Home remodeling contractors and interior designers agree, 2020 was unlike any other year for their industry.
The world paused to absorb the realities of COVID-19 in March and then began to adapt. Calls from homeowners eager to remodel and renew rushed in like a tidal wave starting in April as we all began collectively nesting, local renovation experts said.
Outdoor spaces in particular got a lot of love last year as they became refuges for meeting with friends and family whom we hadn't seen for months.
Spring is the prime renovation season; however, the increased demand for home redesigns and projects are expected to continue throughout 2021.
Tired of staring at the same color wall? Paint it. Ceiling feeling a little low and closed in? Raise it. Kitchen appliances can't keep up with increased use? Replace them. Need a new work-from-home space? Design it.
Patios, pergolas, pools and putting greens ... those are just some of the outdoor projects homeowners are clamoring for as they continue to bring resort life home amid the pandemic.
Industry professionals talked with us about the spike in demand last year and shared trends and tips for homeowners, too. We've even got a great DIY project that will make a big statement in your home but is adaptable for all budgets.
Drive to redesign
Home is where the heart is. And in 2020, it's pretty much where everything else was too. Work from home, eat at home, play at home, school at home.
You know the drill.
So it's no surprise that so many decided to pull the trigger on improvement projects that had long been shuffled to "some day" on to-do lists.
And it wasn't just remodeling projects. New home construction spiked too.
Housing starts for the Tulsa area grew 22.8%, going from 3,080 in 2019 to 3,783 in 2020, according to Tulsa-based New Orders Weekly. That total is the highest since 4,303 starts were recorded in 2007. In January, area home construction increased 37.4% compared to the same time last year, according to the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa.
"I really think this is as busy as I have seen it since the time I got in this business in the '80s," said Brian Wiggs, owner of Brian D. Wiggs Homes. Wiggs is a past president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa, a top Tulsa builder and remodeler.
The industry had to adapt quickly to the consumer demands, said Dixie Moseley of Joie de Vie Interiors.
"Everything changed, none of us knew what to expect, it just came on so quickly. There was quarantine, then there was the question out there of what everything was going to look like moving forward. We had a sense that people are going to be spending more time at home and they are going to be looking around and taking stock. I have been blessed beyond hope as far as how our business has turned out in all of this," she said.
The Home Builders Association hosts many events throughout the year that are helpful to homeowners who are looking for remodeling contractors. The pandemic shutdown happened right in the middle of the Greater Tulsa Home & Garden Show in March 2020 so the event closed early. But it was clear even then, Wiggs said, the people who arrived before it closed were there to do business, asking thoughtful questions and for quotes.
"I think the entire marketplace is much more sophisticated, more educated today than ever before. They are more prepared to talk about remodeling. There may be some who are doing more themselves too, but they can't do the big projects," Wiggs said.
Then in the fall, the HBA's Home Remodeling Showcase was held and, again, attendees came focused, ready and raring to remodel. Virtual tours were also available for this event.
This year, the Greater Tulsa Home & Garden Show was back, running March 11-14, and there's still the Home Remodeling Showcase to look forward to in Sept. 25-26.
So what sort of projects were homeowners interested in?
"Maybe they were thinking about a new kitchen, maybe they were thinking about updating the master bathroom ... They had more time at home last year to watch those home remodeling programs and they were able to make more phone calls to remodelers," Wiggs said.
Enhancing entertainment options at home became a high priority, too, he said.
"I think technology continues to drive how people operate their homes, large-screen TVs, full surround sound ... With people not going out as much, they are wanting enhanced viewing capacity and more people are putting in wireless, too," Wiggs said.
Demand spiked last year for outdoor living projects, such as swimming pools, outdoor kitchen projects and pergolas, "things people can get to make their homes more resort like," Wiggs said.
Living the club life
Want to make your staycation dreams come true? Pools and putting greens are popular projects that offer new entertainment options at home. Here's some information from local experts.
"Pools went from something that was already in high demand in our region, because how hot it can get here, to whole other level," said Luke Fiveash, designer and sales representative, for Baker Pools, 1817 N. Elm St., Jenks.
The spike in new construction last year added more demand for pools too, he said.
"From April on, literally every month last year was a record month," Fiveash said.
Don't hesitate if you are considering a new pool for your backyard, experts cautioned. While builders and remodelers still have connections to contractors to get the pools built despite demand, individual homeowners will have a harder time getting on the ever-growing lists.
Now, Baker Pools is booking projects to start construction in the fall, but at the current pace, they will soon be booking projects for 2022 and beyond.
"We are a small local business, but we are a really big small business," Fiveash said, with Baker Pools averaging about 120 pools a year.
Trends in pool construction mirror the rest of the industry, he said, with a continued demand for the "farmhouse style, with contemporary materials and flair."
"We are doing a lot more geometric-style pools, such as rectangles, but using natural stone to tie them together," Fiveash said.
At Baker Pools, customers can see what the pool and surrounding landscape will look like with 3-D technology that creates a video rendering of the space.
"We can literally walk around the landscape together. People have always told me, 'I'm a visual person, if you don't show me what you are talking about, I won't get it.' Now, I can literally show you," he said.
Putting greens and backyard spaces
New options for artificial turf lawn projects continue to expand, with putting greens, for example, popping up throughout residential areas. ForeverLawn Tulsa has been doing business here for more than six years and continues to grow every year, said Ross Spencer, CEO of ForeverLawn Tulsa.
"ForeverLawn Tulsa offers many different product lines to accommodate different residential and commercial spaces. Everything from their GolfGreens products for your very own putting green, their Landscape Grass for different backyard entertainment and pool-surround spaces, their PlaygroundGrass for children's play spaces, their K9Grass for pet-heavy areas and many more," Spencer said.
The artificial turf completely transforms spaces aesthetically and functionally, he said. And demand for these projects increased last year too
"We definitely saw an increase in projects, both commercial and residential last year, and definitely had a lot more phone calls for things like putting greens, backyard spaces and pool areas," Spencer said. "We heard from a lot of customers who always wanted a putting green and never had the time to think about it. This gave them the time to think about it and pull the trigger.
"It was the perfect time to go all out in the backyard. Make it an entertaining space," he said.
From refresh to fabulous
Cy Murray wanted to update her kitchen, but nine months later, she ended up with an entirely new home.
The ideas pitched by her interior design team, headed by Dixie Moseley of Joie de Vie Interiors, were just that good.
"I gave her carte blanche because she was pretty much on the top of her game," Murray said. "When I heard her ideas, I told her to just knock everything out."
The 1970s ranch-style home in the Holiday Hills subdivision near 61st Street and Harvard Avenue that Murray bought six years ago needed a refresh. It was filled with dark colors and woods and dated flooring, surfaces and spaces.
The good news: Murray wisely had a feeling the neighborhood was ripe for revival and she was primed to lead the way.
Murray moved out of her house at the end of 2019 to let Moseley "do her thing." But the bulk of her renovations occurred during a unique time in the world — smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic.
Murray saw only positives from the timing, especially when her family settled into a freshly remodeled home in August 2020.
"It was actually perfect because I'm self-employed, so I generated my own little home office," Murray said describing her WFM space in the house she bought a block away as an investment and to live in during the renovations.
"Then to return, it was like a safe haven and so beautiful and refreshing. There was not a better time. During the pandemic, there was not much to do anymore. I had plenty of time for meetings about the progress and to check on the house. Otherwise, I would not have had as much time to do it so easily. It gave us time to focus on the remodel, as well as come back after the remodel and enjoy the house," Murray said.
Renovating the house all at once made sense to Murray, and she would recommend it.
"I think one mistake that homeowners make is going room to room as they have time and the budget rather than saving and doing the entire house. Then, you are not living in dust all the time and it all blends together nicely," Murray said.
Moseley showed Murray pictures based on the style she was seeking. They focused on light, earthy elements for the Scandinavian-inspired design.
"I think everybody who comes here, they are just blown away by the kitchen and living room and they all want to move into the master bath," which she said has a wet bar, coffee area and a beautiful stone wall by the bathtub.
"When I bought this house, I knew the neighborhood would be the next big thing. As soon I started remodeling, I saw the storage containers pop up in front of other homes too. They were doing the same thing. The neighborhood is changing sooner than later," Murray said.
Moseley, who headquarters out of the Joie de Vie Interiors storefront at 4224 S. Peoria Ave., said the project was immensely rewarding.
"You would absolutely not recognize it being the same house. There is not a surface we did not change, and it was a fabulous end result," Moseley said.
Historically, Moseley has found that homeowners primarily seek improvements to kitchens and bathroom suites for the master bedroom.
"That has largely been because it has the greatest return on investment, and I think with people being at home last year, it just amplified all of that. People are spending far more time at home and seeking their entertainment there too," Moseley said.
Creating a bedroom space that is a peaceful retreat has been another popular trend, she said.
"And as far as the home office trend, people are wanting built-in cabinetry in their office space. We are also getting more calls from people wanting to upgrade a space, maybe it was not an office to begin with but they are wanting to convert a dining room or perhaps a bedroom into a formal office," Moseley said.
The whole redesign process starts with a conversation to hone in on the homeowner's needs, lifestyle and dreams for the home.
"It really is not just about creating pretty space. Functional comes first and aesthetics are secondary to that," Moseley said. "It is a very personal thing, and we don't take it lightly. We realize it is a great level of trust a family is placing with us to be in their home, to impact their life ... that is really what drives us."
For those looking to quickly create a fresh look for their home, a trend that is popular in interior design is wall coverings, Moseley said.
"There are all types of wall coverings, not just the wall papers of the '80s and '90s. We are doing more wall coverings in select areas to add texture. Grass cloth has been real fun. We have incorporated that into multiple rooms, some real, some faux. When you are doing a monochromatic room, texture is very important to keep it interesting and add dimension. Florals and even murals are coming to the forefront," Moseley said
New wall coverings can even incorporate glass, metals or gilding to make the room appear, "glamorous, textural, warm and cozy."
Homeowners had time to re-evaluate their appliances during quarantine in 2020 and many opted for upgrades, said Tarah Duncan, assistant general manager with Metro Appliances and More, 5313 S. Mingo Road.
"We noticed that people were using their kitchens more, cooking at home more, and they thought, 'Oh, my gosh. Look at this junk.' They paid more attention to the old appliances they were cooking with and decided it was time for something new," Duncan said.
New appliances are a fast way to upgrade a kitchen if you aren't ready for a remodel.
"Metro never stopped doing business last year; the showroom was closed for a few weeks, but we were still receiving and delivering product. We opened the showroom back up and were full-steam ahead in sales," Duncan said.
So if you are feeling the itch to ditch your outdated appliances, don't wait too long. Demand is high and wait lists can be long.
"Demand is just crazy. The manufacturers are backordered, you definitely need a much longer lead time. They have had to do social distancing and take more precautions in the facilities, so that puts a strain on production," Duncan said.
Those looking to mix it up in the kitchen are bringing back color, Duncan explained.
"For so long it was nothing but stainless, but people are going back to color. White is a new-old trend because everything is cyclical. We are seeing a lot of white kitchens with white appliances. We are even seeing kitchens with avocado cream appliances, which was obviously a trend from decades ago," Duncan said.
LG offers freezers that can make craft ice for the cocktail connoisseur, and GE CAFE put a built-in Keurig on the door of a refrigerator to save counter space.
Technology is taking over in the appliances world. Some cool new features that have come out include air fryers inside ovens and remote access to turn ovens on to preheat while you are away. Remote access cameras also let you see inside your fridge and save a trip home to see if you need to pick up some milk.
"Also, with that technology, if you have something wrong with your appliance, the service tech can diagnose it without coming out so they can order the part first. Or you can diagnose it with an app on your phone and save a step," she said.