One of the many benefits of homeownership is the freedom to improve, renovate or decorate your home to fit personal tastes and lifestyles. The new year brings ideas and plans for home improvement projects that improve quality of life for increased time spent working, learning and entertaining ourselves at home.
For many people working from home was only supposed to last for a few weeks in the spring until the infection rate of COVID-19 was under control. However, many people are still working from home with no set date on returning to the office. In fact, some companies take advantage of the new remote work situation by closing or downsizing offices to save money on rent, utilities and other expenses related to keeping a fully on-site office open.
Consequently, for remote workers initially planning a fairly quick return to their former office life, a more permanent space for remote work may be desired. Working at the kitchen table or the bedroom is fine for a few weeks but may become uncomfortable after several months with the possibility of the situation becoming permanent.
Keeping work life separate from home life can be a challenge when they both occur in the same location. Without the daily commute and work being performed exclusively in the employer’s office the once sharp division between the two can disappear. Designating a specific room or space just for work can help keep the two areas separated. Rachel Brougham writing for bobvila.com says, “A dedicated home office space—whether it be a guest bedroom or an area in a finished basement—makes it easier for those who work from home to concentrate and separate work life from home life.”
On the other hand, many homeowners created a home office soon after being sent home to work in 2020 and might be looking for a new home improvement project for the new year. Because existing rooms of the house are getting a lot more use with the whole family spending more time at home, a bathroom upgrade might be their next project.
Brougham states, “For those considering updates to their bathroom, consider the shower. The National Kitchen and Bath Association’s 2021 Design Trends Research report showed respondents were looking for large, freestanding showers with zero-clearance entry and linear drains.” In a zero clearance shower the shower floor is level with the bathroom floor so there’s no lip to step over. Linear drains are rectangular in shape rather than the traditionally round drain. Depending on the available budget some homeowners not only update their shower but convert their bathroom into a home spa to enjoy luxurious peace and relaxation without leaving home.
Another home improvement project that helps improve quality of life without leaving home is to achieve some privacy within an open floor plan. One advantage to an open floor plan is the increased amount of natural light that enters the house in comparison to other architectural home styles like a traditional ranch or Cape Cod layout. Light streaming in from large windows or skylights is shared throughout the open floor plan which can lift spirits during the short winter days. However, the sounds of daily living are also shared in an open floor plan which can be distracting as the whole family works and studies within the same space.
The amount of time in a day that families share a home has changed under quarantine conditions which requires more private space for work, study and other personal pursuits that until last year were performed outside the home. Jessica Bennett writing for Better Homes & Gardens says, “Throughout 2020, many families had to learn how to co-exist under the same roof from morning until night, and as we head into a new year, the appeal of open floor plans, where each room flows seamlessly into the next, has greatly diminished.”
Open floor plans can be divided into separate personal spaces by installing large pieces of furniture like bookcases, setting up folding room dividers or hanging drapes from the ceiling. Separating areas of an open floor plan can help family members share the same space and abundant light peacefully without spending extended periods of time in a bedroom or other secluded room to gain privacy.
Another home improvement idea for 2021 is to warm up decks and patios to extend the use of outdoor spaces into the winter. Following public health guidelines by staying home as much as possible and entertaining limited numbers of houseguests outdoors has made backyard spaces more valuable than ever. Even the best home life situation can feel oppressive after a long period of seclusion but being able to step outside for a little while can provide fresh air and change of scenery. Amanda Lauren writing for forbes.com states, “No matter where you live, outdoor space has become much more valuable due to COVID.”
Creating an outdoor space that can be used for year-round safe socializing can improve home life by reducing feelings of isolation and seclusion. A firepit, heat lamp or fireplace can be added to an existing patio or deck to make the outdoor experience more comfortable and inviting. Heated camping chairs and heated blankets help to enhance the backyard experience during winter months.