The strength of the real estate market during the pandemic has received plenty of media coverage, but home renovators and interior designers have also kept busy this past year. As a matter of fact, the desire to improve, upgrade and add space to existing homes is going “gangbusters,” according to one contractor. 

Warner McConaughey of HammerSmith said business has been “through the roof” thanks to the pandemic. He said with people spending more time at home along with working and going to school there, too, has meant big demand for additional space or the creation of new space in existing structures.

“People are wanting to create any kind of space anywhere they can,” McConaughey said. “We’ve made offices or places for kids to study out of closets, carriage houses, sheds and in basements. Before the pandemic, people wanted big, open floor plans, but now they want to create nooks and corners for offices and study so they can have a quiet corner space for Zoom calls.”

An enclosed seating area by Level Craft Construction. (Special)

Revamping and creating outdoor space is also huge, McConaughey said. “People are even spending time out in the cold weather, so we’ve seen requests for more fire pits, heaters, and creating outdoor living spaces. There’s also been a big increase in the demand for swimming pools.”

McConaughey said he’s also seen homes become more multigenerational, with space being created to welcome aging parents and grandparents.

Virginia Van Lear with Level Craft Construction said business was “gangbusters” because everyone wants more space. “We’ve had customers doubling their square footage, wanting to update and upgrade everything, and in some cases completely rebuilding,” she said.

Van Lear said now that everyone has grown comfortable working and learning at home, she expects more people will continue to do so even when the pandemic passes. 

“People want a lot more space for home schooling and offices,” Van Lear said. “I’ve talked to homeowners and they said their kids love learning at home and they’ve been more productive working at home, so lots of people are never going back to a traditional office or classroom.”

Initially, Van Lear was concerned that the home renovation business would drop like a rock as the pandemic progressed. “I’ve been very surprised,” she admitted. “I thought we’d have another 2008 recession situation on our hands with people hunkering down and holding on to their money. It’s been the opposite.” 

A swimming pool built by Moon Bros. (Special)

Mark Fosner with Moon Bros. said he’s read about the hot real estate market, but it appears to him that more people are staying put and improving their current living space. Like other renovators, he’s seen a big demand for outdoor living space.

“We’ve seen a massive demand for screened porches and outdoor living rooms,” Fosner said. “They want a place where people can gather in all seasons.”

Finishing out basements, adding playrooms, and home offices have also been ongoing themes for Moon Bros. Fosner said with families deciding to “pod” or quarantine together, there’s been a demand for making homes more accessible, including installing elevators.

“I think we’re going to see more people living and working at home even after the pandemic,” Fosner said. “People are comfortable working and spending more time at home, so they want more creature comforts.”

A kitchen remodel by CR Home Design Center. (Special)

The team at CR Home Design Center said outdoor living has been a running theme for the past year and expects it to continue, according to inside sale representative Kitt Webb. “I’ve seen an increase on outdoor kitchens, adding built-in grills, refrigerators and even some specialty items like pizza ovens and cocktail centers,” Webb said.

The company’s design director, Antonette Copeland, agreed. “People are ready to get back to some sort of normalcy, entertaining in small groups and outside in fresh air. They are wanting sustainable materials that will not be affected by the weather and want to bring their kitchen experience outside.”

CR’s custom home coordinator Taylor Gann said now, more than ever, consumers are looking for functional and efficient spaces. “A kitchen is not just a kitchen anymore,” Gann said. “On Monday it could be your office, on Tuesday your kid’s classroom, etcetera.  It is important that every inch is well-thought-out and planned so you can make the most of the space that you have. I believe that homeowners and designers will share this mindset for many years to come.”

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.