The COVID-19 pandemic is changing our homes the way it’s changing our lives — inside and out, in big ways and small. Six months in, most people have accepted that the virus is not going away anytime soon, and we’re adapting our living spaces to stay safe and sane, to keep working and to find joy where we can. 

Here’s how some Seattle-area residents have changed their homes since the pandemic hit, including my own experience as a working-from-home mom living in West Seattle. 

The author created a mask station by her front door to corral her family’s growing array of face coverings. (Courtesy of Bree Coven Foster)
The author created a mask station by her front door to corral her family’s growing array of face coverings. (Courtesy of Bree Coven Foster)

Safety measures 

People around the Puget Sound are creating ways to corral their safety gear and setting up decontamination stations for groceries, mail and their own bodies.

I recently installed a mask station by my front door with hooks for each member of the family and a shelf for extra filters and hand sanitizer. A coat rack would also work well for this purpose. 

Other ideas:

“I do inpatient care at Harborview, and I have kids and an elderly parent, so I set up a ‘decon’ station for when I get home from work. I use the side door to the storage area where we used to keep our bikes, and I’ve set up a cardboard box with a spray bottle of alcohol for my phone, hand sanitizer and paper towels. I take off my scrubs, drop them on the floor, leave my shoes and go right to the shower. Everything for work stays in this zone, including my face shield and N95 mask. I do it in reverse when I go back to work.” — Dr. Amy Baernstein, Ballard

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Harborview physician Amy Baernstein created a home decontamination station where she leaves all of her PPE and sanitizes her phone and hands before entering the house. (Courtesy of Amy Baernstein)
Harborview physician Amy Baernstein created a home decontamination station where she leaves all of her PPE and sanitizes her phone and hands before entering the house. (Courtesy of Amy Baernstein)

“We do grocery staging in the garage for weekly deliveries. We moved everything around so we can separate perishables and nonperishables and keep things there for 24 hours so we don’t have to wipe and wash everything down. We put a table next to the door for things that can go inside, which the kids love because it feels like you’re going to the grocery store.” — Shannon Martin, Lake Stevens

“We moved from a two-bedroom to a one-bedroom apartment. We wanted a place we could afford on one income in case one of us loses our job, and an apartment with an external door so deliveries could be made right to our door, decreasing our chances of run-ins with neighbors or delivery people. We also wanted a place within walking distance of grocery stores and restaurants to reduce our time on buses or in Ubers, all to reduce our chances of contracting COVID-19.” — Jennifer Danielle, North Admiral

Managing WFH 

After four months of working from home, I realized that working at the kitchen table is not a long-term solution. So I commandeered a quiet corner of the living room and got a comfy office chair and a chair mat. I also bought a green screen to enhance the virtual backgrounds on Zoom calls so I don’t have to worry about having a perfectly clean house for every meeting. 

Other ideas:

“My stepdaughter is quarantined with her mom. Her bedroom at our house is now my husband’s temporary office, which includes a standing desk and a bicycle that can be converted into a stationary bike.” — Amy Tipton, Belltown

“I had to turn the tiny dining area in the condo into part-office now that I work from home. I bought a computer cart and shoved the dining table over in the corner. I also bought a lot of plants since I’m spending so much time indoors.” — Sue Holly, Gatewood

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Seattleite Johanna Lindsay created a standing desk from materials found at hardware and craft stores. The entire thing can be disassembled and reused for other purposes in the future. (Courtesy of Johanna Lindsay)
Seattleite Johanna Lindsay created a standing desk from materials found at hardware and craft stores. The entire thing can be disassembled and reused for other purposes in the future. (Courtesy of Johanna Lindsay)

“We turned part of my art fair booth into a standing desk. Everything disassembles and came from either the hardware store or craft store. Pro tip: Lifetime 4-foot tables come in bar height, which is perfect for this.” — Johanna Lindsay, Seaview

Fun enhancements

Backyard upgrades can make home the place to be, no matter what phase we’re in. 

These inspiring ideas bring home the fun: 

“I bought a giant trampoline for the kids! They’re bouncing off walls, quite literally.” — Erin Stearns, West Seattle

Lindzee McCain and Jeff Katims, of Delridge, installed an above-ground pool to enhance their time at home. (Courtesy of Lindzee McCain)
Lindzee McCain and Jeff Katims, of Delridge, installed an above-ground pool to enhance their time at home. (Courtesy of Lindzee McCain)

“We put in a pool (above ground!) so we could stay home and enjoy our own backyard as much as possible this summer. There is little temptation to leave the house these days!” — Lindzee McCain and Jeff Katims, Delridge

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“We built a deck/patio so we can social distance outside with close friends and family. We didn’t have anywhere to sit before so would never have visitors, but now we do.” — Kristel Williams, West Seattle

“I have an at-home outdoor gym. I’ve purchased a HeroBox processor and webcam to attach to my TV to teach and attend classes via Zoom.” — Karla Mohtashemi, Burien

Home improvements

A new backyard office would certainly make working from home more pleasant. But it’s also the little things that make a home happy. 

Here are some ways local residents are improving their homes, indoors and out:

“We got air conditioning and I’m working on a meditation corner in my bedroom.” — Darcie Syme, Redmond

“We’re planning on building or buying a backyard studio shed. We also had our house painted pink because we all need more joy.” — Cedar Burnett, North Seattle

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“I added a bird feeder and bird bath to my front yard that I can see from my couch! I’ve done all kinds of little things around the house and outside that I have put off for years.” — Jill Boone, Gatewood

Jenn Hunter, of West Seattle’s Genesee neighborhood,  expanded her vegetable garden to be more self-sufficient and to have fresh food to donate to the West Seattle Food Bank. (Courtesy of Jenn Hunter)
Jenn Hunter, of West Seattle’s Genesee neighborhood, expanded her vegetable garden to be more self-sufficient and to have fresh food to donate to the West Seattle Food Bank. (Courtesy of Jenn Hunter)

Garden amendments 

Seattle has always been home to urban homesteaders, but backyard chicken farming and victory gardens have taken on even greater importance in the pandemic era. 

These locals are spending more time in the dirt for self-sufficiency and as an outdoor activity:

I’ve expanded the garden so that we can be as self-sufficient as possible, and so we can donate produce regularly to the West Seattle Food Bank. Food banks are serving about three times their regular clientele right now.” — Jenn Hunter, Genesee

Seattleite Stephanie Raymond is growing three times the usual amount in her garden, which already had a flock of backyard chickens (with literary names; pictured is Elizabeth Hennet). (Courtesy of Stephanie Raymond)
Seattleite Stephanie Raymond is growing three times the usual amount in her garden, which already had a flock of backyard chickens (with literary names; pictured is Elizabeth Hennet). (Courtesy of Stephanie Raymond)

“Our food garden is at least three times what we would usually have put in. Part of that is uncertainty about what’s coming, but a lot of it was being unemployed and having the time to put in a larger garden!” — Stephanie Raymond, Alki  

“We wanted to minimize our trips to the store for fresh produce. Thinking long term, we decided to tear up the grass in our front lawn and build six more raised veggie beds! Now we are seeing the results of that gardening project and have been able to share an abundance of fresh, organic produce with friends and neighbors.” — Summer Love, White Center