112 Elk Point, Durango, CO.

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Can you hear us over the sounds of the jackhammer??

If you live in a vacation community, you’re probably seeing construction everywhere. And your contractor is telling you to get in line…. Constance Mitchell Ford dives into the why: 

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we live and work – and that’s prompting changes in the way custom builders are designing new vacation homes.

Rustic log cabins, tiny bohemian abodes and wine cellars have become less popular in the pandemic era as vacation-home buyers want more of the following amenities: 

• More bedrooms and ensuites to accommodate extended families
• Multi-function rooms that can be used for home-schooling or for quarantine

• Mud rooms, also called “drop zones” to decontaminate

• More outdoor living space. 

photo: Classique Builders

“People are calling it the Covid design,” said Frank Enea, president of Classique Builders in Durango, Colo. “People still want that resort feel, like they’re away,” but because they are spending more time in their vacation homes than in the past, they also want some of the features of their primary home.


• Two home offices, one for each spouse.

• Ample storage space for recreational equipment such as mountain bikes, kayaks and skis

• Bigger mud rooms to isolate clothing and backpacks from the rest of the house. (Mud rooms are such the rage, we list them twice.)

photo: Classique Builders

Interior designs are becoming more refined. For the past 10 years, the most popular design for Classique Builders was “mountain modern,” which was part rustic and part modern. But now, there is growing demand for what the company calls “mountain sophisticated,” which blends some LA-inspired design with rustic styles. In other words, vacation-home buyers still want elements of rustic, but not too rustic. Smooth walls, not log walls.

photo: Classique Builders

The biggest request, though, from buyers of custom-built vacation homes is outdoor living space where families can still socialize–at a distance. “Not everyone has a million dollars to build the big outdoor living room,” said Mr. Enea,“but maybe they want a really nice deck with a firepit.” 

It all means that vacation homes are growing. In some cases,

the vacation home is now bigger than the primary home because the property is blending three different lifestyles: work, school and play.

As a result, home builders are redesigning their most popular models to include additional rooms and space. 

photo: Classique Builders

A decade ago, popular room additions included nonessential features such as wine cellars, but architects say that’s changed. “Now we’re seeing much more functional room additions,” notes Kermit Baker, chief economist at the American Institute of Architects, “reflective of the emerging lifestyle that we’re experiencing in the pandemic.”

Each year, the institute surveys residential architects and home building companies about home-design trends. The most recent survey published in September—the first since the Covid-19 crisis—finds:

• 68% of respondents said the popularity of home offices had increased in the past year, up from 29% in 2019

• 61% of respondents said demand for outdoor living space had become more popular, the same as 2019. 

Two features that didn’t even show up in the 2019 survey, made the cut in 2020:

 Multi-function rooms, which can be used for different needs including as a quarantine room

• Exercise rooms, which reflects continued avoidance of public gyms and health clubs.

On outdoor space, Baker said the category “was growing a lot in 2019 and now it’s growing a lot again.”


photo: Classique Builders

Even in the northeast, where the winters can get extremely cold, vacation-home builders are designing more outdoor living space that can be used for several seasons. Jason Beane, a designer at Blue Water Construction & Development, which builds custom homes in the lakes region of New Hampshire, said his company has traditionally built vacation homes that were used mainly in the summer. But now the buildings are designed to be used year around.

“The outdoor kitchen and outdoor living space has always been a big design feature in our vacation homes, but now the outdoor space is being designed for three seasons, not just one season,” he said. That means adding more heating elements inside and outside. “We’re even heating up the garages now,” said Beane.

photo: Classique Builders

A popular feature is the three-season porch, a screened-in room off the main house typically with lots of windows and skylights. For comfort in colder months, the rooms are designed to include gas heaters or fireplaces and glass inserts that replace the screens in the fall.  “Screened-in porches have always been popular, but we’re seeing more of that than ever.” Blue Water specializes in Adirondack timber frame homes.

The big question now is whether these design trends—and our embrace of spending more time outdoors in the cold—will be long lasting or just a temporary response to the pandemic. If so, the basement office can always be turned back into the wine cellar. 


In the news… 

A black and white photograph of the capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Preamble: There was ONE story this week and these are the real-estate angles you need to know about: 

Airbnb steps up: Phew — President Biden’s inauguration came and went off peacefully. In addition to the more 20,000 troops temporarily stationed in Washington, D.C., Airbnb preemptively canceled all reservations in the area for inauguration week. The company refunded guests whose reservations were canceled and promised to reimburse hosts for lost income. 

What’s next for real estate: With a new president in charge there are bound to be changes to the industry. Already, Biden has extended a federal moratorium on evictions through March. Many also speculate that he will end certain measures that have benefited those in real estate, including tax breaks. 

Where will Javanka go now? There has been much speculation on where Jared and Ivanka will go now that they are no longer D.C. insiders and very much New York City outcasts. The two recently bought a 1.8-acre lot for $30 million on Indian Creek Island, Miami’s most exclusive neighborhood. Their neighbors will include the Emir of Qatar; Jared’s brother Josh and his wife, model Karlie Kloss; and Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen, among others. 


By the numbers 

$2.6 mllion

That’s the sales price of David Cassidy’s six-bedroom waterfront home in South Florida. An LA-based real estate investor plans to renovate it and chronicle the transformation for a television show. Cassidy, the shaggy-haired star of “The Partridge Family,” died in 2017. 


Products we love

photo: Amazon.com

Pet carriers: Fido needs an escape home, too. This collapsable space capsule backpack looks cool and is functional.

Overnight bags: This Herschel weekend bag won us over because not only does it come in a variety of prints ranging from minimalist to funky, but has a separate compartment for your shoes — genius.

Beach towel clips: We too, are guilty of thinking that towel clips are an unnecessary invention. And then we spent an entire day at the beach trying to keep our towel from blowing away and constantly having to adjust. Not. Relaxing. Try these — we promise they make life easier. 

RobesWhat is it about the addition of crisp, white robes that elevates the vacation experience so much? Your second home — whether you rent it out or not — should not be without. These lightweight, unisex, one-size-fits-all robes are a great, not to mention super affordable, option.


On the market

photo: Realtor.com

We are dreaming about these seven stunning homes, all equipped with helipads. They range from a four-bedroom that boasts a temperature-controlled wine cellar in Beecher, Illinois, 35 miles south of Chicago listed at $1,090,000, to a sweeping oceanfront property in Gold Beach, Oregon listed at $9,988,800.


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