For the nine years I’ve lived in it, I’ve had in my (otherwise very cute if I do say so myself) house, a room I actively hated.
I think most of us have this room. Perhaps yours is a cluttered “home office” that has become a dumping ground for shopping bags, toys, online returns and bouquets of charge cords for long-forgotten, decade-old devices. Perhaps it’s an overstuffed linen closet, or a spidery dungeon of a laundry room. Maybe it’s a treadmill heaped with clothing shoved into a “guest bedroom.”
Mine was a carpeted bathroom. And when I say carpeted, I mean carpeted. Even the baseboards were carpeted. Not plush, maybe-you-could-be-convinced-this-is-luxury carpet, mind you, but rather an indoor/outdoor job in a colour that’s neither green, grey nor blue, but somehow all three.
Calling this room a “room” is also generous. It’s actually a former closet some enterprising former owner turned into a tiny two-piece second bath, a literal water closet. In addition to the carpet — which, no matter how hard I tried to keep clean, was doubtlessly just crawling with germs because who puts carpet in a bathroom — our little W/C also featured a truly hideous seashell-shaped corner vanity that forced whoever was sitting on the toilet to sit side-saddle which is, uh, not really how you want to sit on a toilet in a carpeted bathroom. This room is also right beside the TV, which gives major pre-renovation West End Cultural Centre vibes (IYKYK).
Well, we finally refreshed that bad boy. The carpet is gone, the baseboards are made out of wood, and it is much more aesthetically pleasing. Best of all, it’s much easier to keep clean — and you can sit on the toilet normally thanks to a tiny 18-inch vanity I found at Home Depot.
Like many people, I threw myself into home improvement during the pandemic because nothing makes you go “wow, I actually hate the colour of these walls” like seeing them every day for two years.
Most of these improvements were small putter projects. I figured out better organizational systems for my pantry and closets. I purged and purged again. I bought new bedding. I made a couple gallery walls out of prints I already had. My husband converted the closet in his office into a space for his drawing table (he’s an illustrator); Gym Halpert — my home office/home gym hybrid, named after Jim Halpert from The Office — was probably my best pandemic innovation as I still use it daily.
Some were just new routines, like my Weekly Tulips, which is a thing I started doing in the spring of 2020. Nothing is more cheerful than a bouquet of tulips on the dining room table.
We live in a 740 square foot bungalow — which, fortunately, has a finished basement — but it’s still a relatively small space for two people to live and work in, which means organization hacks and “making use of vertical space,” as IKEA likes to say, are my jam. We did a full renovation of the main floor six years ago, and since then have been continuing to make our 98-year-old house our home.
Although it has a weirdly open floor plan for a house build in 1924, my house still has actual rooms, for which I am grateful. The COVID-19 pandemic got people rethinking those airy, open-concept floor plans; as it turns out, walls are pretty useful if your home is suddenly also an office, gym, school, movie theatre and restaurant during a global contagion. In addition to rendering the noise pollution of Zoom calls inescapable, open-concept plans also make it difficult to isolate — whether you’re sick or just, you know, need a minute — from family members.
Global public health crises and changing hygiene norms have always had a hand in influencing home design, as this piece from Real Simple outlines.
Those steamy (literally and figuratively) radiators that can be found overheating many of Winnipeg’s older homes and apartments, for example? That’s a 1918 Spanish flu innovation. They are designed to allow people to keep their windows fully open during winter — a.k.a. cold and flu season.
(A carpeted bathroom seems like opposite of a health design innovation, but at least mine’s gone now.)
The COVID-19 pandemic is already leaving its fingerprints on home design; people are thinking more about dedicated home offices as well as outdoor spaces, improving ventilation, and making their homes the kind of place they want to spend time in. That might look like a full-scale renovation, but it also might be as simple as rethinking a room. I lived for rearranging my bedroom as a kid; it completely changes your perspective and makes things feel brand new.
But isolation improvements aside, the pandemic made me all the more grateful for my home — carpeted bathroom and all. To quote the Tom Waits lyric that hangs on my wall: “If there’s love in a house, it’s a palace for sure.”
Jen Zoratti, Columnist