COVID home updates: Practicality and functionality win out

Luke Stier, of Stier Construction, which specializes in kitchen and bath design, has gotten several calls for updates in the past six months.

“People have been cooped up for six months, and I think they realize how their homes function well and how they don’t,” he said. “It kind of brings to light some changes that they want to make, versus being in their busy, everyday lifestyle.”

Bathroom remodel by Stier Construction (contributed photo)

Bathroom remodel by Stier Construction (contributed photo)

Kailee Klevan, a kitchen and bath designer at Beyond Kitchens, said some of the early COVID trends were more about function than form.

“We’ve had a few clients add bidets to their bathrooms, or more like a washlet toilet seat,” she said. “This happened at the start of quarantine when there was that shortage of toilet paper.”

Some clients have asked for antibacterial or easier-to-clean surfaces in their kitchens and bathrooms, Stier said.

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But the bigger trend has been toward home offices — either looking for spaces with one built in, or creating one.

“People are all working from home now, so they’re looking to transition an unused room — maybe a dining room, maybe a flex room, maybe a basement — into their home office,” Stier said.

Open-concept plans are still overwhelmingly popular, Klevan agreed, but having a separate office space is increasingly important.

“If you’re working from home and your spouse is working from home, you need your separate space in case someone is on the phone or in a meeting,” she said. “I myself worked from home for a little bit, and I was set up at the dining room table, and I didn’t feel that I had enough privacy.”

From a construction standpoint, homeowners may look for custom-built cabinets or electrical work (more outlets) in those workspaces, Stier said. Adding doors in open areas means more privacy and fewer distractions.

Kitchen remodel from Beyond Kitchens, contributed by Kailee Klevan

Kitchen remodel from Beyond Kitchens, contributed by Kailee Klevan

In the kitchen sphere, homeowners who’ve realized they don’t use their full dining rooms often may turn the space into a walk-in pantry.

“Most of the time it’s storage — they want to declutter,” Stier said.

Some of Klevan’s clients have added wine fridges to their kitchens for ease of access — since everyone’s at home, having an extra glass of wine with dinner is no sin.

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Rochester is seeing a move toward “modern design,” said Rochester Area Builders President Alissa Moe, with natural lighting and an emphasis on functionality, plus a welcoming kitchen space.

“We’re seeing less and less of this eat-in dining space, more of an eat-in kitchen,” she said. “Maybe two islands — one for prepping the meal, and one for eating the meal, maybe with friends.”

Getting work done

The construction and remodeling field has adapted to COVID times with Zoom meetings, remote work, and the option for homeowners to take their own measurements..

At the beginning of the pandemic, when clients weren’t sure how the economy would be affected, much of Stier’s work was put on hold. But lately, he’s had an extra-busy late summer and fall.

“Everyone really held on and the leads dried up,” he said. “But now that people are a little more comfortable, the leads are flying in. … We’re trying to do a year’s worth of work in four months.”

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