People investing in their homes during this pandemic year

It seems everywhere one looked this past summer there were construction trucks of different kinds parked on the streets and in driveways. Roofs were replaced, fences were erected, houses were painted and re-sided, and landscaping was updated.

Many people chose not to take annual vacations and they couldn't attend concerts or sporting events, so, instead, they spent that disposable income on improving their homes and yards.

Now that the weather is turning colder, it's getting dark earlier and people are retreating indoors to escape both the weather and COVID-19, they are turning a critical eye to the insides of their homes. For instance, that old wallpaper in the bathroom is long past its prime and needs to be replaced with paint. And the tub in there is also less than nice to use and life would probably be more pleasant with a walk-in shower instead. Finally, the furniture they have been plopped on 24/7 for work, school and later to watch a movie with the family is worn out and no longer comfortable.

“People who have been quarantined and confined are suddenly seeing the flaws and tired-nature of their homes,” said Debora Watson of Acanthus Design in Barrington ( “So, there is lots of refreshing going on. People are painting the walls, refinishing the floors and replacing the trim. For instance, many are opting for luxury vinyl or the new waterproof wood floors as they go for a warm, natural look.

“Others are donating their old, large furniture and replacing it with smaller pieces so that they can find additional living and working spaces within the walls of their existing home,” she added.

“Business over the past six months has been insane,” said Michael Walsh, owner of O'Reilly's Furniture and Amish Gallery in Libertyville (, “because customers have been cooped up at home and needing new things, So, delivery dates for ordered furniture are exaggerated. No one could have anticipated this demand.”

O'Reilly's sells high quality, traditional wood furniture, much of which is handmade by Amish craftsmen.

Pandemic customers have fallen into two groups, Walsh said. There have been those who have moved into a new home (often because of the pandemic) and need to upsize or downsize their furniture accordingly. Then there have been those who decided their furniture no longer fits their needs and must be replaced as homeowners struggle to create space within their homes for work and studies alongside space for leisure pursuits.

“We have seen some people transforming their sofa tables into desks and others who are looking for furniture that they can get down into their basements, which they are suddenly using for work, study or leisure,” he said.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we literally doubled our business in home office furniture as people sought to upgrade or create home offices. We had so much demand that we had to restrict the sale of certain items from our sales floor,” Walsh said. “But the buyers' attention has been, almost exclusively, on office, family room and kitchen/dining room furniture. Bedrooms have not received much recent attention from buyers.”

Bathroom improvements have also been a focus for many. Bath Planet of Chicagoland (, based in Streamwood, has been hopping with business as homeowners choose to replace aging tubs with walk-in showers and accessible tubs with doors that making bathing easier. Aging homeowners choose to avoid possible falls by replacing their old tubs, while younger homeowners are doing the same because few have the time or inclination to enjoy a lengthy soak.

Bath Planet offers stylish, cost-effective, low-maintenance acrylic bath improvements that are made locally — in Libertyville, said Tim Niesen, sales manager at Bath Planet. Bath Planet offers replacement tubs and shower bases in a wide selection of colors, sizes and styles to add value to the bathroom within your home. Bath Planet also has a full-line of accessibility products and aging-in-place bath systems to ensure independent living for as long as possible. Roll-in showers, walk-in tubs, soaking tubs and even jetted tubs are all available.

For instance, Jan and Harry Raimondi of Schaumburg got a walk-in shower from Bath Planet in 2017, replacing Jan's 46-year-old tub.

Bath Planet removed the old tub in Jan's bathroom, replacing it with a white shower base, a smooth finish acrylic wall system in a custom color (which installed right over the aging tile), a glass shower door with chrome trim, a shower accessory and chrome fixtures.

Many Bath Planet products install right over the existing tile and chipped or faded tub or shower for maximum cost-effectiveness and minimum mess. When a tub is being replaced with a walk-in shower, the tub is cut into two or three pieces and hauled away before the new shower base is installed, followed by the wall pieces. Sometimes the existing wall tile is thoroughly cleaned and then left in place, but covered, Niesen said.

Bath Planet's products feature the elegant look of ceramic tile, granite or marble, but without the grout and maintenance demands because the liners are made of a nonporous, easy-to-clean material. Add to that the array of finishing touches that are available, such as shower caddies, soap dishes, grab bars, curved shower rods and a selection of shower doors, and homeowners can easily create a custom look that meets their desires.

“Our exclusive product line, ranging from spa showers to walk-in tubs, is constructed out of the toughest acrylic — specially designed to withstand the wear and tear of daily bathroom use,” the Bath Planet website states. “The acrylic is custom-fitted to your existing bathroom and installed with triple-seal technology. Not only will your new bathtub or shower be stunning, but it will also fit seamlessly into your current design and protect your home from harmful water damage.”

The company does quick, one-day, in-and-out installations. Installers wear boot covers and face masks because of the pandemic.

  Iris Gertz of Wheeling shows off her new shower she won from Bath Planet and the Daily Herald in a previous Room for Living contest. Mark Welsh/, 2018
The Whitman Desk is among the living room furnishings that serves a dual purpose at O'Reilly's Furniture and Amish Gallery. Courtesy of O'Reilly's Furniture
Because of the pandemic, many suburban families stayed home this summer and invested more time and money into their houses. Many others downsized their furnishings create space needed for work or school. Courtesy of O'Reilly's Furniture
Because families have postponed vacations or stayed home more this summer, many are spending that money on improving their homes. Courtesy of O'Reilly's Furniture
This fixture was selected as part of a bathroom makeover by Acanthus Design in Barrington. Courtesy of Acanthus Design
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