It’s been said that home is where the heart is. It’s also been said one shouldn’t take work home with them. But in these unprecedented times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, home is now where many adults work, children learn, and most of us spend more time than ever before.
Obviously, life has changed, and so has the way we look at the functionality of our homes. These days, people want home offices for remote work, learning space for online classes, spacious kitchens for home dining, and more space in general in this new, socially distanced world.
Not surprisingly, renovations are surging as millions of Americans take on projects that they might have only dreamed about previously, but began seriously considering as they sheltered at home. More people than ever are cooking and eating at home, seeking to expand their living space to provide room for solitude and home offices, and looking to incorporate the outdoors more into their daily life.
According to Houzz, a home renovation website, professionals who list their services on the site have seen a 58-percent increase in requests from homeowners over the past year, and a 52-percent uptick in queries about home expansions. At the same time, kitchen and bath renovations have jumped 40 percent.
With the entire family at home virtually 24/7, homeowners are making a wide variety of changes to their living situations. For example, many homeowners were previously content to use their kitchen table or a spare bedroom as a temporary workspace. But with people working full time at home, the desire has surged for home offices that include privacy and soundproofing for business calls and video meetings, and more sophisticated technology to support all their equipment. Creating a small home office may be as simple as closing off a portion of an existing room by adding a wall and sliding barn-style door. If the work-from-home paradigm has morphed into a permanent change, a home addition with an office could be a worthwhile investment.
Many might think a kitchen remodel is in order, but a less intrusive option might be to build an addition to expand the adjacent dining and living areas, which can also make the kitchen feel larger. By avoiding a kitchen remodel, most of the work can be done outside of the footprint of the existing house, allowing the family to continue to live at home with only minimal contact with the work crew.
Another option for increasing living space and adding privacy is to finish or renovate the basement, turning it into a home office, classroom or exercise room. Add a television and one can do virtual workouts, or participate in Zoom meetings and school classes.
For children spending more at home because of remote learning, built-in desks added to their bedrooms can increase productivity. Adding an en suite bathroom, perhaps by carving space out of existing walk-in closets, can also alleviate a sense of too much togetherness.
Spaces that accommodate multiple functions are also becoming popular. For example, a guest room could be designed so that it’s an office by day and an exercise room at night. This versatility can be achieved through using furniture like a Murphy bed, or, in smaller spaces, having counter space or desks that can easily be set up and then stowed away.
Those who can’t find more space inside the home and prefer not to expand the footprint might take a look at the backyard and consider a custom-built studio or small guest house. Add a bath, and this could serve as a home office, classroom, spare guest room, play space or workout studio.
Finally, the pandemic has led many people to maximize their outdoor space by building an outdoor kitchen or adding a pool and spa. Internet searches for pool and spa professionals have tripled in the past year, while landscape designers, deck and patio professionals have all seen their business double as homeowners seek to create a backyard oasis to replace canceled vacation plans.
Home is still where the heart is. But the pandemic has shifted how we think about our living space, and that is unlikely to change even after life returns to normal.