooms within them to be multi-functional, but thankfully this need not be at the expense of style. With creative use of the available spaces, of furniture and lighting, you can easily and elegantly carve out areas for work, study, relaxation and other activities."

Of course, in some cases, these changes can be little more than finally fixing that wall you've been meaning to get around to. As Aliyeva points out, "Even this relatively modest task can open up new ways of seeing the home and thinking about what is needed to make it more beautiful and to let it express the personality of the owner or owners."

Such expressions will differ greatly from one householder to the other, she says, but one key trend that has surfaced during the pandemic is the growing demand for ecologically responsible products in the home, such as furniture.

"Younger clients are demanding products that are safe for the environment," she explains, "and there is increasing interest in ‘zero waste’ furniture, with all the raw materials used in one way or another. For example, the wood left over from the manufacture of a sofa could be used to build a chair, or stool or side table."

Continuing on the green theme, Aliyeva says we will see an increased use of greenery inside the home, such as plants, shrubs and flowers. "Not only are such items desirable and attractive, they remind us of nature - yet another example of bringing the outside in."

In welcome news to home-workers growing sick of their own four walls, she concludes: "I have always believed that a properly designed home can be a source of energy for its inhabitants, not merely somewhere to ‘re-charge the batteries’, as in the old hotel paradigm, but a place of achievement, creativity and fellowship."