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Neighborhood organizations serve as by way of be offering considerations, pandemic this vacation getaway surfing 12 months

Every person will retain their own memory bank of freeze frames from the year of...

Every person will retain their own memory bank of freeze frames from the year of the pandemic.

For Jennie and Mark Hargis, the images will be of a jacked roof, a backyard hole and a library ladder, all related to a major remodel that put an addition on — under and over — their Woodbury home.

“We had to dig deep to decide what we wanted. Did that mean staying put, building new or listing and moving on?” said Jennie. “We decided to invest in what we had to make it our forever home.”

“We’re on a large lot on a cul-de-sac. It’s a beautiful, mature neighborhood that used to be a Christmas tree farm,” added Mark. “But what we couldn’t duplicate anyplace else were the years of memories here.”

Mark grew up in the three-level rambler, built in 1980. He inherited it in 2018 following the deaths of his parents. The couple moved in with their young children and started contemplating their options.

Their decision to update the property arrived around the same time as the lockdown and turned into a yearlong process, executed by Oakdale-based Cardinal Remodeling.

While Jennie taught middle school and the three Hargis kids shifted to online learning, construction workers gutted and then reconfigured the floor plan, taking off the roof in the living space to vault the ceiling.

Crews dug up the 30-year-old backyard pool and replaced it with a new version, moved across the backyard to make room for a sport court that converts to a hockey rink. An addition with an owner’s suite, office and four-season porch went on the back, and the piece de resistance went into the space beneath it — a rec room/theater/man cave complete with a golf simulator.

“Watching this come together broke the boredom,” said Jennie. “The adventure made this strange year go faster.”

Being stuck at home for an unprecedented period has magnified the flaws in existing living spaces for many a homeowner. But the tight housing inventory has thwarted opportunities for potential home buyers to land a more suitable house and instead has prompted a run on remodeling.

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“Moving is not a viable option for a lot of families. They want a larger house but they can’t find one,” said Shawn Nelson, president of New Spaces remodeling in Burnsville. “They see the crazy bidding wars and they look hard at what would it take to transform what they’ve got to remake it so that it will work.”

Nelson said the projects his company has taken on “run the gamut” from kitchen and owners’ suite updates to whole-house remodels.

“With values going up, remodeling translates into greater equity in their house,” he said.

Hitting the roof

Many families that Samantha Grose works with have decided that the best way to get more square footage is to build their castle in the air.

Grose, principal designer and owner of Edina-based Oak & Arrow Homes, often works with clients who own older homes in Minneapolis or St. Paul or first-ring suburbs, where the size of their city lots won’t always accommodate larger additions.

“They’re established in their neighborhoods and want their kids to stay in their schools, so the area they’re looking at for their next house is small and that limits the options,” she said.

A solution can be to stay in their home and build up instead of building out.

“Adding a second floor is very efficient. When we take the roof off we can put in dormers and create other space. It’s our challenge to make sure the elevation fits the scope of the block.”

In the past, Grose has advised families to move out for four months during the upheaval of the construction. But the pandemic-induced disruptions in the supply chain have led her to warn clients to prepare for a six-month leave.

“It’s quite a sophisticated process to assemble a home, and right now there are all these bottlenecks. There are material and labor shortages across the board in our industry,” she explained. “There’s chaos with shipping. No matter when you order a tub, delivery gets delayed and that causes other slowdowns; we can’t do the rough-ins and pipe everything. These are problems that won’t be ironed out soon.”

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Across the nation and in the Twin Cities, versatility in residential space is newly prized.

“In this year, our homes became our everything. The space has to serve many functions. Our homes are our offices, gyms and schoolrooms, our restaurants and bars,” said Tim Barlow, director analyst with consumer research firm Gartner.

Barlow said that Gartner’s surveys of consumer attitudes have detected a distinct swing in how the home is regarded.

“Our research shows people identify their home as a refuge, a place where they can relax and escape,” he said. “That represents their desire for serenity and security, which are long-term values, so I don’t see a quick reset on that in the post-pandemic era.”

That yearning for home sanctuaries is behind the spike in interest in expanded and indulgent bathrooms. More homeowners want to pamper themselves in private spaces that simulate a high-end spa or five-star hotel.

“They want an oasis, with a larger, brighter shower with frameless glass or a shower system with all the little sprayers on the wall and a rain shower head that comes down from the ceiling,” said Laura Wiener Scheidecker, operations manager at Cardinal Homebuilding and Remodeling.

To make space for the luxury updates, remodelers are pulling older features.

“They’re getting rid of the jetted tubs with the decks and going with the free-standing soaking tubs that make the bathroom feel larger,” Scheidecker said.

With homeowners spending months working at the dining room table or at a desk shoved into a makeshift nook in a basement, a dedicated office is also in high demand. That can range from undertaking a new addition to carving out existing space in a modest home remodel.

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Even when the pandemic is declared over, remote work is widely predicted to become permanent as many employees see their jobs shift to their homes for all or part of the week.

When the office is in the home, decisions about the space become more personal and need to be crafted to be practical, as well, according to Scheidecker.

“We think about adding insulation to soundproof the rooms where they’re working. They’re not going with the sliding barn doors that look awesome, they’re choosing regular doors that are tighter from a noise standpoint,” she said.

Wish fulfillment

Homeowners who want to transform their property will have to be patient. In the Twin Cities, many companies specializing in remodeling report that they are booked solid through the rest of the year and that home projects are being scheduled into 2022.

In Woodbury, the whole house project at the Hargis home is wrapping up and the family is getting accustomed to numerous new adaptations. The back entrance from the yard now opens into a changing area for the pool. An updated mudroom includes five lockers to organize shoes, outerwear and skating gear. And the newly customized pantry fulfills a whimsical wish of the lady of the house.

“I’ve always loved the look of a library ladder, like the one Belle hangs on in ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ I incorporated mine to slide on pantry shelves instead of bookshelves,” said Jennie.

While living in the midst of construction has been hectic, the Hargises say the trouble has already proven to be worthwhile.

“The pandemic reinforced this was the right thing to do,” said Mark. “For a year when you couldn’t go to a rink or a restaurant or a public pool, we were having fun together as a family in this space. Even with the mess, it’s been great.”

Kevyn Burger is a Minneapolis-based freelance broadcaster and writer.