The relationship we all have with our living spaces has changed significantly this year. Thinking ahead to 2021, it’s time to re-evaluate how we live in our homes. But if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that the future is impossible to predict. However, the one thing we can be sure of is that the impact of the pandemic will last for years to come.
There are two factors to consider when it comes to renovations right now— what needs to be done to make your home as comfortable as possible for the immediate future and what investments make the most sense for re-sale value. Not sure where to begin? Here are the renovations that experts and interior designers suggest seriously considering.
Creating A Home Office
At the given moment, most people are working remotely without an exact end date in sight, so a home office or designated working space may ultimately become just as indispensable as a kitchen or bathroom. According to Justina Blakeney, founder of Jungalow, home offices are essential. “Even as business and offices reopen, many companies have made a conscious shift to a work-from-home hybrid model that only requires employees to come into the office a few days a week.”
However, if your home simply doesn’t have enough square footage or the right floorplan to build out a home office, Blakeney suggests getting creative with what you have. “For example, if renovations are out of reach, people may take off sliding closet doors and turn a guest bedroom closet into an office.”
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If there are no plans to stay in your current home for more than five years, interior designer Caitlin Scanlon recommends a fresh coat of paint to upgrade the space. After all, paint is temporary, so this project is an opportunity to give your home a truly personal feel without impacting resale value. “It’s a low-cost way to make a huge impact,” she says. “British paint brands like Farrow & Ball started the trend of deep saturated, highly pigmented colors, and Los Angeles based brand Portola Paints has brought it to the next level!”
Not sure what colors you want to use? Ask yourself how you want to feel in the room you’re painting. Apartment Therapy’s Home Projects Editor, Megan Baker says, “Generally, lighter colors will help brighten a room and make it feel a little bigger and more light-filled, while darker colors can help you lean into the small footprint by making a space feel a little cozier.”
Updating Your Kitchen
Kitchens have always sold homes and apartments, but the pandemic has placed new emphasis on this room’s importance. “This means that having a kitchen that is both functional and beautiful is an increasing priority,” agent Allison Chiaramonte of Warburg Realty tells me. “More and more, I see potential buyers even in city apartments looking at the kitchen not just for its appearance, but functionality for cooking multiple meals a day and storing excess supplies and food.”
If you’re planning to renovate your kitchen, Chiaramonte recommends adding a pantry if possible. “Kitchen storage [is] at a premium since everyone is conscious of the ability to store extra food and pantry items these days.”
In terms of aesthetics, Samantha Gallacher, co-founder of IG Workshop and founder of Art+Loom recommends using the same marble for the backsplash and countertop, as well as boxing out the kitchen hood, if possible. “It gives the kitchen a clean and streamlined modern look.”
But keep in mind that while Carrera marble is beautiful and timeless— it’s not always the most practical stone because of its natural porousness. If you need something more durable, Scanlon says it is best to periodically re-seal the marble or opt for an alternative like quartzite.
Sprucing Up Outdoor Space
No matter where you live, outdoor space has become much more valuable due to COVID. “It used to be that sometimes people’s terraces/balconies and backyards paled in comparison to their homes,” says Chiaramonte.
However, times have changed. “Looking forward, outdoor space is increasingly valuable and therefore maximizing its usability and appearance are great ways to add value for a future sale.”
If you plan on selling your home in the next few years, the real estate agent emphasizes that adding shade/rain covers, as well as heating and outdoor kitchens are smart investments. She explains, “More future buyers will be valuing outdoor space than in prior years due to the recent focus and the freedom outdoor living affords now.”
As for what to do while we’re still in the middle of the pandemic, Deborah Fribourg, founder of DMF Interiors says, “Focus on creating your personal jungle and hire a landscaper early on to make your oasis dreams come true.
Her advice for both the short and long term? “Consider adding extra seating such as built-in benches with colorful cushions for all your socially-distanced hangs.”
Installing Soundproofing and Separation
With more people being home on a day-to-day basis, adding soundproofing to rooms and floors can make a big difference, along with closing off open floorplans. “While there is something undeniably attractive about a big open loft-like space, I am seeing more buyers talk about how to add an office or Peloton room into the same square footage,” says Chiaramonte.
The real estate agent recommends doing whatever is possible to create an extra private room. “Whether it be a big walk in closet, finishing a basement, attic or making one giant room into two can, add value as room count matters more than ever with people needing privacy and quiet space.”
Adding Accents To Make A Space More Sanitary
One of the major impacts of the pandemic is a greater concern about the transmission of illness and germs. This has already and will continue to influence home design. “Wayfair has noticed an increase in demand for hands-free and touchless features, as well as air purifiers,” Pat Cullerot, home improvement expert with Wayfair tells me. “Given the pandemic and an increased awareness around sanitization, hands-free options in homes provide peace of mind for those who are hyper-conscious of keeping high-touch areas, and the air in their homes clean and germ-free.”
For example, even the seemingly minor act of choosing a touchless faucet or smart lighting in a powder room or mudroom with a handwashing station can make a difference now as well as in the future.
Converting Your Bathroom Into A Home Spa
Want to add luxury? Baker recommends updating your bathroom to make it more spa-like. “For big renovations, that could mean freestanding soaking tubs and big rain showers,” she says.
She also suggests installing a bidet. After 2020’s toilet paper shortage, it’s easy to understand why this makes sense. “I’ve also seen a lot more interest in bidets this year, from low-tech options with no heat to high-tech toilet seats. This was certainly tied to the run on toilet paper back in March, but I think it’s also part of an overall trend toward ‘accessible luxe’ bathroom upgrades.”
These bathroom upgrades make life better in the short term as well as boost future resale value.
Make Unused Space More Purposeful
Many homeowners have space that they either don’t use or under utilize. Because many activities that used to take place outside are currently taking place inside the home and will continue to be this way in the future, interior designer Liz Caan suggests rethinking how you use your current space.
While many people are converting formal dining rooms into home offices, there are other ways to use these spaces, especially if there is already have a home office. “If you never use your formal dining room, turn it into something that adds value to your family like a game room, or envelop it into the kitchen and have one large area where you can all eat together,” she says.
Caan also advises if you have an unfinished basement and need more square footage, consider finishing it off and making it a space for health and fitness like a massage, yoga, or weight room. “Another idea is a home salon where your manicurist and hairstylist can come and service you and your family now that so many services have been put on the road.”
Attic and garage spaces can also be worth renovating. “The garage could turn into an office or studio space, allowing you to work in a space separate from the main home,” she says.