An Interior Designer’s Guide to Reopening Your Space Post Shelter-in-Place

Carly Rose
4 min readApr 28, 2020

We now live in a COVID-19 world where uncertainties strain our emotional and cognitive abilities. We are all facing anxiety in our daily lives like never before. From grocery shopping with a mask, trying in vain to avoid touching our faces, forgetting if you actually washed your hands before preparing food, and hoping that the cashier wiped down the iPad before you entered your pin.

Ugh, will we ever be able to feel safe and just enjoy going out to a restaurant or show again and, if so, when? Personally, I am obsessed with “when.” But what’s more important right now is “how.”

How do we open our public spaces again knowing that there could be more waves of infections with a vaccine only a distant possibility?

Reopening (and Designing) Spaces for Our New Reality

As an interior designer, I think about my projects and clients a lot. Most of my clients are Silicon Valley companies, led by really smart and talented people, many out of Y Combinator. I think about their missions and goals and how our designs support their business. I also think about how design supports and nourishes my team and me. Like many others, I am anxious to get back to the office — to create, to live, to explore.

I have designed spaces for dozens of commercial clients, who by just opening a location are committing to an investment. So it’s critical that the space that we are investing in supports our goals and mission. However, the current design of our physical spaces makes them unsafe. Therefore, the changes we make are crucial to our success for the next year.

As business owners, CEOs, and operations managers, we must weigh how best to open these spaces for our communities, our safety, and our financial survival.

In the wake of this pandemic, how do we adapt to our new reality so that we may thrive in a physical space together? After sheltering in place, how do we open our public and community spaces? How do we feel safe and comfortable at work?

To answer these questions, and more, I decided to create a guide to help businesses navigate the complicated task of reopening to their employees and to the public. This guide is as much for my own sanity as it is for all the businesses and places I’d (selfishly) love to visit and that I hope will survive.

Getting Started: Planning Questions To Ask Yourself

  • What is the minimum return you need to justify a transition plan?

Be concrete about this because you will have to make cuts, accept the added costs, and your operations will be significantly altered. Don’t be afraid of this right now, just be clear with your intentions. What we are making here is a transition plan. If you can hang on through this time, know that you will be at full capacity again at some point in the future. Now is the time to adapt and build community.

  • What are your must-have requirements to ensure you, your employees, and customers feel comfortable and are safe in your public space?

List them all, rank them, and prioritize them.

  • How do people use your space?

Are there self-service areas? Collaboration areas? Community gathering “water-cooler” moments? Where in your space do people need to be and what is essential for them to benefit from the space? Which areas (if any) are too risky to open?

  • Who uses your space and what are their sensitivities?

Do your employees or community members have underlying illnesses, elderly family members, or young children? What percentage of your group is vulnerable to exposure? What other considerations might affect their need for or use of the space?

Checklist: Reopening Your Public Space Post Shelter-in-Place

Find the full guide and checklist in the google doc >>> here. Feel free to make a copy so you can edit it and make it your own.


  1. Redesign the floorplan and adjust capacity to enable social distancing.
  2. Improve sanitation and protective equipment policies.
  3. Create and execute a comms plan.
  4. Reassess for the long term.

Be methodical — these steps will take you through the process of reopening your space but the point that I want you to take away is that opening your space successfully is about establishing safety and trust.

Follow the CDC, your state and local government regulations and recommendations, and adapt this to the needs of your employees, clients, and guests.

This is stressful and a lot of work, so you deserve this 👏👏👏 + really so much more.

Defining the process and what we don’t know is an anchoring moment in this uncertain and unprecedented time. Know that this is just a starting point; these steps will change, the situation will change, and you’ll find more specific ways to protect your unique space. This is an opportunity to learn, try new things, and redesign the future of your space.

If you have questions, recommendations to add to this list, want a copy of the planning and tracking spreadsheet I am currently working on, or want help updating your space, email me at I am happy to share all the resources I am building for this new post shelter-in-place world and welcome all feedback and new ideas!

Be well ❤