Shelter in Place: How Our Readers Are Adjusting to the New Normal

Shelter in Place: How Our Readers Are Adjusting to the New Normal

By Duncan Nielsen
Dining rooms everywhere are working overtime as offices, yoga studios, and game zones—and weekend warriors are camping out on the roof.

As we shelter in place during the coronavirus pandemic, we’re coping in ways we never imagined. Board game companies can’t ship quickly enough; families with children are learning how to homeschool; and renovators are tackling projects to improve their homes while keeping boredom at bay. We asked our readers to tell us how they’re adjusting to life inside—and occasionally outside—their own four walls. Here’s how they responded.  

Katherine Schroder in Ketchum, Idaho

"We set up a kitchen island/homework/work station, and we also shoveled the snow around in the backyard so we could set up a trampoline," says Katherine. Here, Huxley, age six, and Brierley, age three, get some work done in the kitchen.

It started snowing again, so we haven’t been out to the trampoline. We are a family of four living in a 1,340-square-foot townhome. Ketchum is in the ski resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho. We are lucky to live in such a beautiful place, but sadly our town has one of the highest infection rates of COVID-19 per capita—there was an article in the New York Times featuring our situation. So we are taking social distancing seriously, but we’re grateful to be able to get outside for walks around the neighborhood, where we’ve been watching a herd of about 100 elk graze on the hillside!

Nicole Schmiedl in Denver, Colorado

The living room doubles as a conference room for calls, and becomes a puzzle zone on date nights. 

For the last two weeks, our lives have been confined to my 660-square-foot apartment. We’ve tried our best to establish and maintain a routine—get up at 7 a.m., make coffee, and watch our daily allotment of the news. From there we’ll head to our "offices" for the day—the couch or the breakfast table—where throughout the day we’ll simultaneously take our Zoom calls and work. 

We’ll unwind from the day by walking our neighborhood or FaceTiming with friends, and then we’ve been making meals and scheduling date nights such as a puzzle night, spa night, or movie night. We try to practice gratitude and find the joys in simple things, as we slow down life and try to stay sane.

"We treated ourselves to rooftop camping!" says Nicole. 

Kenny Isidoro in Boston, Massachusetts

The dining room table wears a lot of hats through the course of a single day. Here, it’s Kenny’s turn to help the kids with schoolwork.

When we first heard of school closings, we knew we needed a schedule and routine in place if we were to make this thing work. So my wife Christina and I got together and wrote down a schedule. 

I get up early and do about half a day’s work, while she gets our three children ready for the day, doing morning meetings with their class and some schoolwork. Then we switch. I'll take the kids outside for a bike ride, nature walk, or sports, while she focuses on her work. We’ll prepare lunch together and eat as a family. 

The afternoon is similar. We all start with some quiet time. The littlest one takes a nap, while the bigger kids do some quiet schoolwork and creative projects. I’ll typically end my day at five o’clock, and then we have some free play for a while and get dinner ready. We clean it all up and do it all over again the next day!

Josh Wells in Sun Valley, Idaho

Josh converted a dining room table into a workstation.

Given the current environment around COVID-19, my wife and I are both working from home and doing our best to entertain/educate our son. I’ve also been working in a little space in our kitchen and occasionally on the dining table. We’re all over the place! Honestly, it hasn’t been too bad—our home is small but lives large and we’re lucky to be able to expand into our garage.

Josh’s wife Stephanie guides an at-home yoga session as their son follows along.

Peter Harrison in Middle Grove, New York

Peter’s new hard-at-work assistant passes over a bolt.

Here’s the final assembly of my newest table with my super cute studio assistant. I’m feeling really fortunate to have my studio on my own property. It’s a short walk from the house.

Kendra Shea in West Seattle, Washington

Meals are kept simple for Kendra, her husband, and the two pugs. With their kitchen under construction, doing the dishes isn’t all that easy.

I live with my husband and two pugs. We run our own freelance interior design studio out of our 1000-square-foot home that was built in 1951. We bought it in 2015, and we were in the middle of a renovation of the kitchen and living room when social distancing measures really ramped up. 

Our contractor had hand sanitizer on-site and was great about doing their best to be in front of this. We would shut ourselves into bedrooms or stay out in our garden during the day. After the workday was done, we would wipe down door knobs, switches, and anything else we could think of. Of course, construction has now been deemed unessential, so it had to stop.

We are keeping positive, though. We do have a roof over our heads, food to eat, dogs to play with, and the ability to be outside without leaving our property. And we found original hardwood floors. So, at the very least I get to love my new floor while we stay safe at home. 

Sharon Fraser in Bangalow, Australia

I’m an architect, but I also do voice-over. I’m "self isolating" in my booth doing cheer-up comedy videos.

Deanna Brownwell on Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Deanna is used to the work-at-home life, having done so for the past several years, but helping coworkers adapt to an all-online workflow has had its challenges. One of of the hardest parts, she says, is knowing how to hang it up for the day. 

I work from home in a sales role for a large global technology company, so for me the switch to being at home and working hasn’t been as impactful as some have experienced. The biggest changes for me right now are watching many of my colleagues and clients who were in offices adapt to working from home, navigating Skype, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams, and dealing with the burden to networks, since everyone is online at home. I’ve also had my adult daughter home, as she’s laid off from her job in the beauty industry.

Because I've already been working from home for several years, I have a bit of a system. I like to move around a fair amount—sometimes I’m at the dining room table or my desk, and my favorite spot tends to be my kitchen island. I’m able to multitask and get a lot done in a day. I can squeeze a hike in here and there between calls, or if I know I’ll be mostly in listen mode on a particular call, a workout, or even empty the dishwasher.

I tend to start far earlier than when I was in the office, and I can get a lot done without interruption. The downfall is that it’s easy to work longer, and you really need to watch yourself and close the door, so to speak, at the end of the day. For the most part, I really enjoy it and wouldn’t have it any other way. My side hustle is my small macrame DIY business, Ash & Nate (after my kids) that I launched last year, which I do in the evenings and on weekends—I also mostly do that from my kitchen island.

Tessa Harris in Salt Lake City, Utah

Tessa’s daughter catches up with classmates over a Zoom call.

Here’s my four-year-old daughter on a Zoom call with her preschool class doing show-and-tell. I definitely started crying when I heard all their little voices excitedly greeting each other after being apart for two weeks.

Brent Harris in Seattle, Washington

In Seattle, Brent hunkers down in his duplex that’s now a gym, an office, a yoga studio, a living room, and a kitchen. 

Living in a 600-square-foot duplex, I’ve always been comfortable with minimalist, multifunctional spaces. Now, my 250-square-foot kitchen/living room quadruples as my workout studio and office space. At least I’ve got plenty of plants churning out oxygen!


What adjustments have you had to make while sheltering in place? Comment below with your new normal, and we’ll reach out to include your story.


Related Reading:

15 Architects and Designers on How the Pandemic Will Change Our Homes Forever

New York Architects on How COVID-19 Is Urging Us to Rethink Home Design

33 Retailers Giving Back During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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