Reframing Third Places: Environmental Changes of Merging Places During COVID-19

Dana E. Vaux, Michael R. Langlais

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The ubiquitous nature of technology is changing the way humans interact with interior space and redefining the third place, venues where individuals gather for socialization. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the fusion of physical and virtual space led to an overlapping of the first place (home) that served as the physical host for the virtual second (work), and third (social gathering) places. Most critically, the first place (home) became a proxy for second and third place experiences as we started connecting with the outside world, albeit virtually. The goal of this study was to determine the extent that individuals relied on technology to meet their socializing needs in response to COVID-19, verify if individuals are altering their environment as a result of the pandemic and whether these changes align with physical third-place characteristics, and inform interior designers on how to intentionally design physical space in ways that include virtual experiences. The researchers employed a mixed-methods approach by gathering data from an online survey, incorporating closed-ended and open-ended questions, using two different convenience sampling approaches (N = 229), and asking participants to submit photos to support their responses. Results illustrated that during the pandemic, virtual environments integrated with the home and became a substitute for physical third places. Four themes identified the modifications in physical space that occurred because of COVID-19 as individuals accommodated the merging of their home, work, school, and social places. Insights regarding the design of successful physical spaces that embrace virtual experiences are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-28
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Interior Design
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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