Home Renovation for the Pandemic

The Four Percent


“People want to be ready. We weren’t ready in March and now we’ve had the summer and we’re able to reflect,” said Alessandra Wood, the vice president of style for Modsy, an online interior design service. “I don’t know if it’s a fear or an expectation that in the fall we’re still going to be living this life.”

Elizabeth Stuart, an interior designer in Charleston, S.C., says her business from residential clients is up 50 percent as homeowners and new buyers rush to redesign their spaces for a new era. Clients are looking for ways to accommodate multiple workstations in a home, expand high speed internet, and improve ventilation and soundproofing. Features like mudrooms have taken on a renewed importance as homeowners look for dedicated spaces to safely remove outerwear and store packages.

“It’s crazy to be thinking like this but that’s the reality of it,” Ms. Stuart said. “Necessity is the mother of invention. You’re figuring out right now what you need and what you wish you had.”

When the Meehans bought their home in 2018, they planned to eventually renovate it, but the pandemic pushed up the timeline and changed their priorities. As interest rates fell, they refinanced their home, taking out cash in the process to supplement their savings so they could start the work immediately.

Before the pandemic, they figured they would renovate the kitchen, which is small, but in good condition. Their architect steered them away from that idea, Ms. Meehan said, suggesting that by expanding the dining and living areas, they could leave the kitchen intact, but it would nonetheless 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.

“Obviously there’s a different level of concern with Covid, not wanting contractors in your house,” Ms. Meehan said. “That sold us on doing the renovation.”

Some homeowners are looking to their backyards for additional space, adding customizable sheds to use as offices, classrooms or workout studios. Such structures, which can be assembled quickly on site, avoid the stress, time commitment and high cost of an interior renovation. Sales in May 2020 were up 500 percent from May 2019 for Studio Shed, a Colorado-based company that sells customizable backyard shed solutions ranging from simple storage spaces to elaborate tiny cabins with gabled roofs, double-pane windows and sustainable lumber. Most orders, said Studio Shed’s 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, which could work as a spare guest room, play space or home gym.


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