Home renovation for the pandemic

“People want to be ready. We weren’t done in March and now it’s summer and we can think about it,” said Alessandra Wood, vice president of style at Modsy, an online interior design service. “I don’t know if it’s a fear or an expectation that we’ll still be living this life in the fall.”

Elizabeth Stuart, an interior designer in Charleston, SC, says her business to consumers is up 50 percent as homeowners and new buyers rush to transform their spaces for a new era. Customers are looking for ways to fit multiple workspaces in one home, expand high-speed internet, and improve ventilation and soundproofing. Features like mud rooms have taken on new meaning as homeowners look for dedicated spaces to safely remove outerwear and store packages.

“It’s crazy to think like that, but that’s the reality,” said Ms Stuart. “Necessity is the mother of invention. You are figuring out what you need and what you want.”

When the Meehans bought their home in 2018, they planned to renovate it at some point, but the pandemic pushed back schedules and changed their priorities. When interest rates fell, they refinanced their home, borrowing cash to top up their savings so they could start work immediately.

Before the pandemic, they thought they would renovate the kitchen, which is small but in good condition. Her architect dissuaded her from that idea, Ms. Meehan said, suggesting that by expanding the dining and living areas, they could leave the kitchen intact but still make it feel larger. By avoiding a kitchen remodel, most work can be done outside of the footprint of the existing home, allowing the family to continue living at home with minimal contact with the work crew.

“Obviously there’s a different level of concern about Covid because he doesn’t want contractors in your house,” Ms Meehan said. “That convinced us to carry out the renovation.”

Some homeowners are looking for extra space in their backyards and add customizable sheds to use as offices, classrooms, or exercise studios. Such structures, which can be quickly assembled on site, eliminate the stress, time and expense of an interior renovation. May 2020 sales were up 500 percent from May 2019 for Studio Shed, a Colorado-based company that sells customizable backyard shed solutions ranging from simple storage rooms to elaborate little cabins with gabled roofs, double-glazed windows and sustainable lumber. Most orders, said Studio Shed founder Mike Koenig, are for home office spaces. Man caves and “she sheds” are also popular, as are music studios and so-called flex spaces that can double as guest rooms, playrooms or home gyms.

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