Whether we live alone in a tiny studio or are sharing a house with a handful of energetic kids, we all have one thing in common: The COVID-19 pandemic means we’ve spent more time than ever at home.
As a result, we’ve become acutely aware of the flaws in our living spaces: the awkward layouts, the non-ergonomic home offices, the poor lighting, the limited cabinet space… Whatever our issues, we’ve likely felt the effects tenfold this year.
Ask any contractor or home design expert and they’ll agree: All of this time indoors has created a renewed sense of urgency. “The home as a whole now needs to function differently than when it wasn’t occupied full-time,” says Jean Brownhill, the founder of Sweeten, an online renovation service.
“Upgrades will look to ease crowding and clutter while increasing functionality, privacy, and personal space,” adds the expert. What remodeling trends will we see skyrocket? Here, Brownhill gives us a glimpse into post-pandemic homes:
Semi-Pro Home Offices
A large percentage of the workforce is still operating from their kitchen tables or guest rooms—and by many accounts, telecommuting is here to stay. Because of this, people are looking for ways to make their temporary desk setups feel, well, less temporary.
“Proper home offices are being carved out with movable partitions or new walls,” says Brownhill. And renovations don’t stop there. Because family members are often stuck sharing workspaces, lots of homeowners are opting for other add-ons, like soundproofing to dampen sound travel and create privacy when needed.
Garage Guest Houses
When spending so much time at home, an apartment or house that seemed perfectly suitable before inevitably starts to feel small—especially when family members come to stay.
“People are seeking additional square footage by transforming the basement or garage into living spaces,” says Brownhill. ADUs (or accessory dwelling units), in particular, are seeing a surge, especially in areas where yard space is widely available. The use of this newfound square footage isn’t just limited to apartments or guest quarters either. Extra rooms are also being transformed into play spaces, remote learning hubs, or elaborate home gyms.
“Overall, homeowners are looking to improve flow and space efficiency which includes reworking closet systems, and maximizing unused storage,” says Brownhill. Though our need for large wardrobes has shrunk, our collective need for large pantries has exploded.
After all, our grocery shopping habits have changed: we’re making fewer trips to the store and buying larger quantities. We’re also spending more time cooking, which creates a multitude of problems like lack of storage and an ever-mounting pile of dishes. That’s why homeowners are getting creative with unique solutions to pantry dilemmas—things as simple as adding tiered hanging baskets to things as complex as borrowing space from other closets and seldom-used rooms—and even adding conveniences like a second dishwasher.
Though the idea of open-plan living is still popular, Brownhill has also noticed a shift towards some physical separation. “Partial walls, half walls, or through-windows provide an openness with a sense of separation,” she says. Why? It gives the flexibility we need to coexist harmoniously and enjoy each other’s company while also having some sense of privacy during work or school hours.
In the past, a larger portion of yearly renovation budgets went towards improvements inside. When we could spend more time in parks or restaurants, there was less urgency to spruce up our own outdoor spaces. “Now that we’re limited to where we can go, there’s more of a focus on allocating budget towards building or improving suitable patios, decks, and even outdoor kitchens,” says Brownhill.
Because, truly, when your space is exactly what you want it to be, who really needs to venture far anyway?