Pandemic causes architect to rethink house design


Architect Todd Rottmann, a Zionsville resident and co-owner of Rottmann Collier Architects, knows the challenges of working from home.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, having a home office was a benefit for Todd and his family. A patio for cookouts was a plus, too. But now, because of the pandemic, people have begun coveting home office space and long to spend more time outside, making the spaces more essential, Todd said.

Todd said architects are seeing an increase in demand for remodeling projects inside and outside of homes – something he has personal experience with. His wife, Sherry, works from home, and the couple’s four kids began e-learning because of the pandemic. The family knew some changes would need to be made to their to accommodate their new daily schedules.

Todd needed a place to work when he couldn’t be in the office, and working at the dining room table wasn’t a practical solution. He needed not only space but a quiet place to host virtual meetings and talk to clients on the phone without interruption.

Todd’s solution was to convert a wide hallway leading to the house’s main bedroom into a workstation for himself and Sherry. After closing off the hallway from the rest of the house with a barn door crafted from two salvaged historic doors, several countertops were perched on top of filing cabinets to create a private office.

“Building the desks in my hallway was super easy and only took a day,” Todd stated in an email. “I used cabinets and countertops from IKEA and connected them together with adhesive pads.”

But the biggest changes to the Rottmanns’ home was addressing the outside. Because family members were spending more time at home, they decided to install a backyard pool and convert the home’s sunroom into a multi-use space. They installed new floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors around the sunroom, which can slide open to convert the space into an outdoor pavilion for family gatherings and pool days. A table in the room functions as a desk, a dining room table and a buffet, Todd said.

“I definitely think more people will take on these types of projects since many people don’t want to move, yet their house isn’t working for them in this new normal,” Todd said. “Many companies are changing their office policies to allow more flexibility in where their employees work, so there will continue to be more pressure on the house to serve as an office even after the pandemic is not a major concern anymore.”

And it’s not only homeowners considering new ways to use existing space. Onyx+East, a real estate developer that builds townhomes and condos throughout the Indianapolis metropolitan area and Carmel, sought out Todd to incorporate more work/study areas inside its residences and create more private outdoor spaces with balconies, rooftop decks and courtyards.

“My advice to others would be to think creatively,” Todd said. “Look at how each room is actually used and see which spaces are underutilized and which functions could co-exist in the same room. Try to get out of traditional thinking and don’t let room names dictate their use. Finally, try not to think about how you currently live but how you want to live, and don’t be afraid to make radical changes to make that happen. If it means adding onto your house, then do that. But you may find that you already have plenty of room.”