After all the months in lockdown staring at the same four walls — and with the prospect of a long winter doing even more of the same — it’s no wonder Montrealers have got the itch to spruce up their space.
When everyone is at home all the time, priorities change. Montrealers are eager to spend their vacation budgets to create “staycation” spaces, local designers say, and desperate to find room for everyone to work and learn from home without driving each other mad.
“We’ve had a crazy amount of requests for renovations and decor projects, including a larger-than-normal request for home offices. There’s a major demand just to make their houses cozy,” said interior designer Sun Ah Brock of Lux Decor.
Basements and bonus rooms are being converted to offices, homeschool rooms, and playful spaces, Brock said. Existing rooms are being given new purpose: dining rooms become playrooms, dinner tables become workstations, and pool sheds become “she-sheds” where Mom can get away from the chaos for a while.
If basement conversions and other major renovations are out of your budget, there are many simple ways you can transform your space, Brock noted. Little touches can spark joy in your home. Paint an old coffee table or end table a fun, bright colour. Add some boldly patterned throw pillows and blankets. Wallpaper the back of a bookshelf. Move your furniture around.
Sometimes it’s not a big investment in furniture that enlivens a space: it’s just adding something fun. Brock is seeing more clients do things like add a candy bar or popcorn machine in the family room to make it feel more like a movie theatre, or making room for a ping-pong or pool table in the basement.
“In times of crisis, people get more playful,” she said.
Tina Mitchell, another local designer, said many clients aren’t just looking to pretty up their place. Families with both spouses working from home, especially if they also have children who are homeschooling or distance learning, are looking for help to get organized and combat clutter. In one recent project, she redesigned a family room to include more storage for children’s toys, and converted a built-in shelving unit into an office nook.
In the spring and summer, contractors were kept busy building decks and putting in pools, but the cooler weather hasn’t yet put a freeze on backyard projects. Clients want to do all they can to extend their home patio season, Brock and Mitchell said.
Those with pools are investing in heaters and solar covers to keep swimming into the fall, adding outdoor fireplaces, fire pits and heaters, and adding backyard games like washer toss, badminton, or bocce.
Little touches, like candles or lanterns for mood lighting and faux-fur or chunky knit blankets for warmth, go a long way toward making a patio inviting on cool evenings, Mitchell said.
Some, expecting that periodic lockdowns will be with us for the long haul, are budgeting for years of renovations. One of Mitchell’s St-Lazare clients, for example, decided to put in a pool to give the kids something to do in their backyard, and asked her to create a project plan to add more things next year. Some of the features in their future: a pond, a fire pit and an adult-sized playhouse where their older children can hang out and have sleepovers in summer.
With so many feathering their nest for fall, it creates a new challenge: building materials and labour are in short supply.
“There’s a strong desire, almost an impatience to get things done as fast as possible. People need to be patient. There is a pandemic and there are delays everywhere,” Brock said.