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Start with the heart of the home. But it might take longer and cost more than you think…

It has been an entire year since our worlds were turned upside down by a pandemic. An entire year of hunkering down in our homes — homes that have morphed into schools, offices, board meeting sites, diners, entertainment venues, delivery distribution centers, and perpetual pajama parties. The home, in essence, is where we retreated this past year to restore a sense of security, and many of us have spent stretches of days inside with no other contact than our individual tribes.

When you have all that time inside your space, you begin to notice a thing or two.   

Like the fact that there is no retreat space when you need to check out. Or that a giant TV is actually a reasonable purchase. Or that, after making approximately 10,000 meals this year, your kitchen is a joke and needs renovating — STAT.

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Over the course of 2020, the home design industry noticed some substantial trends. When businesses braced for economic disaster, construction saw a boom. Amy Curran, co-owner of Cornerstone Kitchen & Bath, said that at the beginning of the pandemic, she thought she’d see a decline in custom renovations and anticipated an influx of requests for home offices. However, by late summer, requests were flying in for kitchen remodels. The kitchen became the focus of remodeling during the pandemic.

“Over time, I think what it’s about is people are coming back to the heart of their homes. The more time you spend together eating meals or doing homework at the kitchen table, you start to realize what does and doesn’t work about your kitchen. You realize what is important to you, and the more time you spend working in the kitchen, the more it starts to bother you when your kitchen doesn’t meet your needs,” Amy says.

Dani Harris, co-owner and designer at Knot & Co. Interiors, completed her own kitchen remodel during the pandemic, turning her outdated 1950s
ranch-style kitchen into a modern, minimal oasis. Dani and her husband realized the need to update the heart of their home to something more functional and open — a place that could double as a hangout space, playroom, and a track for their 1-year-old to run laps in. Dani decided to keep the original square shape, but move the refrigerator to an opposing wall to free up counter space and to create a new locale for a full-wall pantry. Despite the popularity, Dani decided against the trend to include an island in order to provide enough floor space for her child’s romping. In addition, the family wanted more natural light, so they removed some columns that blocked the exterior window to let the sunshine in.

“I wanted simple and functional, white and bright,” Dani explains. In order to achieve these goals, she incorporated quartz countertops, white paint, and greige cabinets.

Like most sectors of business, construction renovations have also had to adjust to our new normal. Dani explains that in her own remodel, as well as jobs she designs for her clients, the biggest change since the pandemic has been supply delays. What was originally supposed to be a four-week remodel, turned into an eight-week project due to increased delays in supply of cabinets, countertops, fixtures, and appliances. For instance, cabinet lead times that used to be six weeks are now running 10-12 weeks behind.

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Dani was fortunate enough to have family to stay with during her remodel, another trend she is seeing with her clients. “Remodeling a kitchen with kids and naps and online school during a pandemic is too much,” Dani says. She also notes that business, however, is booming, and the industry is seeing increases in both residential and commercial construction. “Contractors have never been busier.”

Bobby Brugh, a general contractor, says construction during the pandemic “has been nuts! Business has actually increased despite the fact that material costs are higher than a year ago. Residential home remodeling is through the roof while new construction is still jamming.” Bobby has seen an influx in residential projects such as kitchen remodels, home entertainment centers and gyms, pools and spas. “People are spending so much time at home that they are looking for things to keep their kids busy, so that’s why you’re seeing so many requests for in-ground pools and home gyms.”

He has had to make adjustments in his business — Robert Brugh Construction — to plan for long delays in the supply chain. “You can’t demo a kitchen and put it back together without appliances, plumbing fixtures, glass [he notes it is backlogged after the protests last summer], and cabinets. The industry has the demand, just not the supply. So now I have to tell my clients that I can’t start for 4-5 weeks because I have to wait on the supplies.”

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Bobby also said another change in materials lies in the cost. “A sheet of plywood used to cost $7.90 and now it is up to $28.30. So materials are triple what they used to be, which has decreased the construction of spec homes. You just don’t have the same profit margin you once had.”          

In the design sector, there are also changing trends emerging from our time indoors. Kimberly Brown of Cornerstone Kitchen & Bath says she has seen a gradual shift away from all-white kitchens. “For many years, customers were focusing on white kitchens. I think the pandemic has made people a little more creative, and they are gravitating toward color,” Kim says. She has seen many requests for royal and navy blues, sage and greyish green cabinetry, blacks and golds. Wood-tones are also resurfacing in the chocolate and charcoal palette. While white is still a primary request, and quartz the most sought-after countertop, she is excited about the color revival.

Overall, Amy is hopeful about business once we return to normal. “If there is anything we’ve learned through this year, it is adaptability. We’ve improved our virtual communication and how to limit the number of groups in our showroom, and we’ve adjusted to delays but still managed to stay focused on the customer. The pandemic has improved our ability to change and respond to our clients’ needs on a daily basis.”

P.S. Don’t be surprised to see women leading the way when it comes to traditionally male-dominated fields. 

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