The ‘5 Ps’ Shaping Function and Livability in Today’s Home Design

National design firm Mary Cook Associates published its third white paper in a series on the fundamentals of interior design. Here’s how the increase in working from home and other lifestyle changes have affected the multifamily and single-family development process, and what designers can do to adapt.
Multifamily and single-family housing developments benefit from various recreational spaces such as outdoor lounges and pools

Multifamily and single-family housing developments benefit from various recreational spaces, according to Mary Cook Associates. Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Design firm Mary Cook Associates (MCA) recently released its third white paper dedicated to interior design methodology and fundamentals. This eight-part series from MCA highlights the ways developers and builders of multifamily and single-family units can respond to recent shifts in home life.

The paper, "Living It Up", develops ‘Five Ps’ recharacterizing livability in single-family and multifamily interiors since the COVID-19 pandemic. These are factors that were not only relevant a year ago, but remain as mainstays for many design projects.



The increase in delivery-based consumerism—a pre-COVID-19 trend that went into overdrive, with 77% of people saying they changed the way they shop during the pandemic—is directly impacting design. Making spaces that accommodate packages of all shapes and sizes has become a major new priority.

"Twenty-five years ago, nobody dreamed that one of the largest logistical challenges for multi-family developments would be how to handle all those Amazon deliveries. Now, delivery processing is as vital as plumbing!" — Mary Cook, Founder and President, Mary Cook Associates


With the increase in pet adoption and ownership during the pandemic—an all-time high of 70% of U.S. households, according to the American Pet Products Association—functionality is vital for the wellbeing of pet and owner alike.

Communities and homes with interior and exterior pet-friendly spaces and functional amenities, from dog wash areas to feeding and sleeping stations, is a significant draw for pet lovers.


As highlighted in Utopia’s ‘Top 10 Business and Technology Systems’ report on multifamily housing in 2021, the work-from-home societal shift comes with necessary changes to our tech and internet usage.

The evolving work-from-home (WFH) lifestyle has set new technology standards. Multifamily residents seek collaborative workspaces, strong WiFi, and well-thought-out places to plug in devices, while adaptable spaces are key for supporting WFH in single-family homes.


Data shows that most U.S. adults (66%) are concerned with the pandemic interfering with their healthy habits. Coping with the challenges of the pandemic amplified almost everyone’s need for play, driving demand for recreational spaces and those that promote fitness and healthy habits, including curated space that fosters activity transitions.

"We’re seeing burgeoning demand for varied uses of recreational space." — Mary Cook

Personal Space/Privacy

With the increase in remote work and learning during the pandemic, so arose the need for personal space and privacy. Separate areas of the home should be designed with this desire in mind, especially when an increasing lack of privacy has been linked to mental health issues in recent years.

Remote work, virtual school, more family members at home and changing quarantining restrictions have created the need for more personal space and privacy within the home, with “pocket spaces” that create mini-territories for specific activities emerging as a design solution.


The ‘5 Ps’—Packages, Pets, Plug-ins, Play, and Personal space/Privacy—are mainstays shaping function and livability in today’s residential interiors, according to MCA. Designs that take into account these factors impact residents’ well-being, inspiring positive moods and motivation.

“Long before we start thinking of color, pattern, and ornament, we have to start with something more basic,” Mary Cook says. “What should the space be? How should it work? What are the needs of the people using it?”

When we live in the era of ‘work from home’—including online teaching and learning as well—it’s important that home design match our increasingly complex necessities. A well-designed interior space may just turn someone’s simple home into an oasis.

To download the report or read more about how Mary Cook Associates uses psychographics, an understanding of target markets, and insights into shifting lifestyle needs, check out the full white paper on Mary Cook’s website.

About The Author

Quinn Purcell, UTOPIA Associate Editor

Quinn Purcell

Quinn Purcell is a graduate of Idaho State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, and an emphasis in Multiplatform Journalism. He specializes in video, photography, copywriting, graphic design, and even music production. He currently serves as Associate Editor for Utopia. When he's not working you can usually find Quinn at a local brewery, or watching true crime shows with his cat.

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