By Elise Oberliesen for LONGMONT MAGAZINE

Converting indoor and outdoor space for work, school and recreational use 

No doubt, COVID has forever changed our lives. As we adapt to social distancing and donning masks, we’re also learning to endure extensive hours at home. Conventional home sweet home was never designed for this new COVID lifestyle where work, school and recreation have crashed into one space. Find out how homeowners use innovative designs to transform conventional living space into multifunctional use.

Classroom and office have become one in the new normal. (Shutterstock)

Homeschool and Home Office

To make the home comfortable and conducive to our lifestyle, homeowners want designated space that’s suitable for adults and kids—and our all of our activities, says Interior Designer Jenny Ackemann, owner of Layered Design Concepts, LLC, in Longmont. 

She says homeowners want to reclaim unused space in the home and transform it into a virtual schoolwork area, home office or both. 

“One client wanted a hallway space turned into a homework station for her kids because she had some dead space in the hallway,” Ackemann said. 

Since this client didn’t want desks in her kids’ rooms, Ackemann said the hallway worked well. Her client also liked the idea of being on the same level in the home because it’s easier to check-in on her kids.

“We created a countertop space with cubbies for storage and a desk. It has helped them with virtual schoolwork area,” she said. 

Another client requested a home office that also incorporates a schoolwork area—all in the same room.  Ackemann sourced cabinetry and a butcher block counter-top and arranged it in a U-shape configuration where kids can work in the center.  

“The left and right side is for parents, and at the end of the parents’ desks there are two stools for the kids.”

As much as we appreciate how well technology keeps home offices and virtual classrooms running, still, some annoyances are grinding. Like, virtual meeting will start in T minus 30 seconds.  My tablet’s at one percent—and laptop died four minutes ago. Umm, urr, where’s my charging cord?

Charging stations are not just for places like DIA and cush coffee shops. You could have one too, suggests Ackemann. Just find a central location for an at-home charging station and it enjoy the benefits of organized smart paces.

Pergolas and outdoor kitchens enhance outdoor spaces to give families more options for spreading out. (Shutterstock)

Reclaiming Outdoor Spaces

Thanks to the abundance of Colorado sunshine, clean fresh air and over 400 species of birds in our state, it’s easy to see why people invest in backyard living spaces. Serenity is a new currency.

This is one reason decks, pergolas and outdoor kitchens top the list of hot ticket items, for homeowners, says Pat O’Keefe, owner of O’Keefe Built, Inc., in Longmont. 

“People are staying home more and wanting to make that experience better for themselves,” he said. “Since people aren’t spending on travel budgets, they are investing in their nest because that’s where they are 100% of the time.” 

Take the deck: Whether an existing deck is barely standing and needs a tear out—or new construction left you with a pile of dirt and rocks—adding a new deck can increase home value by 65 to 75 %, according to a remodeling survey published in 2019.

O’Keefe estimates about 98 % of his clients request Trex or TimberTech composite decking. While it’s more expensive than a traditional wood deck, he suggests doing the math on maintenance costs to understand its true value.

“Maintenance and longevity are the benefits of composite decks. There’s a higher upfront cost, but in the long run, it evens out and can be cheaper because it doesn’t require any maintenance,” O’Keefe said. 

He also said stamped concrete or ground level patios with pavers are good alternatives. Plus, they typically cost less than raised decks.

If your dream backyard oasis includes visions of a hot tub or swimming pool, the lead time on such luxury items is a bit depressing.

During a recent project he planned and built, O’Keefe’s customer wound up buying a floor model swim spa combo hot tub because low inventory would have meant a six month waiting period.

Another customer requested an estimate for a large pool project. But when O’Keefe checked with some local pool contractors to inquire about estimated lead times, again, more bad news.

“I reached out to a Boulder pool builder, and then reached out to other pool builders in Colorado and they said they are multiple years out and cannot build pools until 2023,” O’Keefe said.

A water feature, like a fountain or pond, create peaceful environments. (Shutterstock)

Creating Backyard Zenscape

If water in the backyard is a must have, perhaps a Koi pond with lily pads would suffice until the pool and spa industry catches up with demand. Plus, it could, water features can double as outdoor living science classrooms for your child’s virtual STEM learning.

Water on the Rocks, in Erie, provides custom ponds, fountains and other water features – plus maintenance and cleaning. 

Owner Chris Phillips said business has increased with so many folks confined at home. What better way to soothe the soul than to sit outside and enjoy the babbling sounds of a pond? 

“The look and sound is soothing and calming. It’s therapeutic and helps keep your sanity,” Phillips said. 

Entry level ponds start around $5K, while larger more ornate water features with decorative lighting and waterfalls run upwards of $30K, he said.

“For an average pond, we can build it for about $5K. It’s 5 by 5, 4-foot deep and it comes with a stream, which provides the sound and ambiance.”

Many people simply enjoy keeping a pond alive as a hobby, said Phillips. Regardless of what draws you to water, one thing is certain—water promotes health, healing and wellness long before the Roman baths.

Low inventory furniture tip

When ordering office furniture, keep in mind long lead times. Flexibility and creativity is important, says Ackemann. When new furniture is on backorder, she suggests using existing furniture and repurpose it. Consider a dresser for office supply storage.

Can’t find the desk of your dreams? Purchase a countertop and place it over two low profile file
cabinets. Keep in mind that contractors and consultants also have waitlists. Try to be patient when hiring a professional to redesign your living space.