Construction will be included in the first phase of reopening in Suffolk County after the New York on PAUSE order is lifted and once the county meets criteria to open. “Unless we get this globally under control, there is a very good chance that it’ll assume a seasonal nature,” the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci told CBS’s “Face The Nation” on April 5. From a builder’s point of view, this means that many will start considering ways to make the potentially new reality more comfortable for their teams and customers.
The actual lifestyle design and build is quickly becoming a conversation in discovery sessions with homeowners and their builders and several topics were echoed throughout. For new builds, in particular, it’s important to think ahead. 4MA Builders, which works in tandem with Martin Architects, located in Sagaponack, has been designated as an approved “Essential Contractor,” which means that they are authorized to work with those businesses labeled as “essential.”
Nick Martin of 4MA Builders explained, “We have found this to be a fulfilling role. We consider the management of the safety to each project, client, and craftsman as a very critical role that we play. As a result, we have become fluent in the approved processes to continue our work and keep projects and the craftsmen going. One of the most important lessons in these difficult times is about safety and how to create healthy work conditions.”
“Through this relationship we have researched and worked on thoughtful strategies that allow for the known and unknown’s issues. Early planning is the best way to find success in the project,” Martin continued. “4MA suggests including extra preparation of the ordering, design, and building time for a project prior to or during a pandemic. To work diligently and patiently to ensure the quality and safety of all involved, from builders to homeowners, is paramount.”
Local builders are also seeing a spike in requests. Doug Cavallo, of Cavallo Builders, confirmed that he hasn’t seen a counter effect on his business so far. “In the long run, I don’t foresee a negative impact on my business. My clients are primarily second homeowners that primarily live in New York City. With the pandemic, it seems every home that we built is currently occupied in what is typically the off-season. Now, more than ever, people want a second home as a safe haven and I’ve actually had more inquiries than usual.”
There was a decisive surge of second homeowners that made the East End their primary residence after 9/11, and that has crossed the minds of builders as well. Throughout the current pandemic experience, Frank Dalene, COO of Telemark, thought about how his work might shift in the preparation phase. “Some decisions people will be making in building or remodeling will be based on their experience with the fear they experienced during this time. Perhaps one may want a larger pantry, root cellar, or additional storage to prepare for the next time people resort to hoarding.”
“We know clients who are scared to go back to New York City, so perhaps their home in the Hamptons will become their primary residence. How one conceives space in their primary residence is certainly different from that of a vacation home. Perhaps there is consideration for a home office away from the center of distractions when the entire family is home. The kitchen or dining room table doesn’t cut it. We don’t know if home learning will be something that will reoccur, perhaps preparing space to accommodate home learning is something we should be thinking about,” Dalene added.
As we deep-dive into the specifics of what a future home or remodel might look like, let’s look at the lessons learned this year. Like real estate brokers, builders are staggering their availability because homeowners have more time during a lockdown. They are also showing owners their prospective homes with 3D virtual tours. Pre-fab builders are seeing an uptick in requests for solar energy and eco-building as homeowners want their homes built quickly. Landscapes are brought into the discovery sessions, with vegetable gardens becoming a more omnipresent item on wish lists.
Obviously, the home office is top-of-mind for most builders. “The home office is now more important than ever. The space should be quiet and away from everything, but I also suggest either glass or large opening doors. This way the occupant doesn’t feel so isolated from the rest of the house. Of course, high speed internet is also a must to make the office functional and productive,” said Cavallo.
The role of maximizing space in promoting productivity is more important than ever. Underutilized rooms and spaces are now being retrofitted in new ways. The random alcove is being transitioned into a home-office, gyms playroom, or media room. New builds are adding the “flex room,” which can sleep an extra guest as well as have a dual function for everyday use. The trend in basements and garages is a movie room with large flat-screens and comfy lounge chairs. Roofs are being designed as terraces, sometimes with earthy grass or cool tile, or pocket gardens as a respite from the homeschooling going on inside. A journey through the Houzz app will lead one through a rabbit-hole of innovation and ideas.
Self-care is not just a hashtag. In the back of everyone’s minds is the definitive need to be an individual while being locked in with the family. Those private spaces, door to close and all, are being added. They include meditation and massage rooms, spas and saunas, and fitness and aromatherapy rooms.
“Most Hamptons homes are designed for outdoor entertainment,” said Dalene, suggesting “a three-season room, solarium, or sunroom filled with plants and flowers. Certainly, the additional oxygen will improve indoor air quality. Gardening, growing herbs and vegetables will help pass the time and also give satisfaction and a sense of independence from the grocery store.”
New builds are focused on everyday comforts. “It seems that people are spending more time at home, so I’d suggest a design that makes staying home as comfortable and entertaining as possible,” Cavallo added.
“In the lower level, I’d incorporate a home gym, a bar and recreation room, along with a theater. This can range from simple, affordable designs to ones that are large and extravagant. Another aspect of design I would pay attention to is the kitchen, making sure it’s open to the living area, with plenty of counter space and seating. During this time, most meals are being made from home, so it’s important to have good functional appliances as well,” he continued.
“For the outdoor space, I would suggest a spa,” he continued. “Swimming pools have a limited season, but a spa can be used almost year-round. Aside from that an outdoor bar, grill, and music in the backyard creates a resort-like setting.”
As the global family looks to finding a way to eradicate pandemics from the planet, humans do what they do best – innovate. It’s still too early to tell what will emerge from COVID-19 in terms of building innovation or design, but hearing builders talk about their ideas gives us pause. Builders help us to live better; their experience teaches us what we want before we even know it.