Making our home more Covid-friendly: Easy, Inexpensive updates we tackled this year.

It goes without saying that we are spending more time at home than ever. People’s attitudes, needs, and wants have changed. Example: Open floor plans aren’t quite as desirable; outside spaces are in demand, as are walls and doors. People are hungry, desperate even, for spaces they can tuck into and hide when distractions like small children or chatty husbands pop up.

Our home was an absolute godsend when COVID hit. We are blessed with plenty of rooms (and room). The closed floor plan in the house wasn’t very trendy when we bought it, but it has served us well. As we’ve settled ever more comfortably into our home over the last year, I thought I’d share some tips on interesting and inexpensive ways we made our spaces more “Covid-friendly”…

Set-up a home work space/office/classroom. Whatever you need to have a clean and organized space. I was set up at the kitchen table for the whole of 2020. It finally got to be too much: too many pieces, disorganized, kids wanting to “help” on the computer. I finally set up a home “office” this month and it has been a gamechanger. I know not everyone has the space for an office but anyone can do what I did. I called dibs on a 32.5″ nook in the corner of my room and got to work. I found a 32″ desk at Walmart for $25. It could not fit any better if I custom built the dang thing. Pro tip: measure before you go. I always try to guess the size or area but I am TERRIBLE at eyeballing spaces. It drives my husband crazy.. I picked up a few frames at Walmart for my sweet, inexpensive “Lowcountry Collection” – painting courtesy of my very talented 3-year-old niece; a vintage Parris Island post card I found at Terrace Oaks Antique Mall in Charleston (my husband did his basic training there); and a minimalist “map” of Charleston (a notecard I got at The Goldbug on Sullivan’s Island) and framed. I finished out the space with the trio of hexagonal bulletin boards from Target placed horizontally up the wall ($14) and a $25 lamp from Walmart. Et voila! The most perfect little space and it’s all mine.

Can you snag a sunroom, sunny corner, or unused room to set up as a laid-back family space? Our sunroom kept me happy and sane during the first 3 months of quarantine. The weather last spring in SC was an incredible gift – balmy, warm, sunny. The sheer misery of the Columbia, SC heat held off longer than usual which meant we got to spend a lot of our time here. This bright and quirky room reminds me of an old lady’s Victorian sunroom and I am HERE FOR IT! The furniture is old, repurposed, and recovered. The long couch is a wicker sofa I “won” at an antique auction for $10. I found the softest $45 slipcover at Walmart and draped it over that guy. Sofa? Done. The love seat against the back wall? That’s a Goodwill find ($35), add a slipcover and bam! Done. My eventual goal is to recover the loveseat but that’s not a current life priority and the cover more than does the trick. The chairs are from Target and were originally purchased for our bedroom when we moved 4 years ago. I carried the set to the porch a year ago and love the bright pink pattern against the gray rug and yellow walls. The plant table? Trash pic that I cleaned up and put a tablecloth over. Rug? Originally, $190. Got it for $40 at Steinmart’s going out of business sale. Y’all, this space has been a reading room, playroom, plant nursery, exercise space, Zoom headquarters, game room, nap space, and probably anything else you can think of. In another month or so, the weather will be warm enough to use regularly again and I can’t wait. I am always in favor of trolling antique malls and thrift stores for well-loved and sturdy furniture I can buy for a song and adapt to our messy and chaotic lifestyle. These pieces mean I can relax when the kids are playing (read: jumping) on them or the dogs are napping in the sun (this is the only furniture they’re allowed on). Slipcovers and tablecloths are easily washed. The classic, sturdy pieces can be cleaned or recovered. And we get a room that feels relaxed, lived-in, and completely suits our family’s needs.

Spending time outside has become more of a need, and joy, than ever. When we started the homebound Covid-journey a year ago, we had a little patio off the kitchen that my husband built about 3 years ago. We also had these three weird, tiered planters that were full of mud with nails coming out of the wood beams. Y’all, this cluster of mud steps had been driving me crazy since we bought the house. When it rained, mud would pool against the side of the house. I worried about the kids jumping off the “steps” because, duh, large exposed nails. We got a few quotes for professional landscaping but WOW! Expensive. When we realized we were going to be home for…a while, my husband and dad decided to dig out the dirt, build a retaining wall, and put in this patio. A good family friend with a landscaping business dug out the dirt but my hubs and dad did the rest. The bricks for the patio and wall are from Home Depot; the furniture is from Wayfair; and the fire pit from, where else? Walmart. We love this space, right off our sunroom, and with full views of the yard. One of my new favorite weekend activities has been to sit by the fire, have a snack and drink, and read or write or catch-up with my husband while the kids and dogs play in the yard. This went from a $7-$10K project, quoted by a landscaper, to about a $2000 project for time, materials, and furniture.

Find ways to “travel” even if you can’t leave the house or yard or town or city or state. I have a big ole wall in my bathroom that I did not know how to decorate, or even if I should. But when I realized my husband and I collected little odds and ends on trips, I decided to turn it into a memento wall. The wall is now peppered with small, framed postcards from trips to Nashville, New Orleans, and Denver; a sweetgrass wreath from Charleston, a print from Paris, a small painting from Wyoming; and a notecard I bought and framed from an art gallery in the mountains the weekend my husband and I got engaged. Nothing on this wall was expensive, not even the frames, which I picked up from Hobby Lobby, Walmart, and thrift stores, but looking at this wall means going on a little trip. I remember the rain coming down in Charleston as I dashed into the market; I can see the atrium in Denver’s Brown Palace crowned with an American Flag and remember sitting in the lobby bar, having a drink with my husband; I can taste the hot, sweet beignets we ate at Café du Monde before haggling with street artists in a bustling Jackson Square. In a year without travel, each image on this wall is its own vacation, its own memory. These pieces on this wall have encouraged quiet, happy moments of escape during a year when if often felt the walls were closing in on us.

The feelings of safety and comfort our home has given us over the last year will stay with me for the rest of my life. I didn’t settle in immediately, and honestly, kind of felt like a fraud living in my own home, and not a rental but the longer we’re here, I can feel the home become more a part of us and we become more a part of it. I can feel it absorb the needs and personalities of our family and it feels more ours, and more like us, every day.

How have you all adapted your homes and shared spaces to Covid? And what are some fabulous tips and tricks for inexpensive, DIY updates?

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