These quarantine-chic ideas can make lockdown more tolerable


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It didn’t take long after the pandemic struck for Elissa Minor Rust, a professor of English at Portland Community College in Portland, Oregon, to figure out she needed to do some rearranging at home. Virtual learning for schools was all but inevitable, and working from home looked to be permanent for the foreseeable future. 

So, Rust and the rest of her household, including high school students Elias (18) and Clementine (14), created dedicated home workstations for learning and teaching. Giving each family member their own individual space brought with it a welcomed sense of order and relief for the family.

“I would say they have made it easier for us not to kill each other,” Rust said. “It took trial and error, but now we’ve set up spaces so we’re not all talking over each other. We can close doors and not have to hear each other’s Zoom calls.”

The Rust family also recently set up a large tent in the backyard to facilitate socially distant gatherings as the Pacific Northwest’s weather turns colder. 

And the Rusts aren’t alone. In order to make quarantine life sustainable, many families have been making changes to their homes — upgrades that might be a boon to their finances as well as their sanity. 

Quarantine-friendly home features

Despite the challenges of 2020, the housing market in many parts of the country is hotter than ever — and sellers have been emphasizing pandemic-friendly features in their advertisements, said licensed real estate agent Matthew Levy, who works in the popular Durham-Chapel Hill market in North Carolina. 

Here are some quarantine-friendly home features of the future that might make your home stand out from the crowd if you decide to put it on the market.

Outdoor dining space and kitchen
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Expanded outdoor living space for a welcome breath of fresh air

Social distancing has put a serious damper on the entertaining types among us — and even introverts occasionally need to see their friends. That’s why so many homeowners are amping up their outdoor living spaces, from revamping the patio to installing outdoor kitchen equipment. 

Temporary fixtures like the Rusts’ tent can be extremely effective; the ability to safely visit with friends has left her teenage daughter feeling “rejuvenated,” Rust said. 

But more permanent changes, like a new deck, will take a bit more initiative and financing to get off the ground. Borrowing against your existing equity to make upgrades — whether pandemic related or not — could pay off when it comes time to sell. 

Home office space
KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock

Dedicated office space to keep your work-life balance in check

Levy called the focus on dedicated home office space the “biggest change” the pandemic has wrought on the housing market in his area. After all, working on the kitchen counter is fine if it’s once in a blue moon, but now that it’s an everyday occurrence, “you don’t want to have to undo your office to have dinner.” 

And depending on the type of work you do, an office may be a necessity rather than a luxury: Zoom meeting presentations, for example, might require closed-door silence; those who work with two monitors may need more desk space. Some experts also say dedicated for-work-only workspaces can increase productivity and improve your work-from-home mental health.

With nearly half of Americans working from home, it’s no surprise that we’re finding a variety of new ways to think about what a home office looks like: some folks might repurpose the spare bedroom, while others are building dedicated outbuildings. Even before the pandemic struck, remote work was on the rise, so this upgrade is likely to remain relevant well after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

Package & delivery locker

Package lockers to ward off package thieves

Now that going to a brick-and-mortar store poses a not-insignificant health risk, more of us have turned to online shopping to meet our day-to-day needs for items like over-the-counter medicine and groceries. 

And with contact-free delivery standards, more and more packages are winding up unsupervised on front porches… where they’re easy targets for theft. 

Installing a locking package box can help homeowners get ahead of this troubling trend, and in the grand scheme of things, they’re not that expensive. Freestanding package lockers are available from — who else — Amazon, starting at less than $250 at time of writing.

ucpage / iStock

Mudrooms with pet stations for your furry friends

With many of us facing more alone time than ever, it’s not surprising that pet adoptions have surged during the pandemic. Dogs are, after all, (wo)man’s best friend.

But our four-legged friends can also be a bit messy — which is one reason many buyers consider mudrooms “must haves.” Along with a place to stash your dirty shoes, a mudroom can include dedicated pet-washing stations, feeding areas or litter box zones to help keep pet odors away from the main living area. After all, even with your very best friend, you don’t want to share everything.

Renovated bath
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Separate showers & soaking tubs for a spa-like treat

Lockdowns may have relegated spa days to the past for many of us… but if you have a well-designed bathroom, you can always bring the spa to you. A separate shower and soaking tub mean one partner can get ready for work while another luxuriates. 

Along with an indulgent atmosphere, renovated bathrooms can make a big difference when it comes time to sell. Pandemic notwithstanding, Levy says the most important home features for buyers have remained consistent — and along with upgraded kitchens, nice bathrooms are on the list.

Basement renovated to media and game room
PC Photography / iStock

Entertainment space to help keep your boredom at bay

Remember live concerts? Movie theaters? Yeah, it’s been a while. Fortunately, there are relatively easy ways to create state-of-the-art entertainment spaces at home.

While augmenting the acoustics in your house might require serious renovations (think: moving walls), upgrading your sound system and investing in some seriously comfy seating can go a long way toward bringing the theater home to you. A subwoofer can add serious depth to your audio at a relatively low price (think: $300 or less). 

Woman using a smart thermostat
Zinkevych / iStock

Smart home features to add some pizzazz to your every day

Thermostats that automatically learn your daily rhythms and Wi-Fi-enabled refrigerators may seem like fringe benefits. But given how much time we’re all spending at home, if you’ve got the budget, why not make living at home easier? 

While Levy doesn’t recommend sellers invest in smart home features expressly for the purpose of upping resale value, he does admit that “there is something about an aura of updatedness.” 

Plus, let’s be honest: Who doesn’t want to be able to set instant mood lighting without getting out of bed, all at the touch of a finger?

Man adding attic insulation
brizmaker / iStock

Energy efficiency to offset your carbon footprint

You, your partner and your kids likely used to spend 40 hours or more per week out of the house… which means that now, when you’re home all the time, you’re using a whole lot more electricity and water.

Investing in energy-efficient appliances can make a real impact on your energy consumption, which is as good for Mother Earth as it is for your pocketbook. After all, when you’ve still got a mortgage to pay, chances are you don’t want to double your utility bill. 

Staying home protects you, your family and your community — so you may as well make home a nice place to be. 

How is the COVID-19 changing our current landscape? Check out this five money lessons from the pandemic.

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