The Times They Are A Changin’

Oct 18, 2021, 15:13 PM

Pandemic fuels changes in how we live and use our homes in a trend OakWood calls 'Your Home is Your Hub'

The pandemic has fundamentally changed how people are using their homes - and plan to use their homes post pandemic.

Activities that were previously done somewhere else are now being carried out within the home for the foreseeable future - perhaps indefinitely.

OakWood is seeing these changes firsthand in terms of desired design features - for both home renovations and new custom homes. We are seeing reduced demand for complete open concept designs, a growing desire to include smart technology and improve energy efficiency, an overall trend to create special purpose rooms, design outdoor backyard sanctuaries, and a move to healthier and safer homes.

These and many other shifts in consumer preferences are defining a trend that OakWood is calling: Your Home is Your Hub for everything you do. It's a recognition that your home has become much more multi-functional, with multi-use spaces that need to work for how you live, learn, earn, and enjoy your space. 

So what are some of the big drivers and desired new features? Without a doubt one of the biggest ones that we are incorporating into designs, particularly for new custom homes, is the home office.

A working from home economy

A staggering number of people are now working from home. Although the pandemic was the primary catalyst, Global Workplace Analytics predict that 25-30% of the workforce will continue working-from-home multiple days-a-week by the end of 2021.

A recent survey by ADP Canada and Maru/Blue also showed strong support for flexible, remote working after Covid-19, with 61% of respondents between 18 to 34 saying they would prefer to work remotely at least 3 days a week. 

Some companies were quick off the mark to announce a switch to permanent remote working. Those leading the charge include Ottawa’s own homegrown mega success story – Shopify. Open Text Corp, Facebook, Twitter, Square, Coinbase, Upwork, Lambda Schools and KPMG are also part of the pack, to name a few. Many others are expected to embrace flexible work policies in a quest to hire and retain top talent.   

As a result, and not surprisingly, OakWood is finding that one of the top features desired by all homeowners is a well-designed office space. Hunkering down over the kitchen table that also serves as a work station won’t do!

What homeowners want now is a well-lit, well appointed, well insulated home office. Ensuring an adequate size for the office and a creative location – overlooking a garden or landscape of interest with great natural lighting – is also important for boosting productivity.

Special purpose rooms

A recent national home buyer preference survey conducted by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) revealed that homeowners are less interested in full open-concept floor plans. Instead, they want separate, special purpose rooms that are designed to better support specific activities while enabling members of the household to find a secluded space.

Examples OakWood is seeing include:

  • Formal dining room
  • Formal living room
  • Home office  
  • Laundry room
  • Gyms with a television for online
  • Learning spaces – for home study or home schooling
  • Home entertainment and theatre rooms

Ironically, creating separate spaces with a door and walls, including a home office, is a throw back to the way many homes used to be designed – before the trend to open floors and wall-less spaces. What is old, is becoming new again for different reasons!

If your home has been built with an open design, there are inexpensive design techniques that can help you create spaces that feel separate. For example, installing a half wall, decorative columns, hanging room divider screen panels that are offset by a transition to hardwood or a different area rug. OakWood’s Design Team can provide you with options in the context of a home or room renovation.

A notable exception to favoring special purpose rooms is the open concept eat-in kitchen with an island – which continues to be popular.  

Reducing energy costs 

With more time being spent in the home, energy use and efficiency is also becoming more important to many homeowners. No one wants to spend a lot of time sitting in a drafty corner or be constantly jacking-up the thermostat or A/C to make the home comfortable for working or any other activity.  

Energy Star certified appliances – dishwasher, fridge, washing machine, dryer – and windows are easy ways to immediately trim energy costs. If you’re planning on a home office or opening-up a family room with a new or larger window, in addition to energy efficient windows, upgraded insulation can also shave dollars off your utility bills.  

We’re also finding an increasing number of clients want to go way beyond Energy Star appliances and beefed-up insulation. They want their renovated or new custom home to qualify for Net Zero. Which simply means a home that will produce as much energy as it uses. Doing so means meeting minimum requirements for energy efficient design – which includes great mechanicals, Energy Star appliances, triple glazed windows, and other considerations.

However, to qualify as certified “Net Zero” versus “Net Zero ready”, the home also needs the ability to generate its own energy – usually through solar panels and/or wind power. For more information on the requirements for Net Zero check out OakWood’s detailed blog here.

Homes are sanctuaries for healthy living

More time spent in the home has alerted many homeowners to the importance of air quality and the overall healthiness of their home. Spending more time inside also means less exposure to fresh air.

The Heating Ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system has an important role to play in reducing the spread of any viruses. By increasing the rate of air change, reducing recirculation of stale air, increasing the use of outdoor air, and continuous filtration through a well maintained HVAC system will go a long way to reducing potentially harmful bacteria, viruses, allergens, and other particles.

An energy recovery ventilator (ERV), which is connected to the HVAC system’s duct work, also helps to provide superior air quality and ventilation. ERVs remove stale and polluted air from the home and replace this with fresh outside air while screening out common allergens including pollen and dust.

SMART technology is also emerging as having a role to play in helping to make the home healthier. By controlling more devices – from lights and appliances to security and HVAC systems – using voice technology or smart phones, homeowners can reduce the number of surfaces they touch to engage the features they want. In so doing, the ease with which viruses can be transmitted is reduced, helping to promote a healthier living environment.  

Creating an outdoor oasis 


Driven in part by health threats and reduced travel opportunities, many homeowners are now looking at their backyard for leisure, relaxation, and recreation. They want an outdoor oasis they can retreat to for dining, socializing, exercising, and relaxing.

As working for home becomes the new normal, the ability to quickly retreat to a safe, healthier, open air environment with tasteful landscaping is likely to become a much more important and desired feature.

Whether people continue to stay in the downtown core, or join the exodus to suburban and rural areas, everyone wants an outdoor oasis that can foster physical and mental well being.  

Your Home is Your Hub

These are just some of the top trends in desired home features that are being seen by the OakWood Team. These trends underscore how homeowners are valuing different features and using their home in different ways.

This is where the Your Home is Your Hub initiative comes in. It provides a framework for how OakWood looks at every aspect of the home when planning a renovation or new home build.  We start by understanding how you will use your space, how you need your home to function to better support your lifestyle and what’s important to you.

Whether it’s design and function, materials and finishes, build process and quality, a healthy home, energy efficient home, safe and secure home or a connected home that embraces SMART technologies.

Together, we’re refining how we design and build. We do this by understanding the multi-functional role of today’s home. And by turning ideas into action through design solutions and material choices that meet the needs of our clients and how they want to use their home.  

Welcome to a world where design and build come together to make your home everything you need it to be: a hub for the way you need and want to live your life. 


Patricia Liptak-Satov, OakWood, Vice President Operations. Patricia is dedicated to improving OakWood’s approach and introducing new methods to ensure a responsive, customer centric company that exceeds client expectations.