When Beverly O’Mara and Mark Uriu converted their loft in Jersey City, NJ, into a live-working space in 2015, they envisioned a spacious, open apartment where Ms. O’Mara could have an art studio and M Uriu could work from home on occasion.
They added elements that made sense at the time, installing shoji screens that provided privacy and light, but no sound barrier. And for a while it worked wonderfully.
Then Covid changed everything. Suddenly, the couple found themselves working from home full-time, trying to find makeshift solutions for a space that had already undergone a $250,000 renovation.
For millions of Americans, the pandemic ushered in an era of remodeling, as they used the time spent at home to redo kitchens, bathrooms and living spaces to fit a more lifestyle. domesticated. (Year-over-year home improvement spending grew more than 9% from Q3 2019 to Q3 2021, to $357 billion annually, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.) But what if you were renovating before the pandemic — and spending a lot of money on it — and now you have to redo it to reflect a new reality?
Like many others, Ms. O’Mara, 66, and Mr. Uriu, 65, found themselves headlong into the confines of a design envisioned for a pre-pandemic lifestyle and wondered what modifications, if any. appropriate, would make their home more functional.
“We’ve seen these exciting new demands come to our spaces, and they’re absolutely a byproduct of the changing lifestyle,” said Jeff Jordan, an architect from Rutherford, NJ, who designed the couple’s renovation and sees a shift in the way homeowners think about renovations.
For those considering renovating now, Ms. O’Mara and Mr. Uriu’s project offers some useful lessons.
The creative and economical strategies they adopted early on, such as choosing affordable building materials, are even more valuable now, as material and labor costs are high. And devoting more space to family life proved to be a prescient decision during the first year of the pandemic, when grandchildren often visited, using the open living space as a playroom, respite from their cramped little Brooklyn apartment.
Other decisions also didn’t hold up, including placing Mr. Uriu’s office directly above Ms. O’Mara’s studio, with no wall to act as a noise barrier. Desperate for more space and quiet, he turned the 4-by-7-foot closet in the guest bedroom into his office. To enter, he must hide under a beam.
Two years into the pandemic, he finds himself working in a space that Ms. O’Mara likens to the 7½ Dwarf Floor in the 1999 film “Being John Malkovich.” When seated, Mr. Uriu can look under the beam and see through the apartment and out the windows to the street below. “When you’re sitting down,” he said, “you don’t feel like you’re in a closet.”