These Design Trends Took Off During the COVID-19 Pandemic

During COVID-19, certain renovation projects became even more important for homeowners

Image of the interior of a renovated Hamptons ranch home

(Above) A Sweeten homeowner turns the garage into a living room

The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to take a hard look at our homes. Many were grateful for the security and comfort our homes offered. But many more made note of the features that their homes lacked. At a time when almost half of the workforce was working from home and schools relied on distance learning, renovation projects became top of mind. 

But the renovation mindset may be a little different going forward. Jean Brownhill, the founder and CEO of Sweeten discussed the current state of renovation on Design Time, a podcast hosted by Domino editor-in-chief Jessica Romm Perez. One trend they discussed is the emergence of practicality and functionality.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Everyone’s goal is to make their finished project picture perfect. But to actually live in the space, other things may be more important. Here are some top projects Sweeten saw grow in popularity over the last year.

Top COVID-19 renovation projects

Creating new living areas

With people spending so much time at home, they adapted their living spaces to new uses. Many people upgraded their outdoor living areas by adding outdoor kitchens and other living spaces. Also, it wasn’t clear if a vacation away would be possible, so outdoor living space became more important. It also makes it possible to socialize with others if indoor entertaining isn’t an option.

Because health clubs and gyms were closed, many people looked for ways to squeeze a workout space into their living areas. People adapted spare rooms or unfinished areas like basements to create home gyms. 

Kitchen and bathroom remodels still in the spotlight

Kitchen and bathroom renovations are still popular. Although kitchens have always had many uses, their multitasking ability became more important during the pandemic. Kids often did their remote learning there, and adults used them for makeshift home offices. That’s in addition to the regular cooking, eating, and cleaning that goes on in a kitchen. The National Kitchen and Bath Association reports that in addition to upgraded appliances, there was an increase in requests for easy-to-clean surfaces, video watching ability, and device charging stations in the cook space. 

Bathrooms became personal sanctuaries more than ever before. After a few weeks that turned into months into the pandemic, people came to value self-care more than ever. Even those who had not considered bath renovations undertook them to improve on their self-care routine. 

Some bath update trends include oversized showers that feature multiple spray heads and body sprays, as well as a steam option. Voice commands can activate preset water temperatures and start music from a personal playlist. Ventilation fans do more than removing moisture: some have LED lighting that helps prevent mold growth. Others feature multi-color lights to change the mood of the room. Many spa-like features can be controlled by smartphones. 

One thing that most renovations had in common was ease of maintenance. You can renovate a space that looks great, but you have to live in it. “I think that is one reason why porcelain tiles and planks are so popular,” said Jean. “They are easy to clean and they can be made to look like any material. “

Reworking existing spaces

By now, we can relate to how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our work habits. The typical household can get hectic with everyone vying for counter space where they can work, as well as computer time. The problem was frequently solved by setting up work and play areas throughout the house.

Jean mentioned the trend of installing temporary glass panels in the home. These solve the noise problem that happens when someone is on a video call while someone else is unloading the dishwasher, other people are having a conversation, and kids are running around playing. Panels and interior windows give people acoustic separation. “We’re not looking for visual separation, but what we do want, and need, is acoustic separation,” she said. 

A closet organizing system that lets you store things neatly and efficiently may be of more use than a room straight out of the pages of a magazine. “As someone doing a renovation, you don’t rise to the level of your goals so much as you fall to the level of the systems you put in place,” said Jean. While we usually want our homes to look fashionable, the emphasis for homes was on function for 2020. 

Using unused space

As floor plans were reconfigured, any unused or underutilized areas became prime real estate. Guest bedrooms became home offices or study lounges. But the real stars were spaces like basements, attics, and garages. 

Attics became playrooms for children. Basements were also used as play areas, but many were converted to home gyms. Some drywall and flooring, and maybe a little weatherproofing, turned these storage areas into useful living spaces.

In some places, such as Los Angeles, people are adding ADUs. An ADU is short for accessory dwelling unit. It is a new living space added to an existing building. Garages are being converted to home offices, but also studio apartments. The apartments can be rented out in the future. 

The pandemic presents new reasons to think creatively about our living spaces. Although we hope the pandemic will stay a once-in-a-lifetime event, we can all take cues from these COVID-19 renovation projects to inspire our own spaces at home.

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Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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