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Re-purposing the home in the age of COVID-19: offices, gyms, bonus rooms

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — More people, of all ages, are working from home in the age of COVID-19. Local architects and designers are getting calls on how to accommodate that. There’s a demand in the market for home offices, repurposed lower levels, bonus rooms and even home gyms.

“People working from home have either been working at kitchen table, or makeshift office, and now they’re getting into actually remodeling a room,” said Melanie Portland, Director of Marketing for Inde Designs. She said more college kids are returning home, as well as adult children, which calls for bathroom and bedrooms in the basement, or lower levels.

“More and more companies are not having employees come back to the office, and this is going to be a more permanent solution, working from home,” said Chris Keil, Vice President of Greater Living Architecture. Keil said there was originally a trend of clients wanting to downsize their home, pre-virus. Now, they want to re-purpose it, or add bonus rooms above their garage.

Architects and designers are saying the demand for supplies has gone way up, increasing construction costs. The services also came to a halt when COVID-19 hit, and architects had to work remotely with clients for conferencing.

“Manufacturers, lumber yards, steel manufacturers, were all shut down for a number of months (when COVID-19 hit),” said Joseph O’Donnell, President of Greater Living Architecture.

“Kitchens, sinks, flooring, lighting, everything really came to a screeching halt, now there’s a very, very tough supply for those items,” said O’Donnell.

He said it’s hard to know what the future holds in terms of a second wave, and how that would affect their business if schools had to close again. But all they can do, is prepare for anything.

“We’re kind of a wait and see right now,” said O’Donnell. The idea of re-purposing a space for home-schooling is something on his radar, and something he’s already received calls on. He said the at-home learning experience consists of educational, social and physical components.

“Kids aren’t socializing with peers at home, they’re with their parents and siblings and not getting a social experience. What we’ve seen people consider is creating small group learning in a neighborhood [pods], where kids can go to house one day a week to safely be with friends and have that social interaction,” said O’Donnell.

In addition to accommodating children, Keil said it’s common that two spouses are working from home, requiring not just one home office, but two. “Home offices have been part of plan for some time now, but now two home offices are in demand. People need their own spaces, it’s hard to share space on conference calls and stuff,” he said.

Keil said if you are looking to add a space to your house, a permit is required. He said you’d have to work with designers to come up with a plan, and you’d also have to meet with a contractor. Drawings would have to be submitted to your town for approval.

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