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Are City Dweller’s Five-Year Plans Forever Changed?

Interior Designer Catherine Keywan shares how the Stay At Home directive altered her perspective of home in the city.
I love living the cliché lifestyle of a city-dweller. I walk to work, picnic in the park, reside in a studio apartment, and surrendered my car. If you asked me pre-pandemic when I would leave the city, I would have jokingly replied, “never.” Admittedly, I daydream of a white picket fence future, but the constant activity of city-culture and my short commute have largely outweighed the suburban appeal. That daydream was years away until the Stay at Home order hit.

Hiding from the virus, I found myself working from a confined studio apartment without access to the fast-paced culture or inter-office collaboration that kept me fulfilled as an urban dweller. And since I’ve been visiting family outside the city on the weekends, I'm visiting that daydream more often, longing for a backyard and more living space like they have.

Although these cautionary measures are temporary, these last few months gave me a sneak peek at a different way of working and living, which might accelerate my future outside the city. Working remotely has demonstrated that my home and office do not need to be as linked as they were previously. If working remotely a few days a week becomes standard moving forward, will I prematurely trade my city life for a longer commute? While I'm not running for the hills tomorrow, I've gained new perspectives and priorities for my home that have ultimately changed my five-year plan. If you're a daydreamer like me, here are a few things to consider about city life and suburban life before making the jump to the "country."

City +’s: Perks of staying in the concrete jungle
  • Long(er) commute. (I currently get hours back in my day not having a lengthy commute.)
  • Relinquishing proximity to restaurants, bars, concert venues, boutique gyms, stores, airport. (I always say by living in the city, I pay extra for the convenience of being close to everything!)
  • Healthier lifestyle because I walk everywhere. (I walk to work, to the grocery store, to restaurants. To a degree, I exercise daily without trying.)
  • No need for a car. (An amenity/responsibility that I honestly don’t miss.)
Suburb +’s: The grass may be greener in the ‘burbs
  • Less cost per square foot = more space in the suburbs
  • Opportunity for a dedicated office room or permanent set up. (Ergonomic desk set up, storage, printer, and fewer distractions.)
  • Chance to have more personal outdoor space, such as patios or backyards to enjoy. (Ability to entertain small groups in open air is a safer way to socialize during the pandemic.)
  • Available space for activities that I would previously do outside my home. (Majority of my extracurricular activities happen outside my studio apartment: workout/gym, work/office, cook/restaurant takeout. More space gives me the ability to do these at home.)
  • Easier access to National Parks and beaches. (Activities to enjoy while social distancing and post-pandemic.)
  • Less density of people. (Safer during a pandemic.)

Home office photos courtesy of Amelia Papadakis.

This experiment has given everyone a chance to evaluate what we consider important in our lives. After my epiphany, I started thinking: if the Stay at Home mandates have changed the needs and perceptions of my home environment, are there other city-living professionals experiencing the same?

After chatting with fellow Bergmeyer city-dweller Amelia Papadakis, I realized I wasn’t alone. But rather than planning an escape from the city, Amelia’s looking at her urban home in a whole new light. The pandemic allowed her to really explore her neighborhood, appreciating all the local shops and amenities she can visit once they reopen. Though Amelia wants to continue life in the city, she has adjusted her “wish list” for her next apartment based on her Stay at Home experience:

“I always used to have the mindset of “oh, it’s okay if I have a dinky little apartment because I’m never home anyway!” but now, if my work culture shifts to working remotely more often, I will absolutely need more space. I have hopped all over our 480 square foot space trying to find the right spot. It would be nice to have at least a dedicated place for the remote-work days. Something I had never previously considered!”

As more employees work remotely, residents like Amelia who want to stay in the city will have different living requirements moving forward. City dwellers who prefer to stay in the city will need to be more innovative and thoughtful in their homes moving forward.

A few home-upgrade options to accommodate a city dweller's renewed priorities
  • Add a permanent desk space, with an ergonomic desk and chair.
  • Research housing complexes with safely-setup shared spaces, like libraries, kitchens, or designated co-working spaces, which provides area for remote work and activities without adding to the unit’s footprint.
  • Consider privacy for remote working: A 1-bed or 2-bed may be necessary for a couple to be on conference calls at the same time.
  • Consider homes with access to open air to entertain while social distancing, and gyms to stay active as people become less dependent on commuting.
  • Consider a home with multi-use spaces and flexibility. A guest room can be used as an office. An open kitchen can double as an at-home gym.

A positive outcome of this Stay At Home experience is we will all be looking at future opportunities with a new perspective. Working remotely is changing our perception of where we live in relation to our office. Staying home has us redecorating or moving to different homes to accommodate our new behaviors better. Our health and wellness have stronger importance as we yearn for safe ways to stay active and social. We've been reminded what's essential in our lives and homes, and whether it's making big changes or small, city-dwellers will be rethinking their home and futures to reflect their renewed priorities.

The Kendrick, a Toll Brothers Apartment Living luxury multifamily property, is designed with the unique characteristics of its community in mind and features 27,000 s/f of amenity spaces.

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