SHELTER IN PLACE
Baltimore magazine|March 2021
Months stuck at home changed our design needs—maybe forever.
CHRISTIANNA MCCAUSLAND

WHEN THE CORONAVIRUS pandemic lockdown started in spring of last year, professionals in the architecture, interior design, and construction world braced for a major drop in business. But after an initial slowdown, most report not just being busy, but overwhelmed.

That’s because, for those people with the wherewithal, it was time for the big home renovation.

“It went crazy,” says Gavin Scherr, president of Scherr Contracting. “Most people have never spent that much time in their home before. For the first time, people weren’t just thinking about their house aesthetically, but asking, ‘How do we all function in this house together on a permanent basis?’”

In the warm summer months, spending on exterior projects soared as homeowners heeded advice to limit entertaining to small groups outside, escalating demand for decks, patios, fences, and even pool houses. Plenty of people also caught up on deferred maintenance—the broken door or crooked gutter that had been a mere nuisance pre-pandemic became an intolerable eyesore. That demand, combined with COVID-related supply-chain challenges, was so intense that it created a lumber shortage, raising prices 170 percent, according to the National Association of Homebuilders.

And once some schools announced they would not return in-person, the home-improvement people got even more emails and calls.

“There was a huge increase in basement, kitchen, and even bathroom jobs,” says Scherr. “People were looking at any space that wasn’t being used much, even a screened porch that could be enclosed into an office or a recreational space, as everyone was trying to find more room.”

And with the movement toward work-from-home, as well as school-from-home, the importance of a home-based office space took on new meaning. With families suddenly flung together, it wasn’t uncommon to have two parents working from the dining-room table, older children doing Zoom school at a kitchen counter, and younger children suddenly in need of a school space that could be overseen by an adult. Home became loud and crowded.

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