Our DIY expert tells us how COVID-19 changed home design trends for the better

Poppy Slater

Best recent home trends and DIY home improvement tips

For better or worse, the pandemic sentenced huge numbers of people to home confinement for many months. Many got a chance to work, play and enjoy time with family in a comfortable and familiar space. With so much time spent in the house, a lot of people decided it was time for some home improvement.

To get a handle on which COVID-19 home improvement projects are worth looking into, we consulted BestReviews’ talented DIY expert, Beth Allen. She’s a licensed contractor with over a decade of experience teaching DIY techniques. Allen was happy to point out some of the most popular and cost-effective home improvement projects that developed during COVID-19 lockdowns and remain great DIY ideas.

Efficient management of space

Before COVID-19, working at home was relatively rare. Communicating with co-workers on video calls was practically unheard of. Making a home office not only usable but also presentable was one major shift during the pandemic.

The new work-from-home status quo, as Allen explained, “gave people the opportunity to have privacy during phone calls.” She continued, “People got crafty when creating those spaces, using shoji screens and similar room dividers to hide clutter behind.”

That is, of course, nothing to be ashamed of. Everybody needs a professional backdrop, but few of us have the time, energy and dedication to keep a house pristine for 100% of the day. “People also figured out creative ways to mount green screen fabrics and panels in their houses,” Allen said. Allen mentioned one student who installed a retractable projection screen that was a green screen.

People also got to spend a lot more time with their pets. While that’s always welcome, cats and dogs need time and space to themselves, too. To that end, Allen mentioned, “people started building dog houses in small, unused spaces, like putting the dog bed under the stairs.”

Major home improvement projects

Sitting in the house all day led a lot of homeowners to figure out big changes they could make. “People looked at their HVAC systems and wondered what kinds of upgrades would lead to better indoor air quality,” Allen explained, “and when viruses hit, people asked themselves how they could keep the whole house cleaner.”

Allen shared with us one particularly good example of a novel germicidal solution that gained popularity during COVID-19 home makeovers. “There’s a UV light system that goes in your central air system or ductwork,” Allen said, “that kills pathogens like bacteria and mold.” While there’s a decent selection of specially designed drop-in UV-C sterilization systems, a lot of people decided to use DIY solutions and saved considerable money doing so.

Another method homeowners used for general cleanliness involved reducing the microbiome throughout the house. Keep in mind that every time we touch something, bacteria spreads. Most bacteria and other particles aren’t harmful, but we know now more than ever that some are. 

“Fewer things to come in contact with means fewer risks of passing any bacteria or virus, whether it’s COVID-19 or a stomach bug,” Allen acknowledged. Touchless faucets, occupancy sensors and smart light switches are some of the best examples of automated hardware that reduces a home’s microbiome.

It’s important to note that home improvement projects like these aren’t necessarily suitable for beginners. Working with home wiring requires considerable care, and it helps to have experience. If you’re not comfortable accessing electrical wiring, don’t hesitate to call a licensed professional.

On the other hand, Allen reassured us, “If you can do basic electrical work, you can install an occupancy switch.” Similarly, things like touchless faucets require some plumbing skills. Trying to do any of these permanent projects without the necessary know-how will probably end up in failure. You’ll likely need to call a professional anyway to fix it.

Storage and organization

The birth of the COVID-19 home office led to the disappearance of countless spare bedrooms worldwide. What’s more, those spare bedrooms also commonly served as year-round overflow storage. That inevitably requires extra places to put stuff out of sight. Homeowners have since hung cupboards in garages, built backyard sheds and, not unlike the hidden dog bed ideas, filled underutilized nooks and crannies like staircases and crawl spaces with extra boxes.

After emptying the former spare bedrooms, they commonly see fresh coats of paint, and in some cases upgrades such as smart power outlets. There’s also an increasing trend of floating shelves, and that extends beyond just spare bedrooms and home offices.

General design trends

Floating shelves, for example, weren’t necessarily spurred on by COVID-19’s stay-at-home measures. They’ve seen increasing popularity for years, and for good reason — floating shelving maximizes space and minimizes the number of busy fixtures on the wall.

We’re also seeing a trend toward lighter-colored flooring, as Allen noted. “There was a period where everyone went to dark floors. I wouldn’t necessarily follow those trends blindly,” Allen said, “because it really depends on lifestyle.” It’s also important to consider how light and dark flooring, walls and ceilings directly affect how deep, wide and tall a room looks.

As Allen shared, “I try to focus less on specific trends and more on lifestyle. Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean you should run out and spend money on it, especially if it doesn’t suit you and your family’s everyday existence.” After all, your home is yours, and you get to decide how to decorate it.

Enriching backyard improvements

One big benefit of spending more time at your house is the ability to spend more time outside of your house. A huge number of people took up gardening as a means of connecting with the outdoors without leaving home. “People used raised and potted gardens to make use of small spaces to provide fresh, homegrown food,” Allen explained. “During COVID-19, people started to appreciate good-quality ingredients more because they weren’t able to get out of the house to their favorite restaurants.”

To that end, Allen agreed that you don’t have to go out of your way to purchase a lot of the hardware to make backyard garden beds. “I love repurposing and reusing,” she said, “I used found pallets to make an herb garden and it was pretty simple. It took me an hour to build a raised box and paint it. Now I have a cute little herb garden that we use all the time — we have enough for my neighbor to help herself all the time.”

Possibly even more satisfying than growing food to eat, Allen pointed out, is growing herbs to garnish adult beverages. “People quickly started growing dedicated cocktail gardens full of mint, basil and other herbs,” which go perfectly with alcoholic drinks.

Best products for COVID-19-inspired home improvement projects

Oriental Furniture Shoji Screens

With anywhere from three to eight panels, these Japanese room dividers are classy and effective for houses and apartments.

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

RHF Wooden Partition

RHF Wooden Partition

It’s considerably more substantial than a Japanese-inspired paper divider and even has shelves for placing decorations.

Sold by Amazon

Elgato Green Screen

Elgato Green Screen

Elgato makes a wide variety of products meant for podcasting, which translates perfectly to immersive, professional home office setups. This retractable green screen lets you customize your video call background with ease.

Sold by Amazon

Ecobee3 Lite Thermostat

Ecobee3 Lite Thermostat

This versatile smart thermostat comes at a midrange price and can help you save on energy costs while keeping you and your family comfortable.

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Frienda UV Sanitizer

Frienda UV Sanitizer

It’s meant for installation inside your HVAC system and uses UV-C light to kill bacteria, destroy viruses and minimize mold and mildew in the air. Keep in mind that UV-C rays are dangerous to living things, so don’t use anything like this in the open air inside your home.

Sold by Amazon

Moen Arbor Motionsense Kitchen Faucet

Moen Arbor Motionsense Kitchen Faucet

This touchless kitchen faucet sports a dependable motion sensor and versatile pull-down sprayer.

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Yodel Touchless Bathroom Faucet

Yodel Touchless Bathroom Faucet

When you don’t need to touch your bathroom faucet before or after using it, your hands remain considerably cleaner.

Sold by Amazon

TP-Link Kasa KP200 Smart Outlet

TP-Link Kasa KP200 Smart Outlet

This in-wall outlet adds smart features to nearly any appliance you plug into it. Note that you either need a professional or the electrical know-how to safely install one of these.

Sold by Amazon

EleGRP Occupancy Sensor

EleGRP Occupancy Sensor

This infrared motion sensor detects when someone enters a room and turns on the electrical devices it’s connected to.

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money. 

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