Home Classrooms Went From Covid Necessity To Selling Point
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Home Classrooms Went From Covid Necessity To Selling Point

Parents are keeping the learning areas they built during the pandemic intact

By Alina Dizik
Fri, Aug 13, 2021 11:44amGrey Clock 6 min

Emily Porche swears by one holdover from her family’s life under lockdown: her children’s learning space.

Ms. Porche initially designed the room as a virtual classroom for her young daughters, but now it is a favorite hangout. With both girls back in school, the hanging chair is a spot for reading and the hand-built desks are used for cursive-writing practice. Having a kid-approved study area has made school assignments less of a chore for Avery, 8, and Hadley, 5, she says.

“Looking past Covid, this is now a space for homework and projects,” says Ms. Porche, owner of an online interior-design company who purchased and renovated a Marietta, Ga., five-bedroom home four years ago for $680,000, according to public records. The classroom-turned-homework space fits the home’s overall modern-classic farmhouse vibe, she adds. It cost her about $3,000.

Georgia Lessons

Emily Porche created a learning space for her two children in her five-bedroom Marietta, Ga., home. Avery Porche, 5, uses the learning space at for art projects and homework.PHOTOS: EMILY PORCHE(2)
Even as school districts have proclaimed an end to virtual classes, parents have come away with their own lessons from the experience: the need for organized, stand-alone learning areas far from chaotic kitchen counters or distraction-filled bedrooms. In addition to repurposing rooms in existing homes, developers and real-estate agents also are marketing and staging these spaces to would-be buyers.

“The family’s priorities have changed,” says Fredrik Eklund, an agent with Douglas Elliman in New York. “People want these learning centres.”

Listings over $1 million in 2021 that mentioned a learning space had a median time on the market of 45 days, 12 days less than homes that didn’t mention a learning space, according to data from Realtor.com. In May of this year, 1,178 homes mentioned terms related to learning spaces, a 58% increase from the same period last year, according to the data. (News Corp, owner of The Wall Street Journal, also operates Realtor.com under license from the National Association of Realtors.)
In New York, Lauren Steinberg used space near an open staircase to create workstations for her three middle-school children.
PHOTO: EVAN JOSEPH PHOTOGRAPHY

In her New York condo, Lauren Steinberg added three built-in computer monitors, chairs and desks near an open staircase at a cost of about $35,000 to help her middle-school-age children stay focused on doing their work. “I can always walk by and see them from upstairs; they aren’t locked away in their room,” says Ms. Steinberg, whose 5,108-square-foot Tribeca home is situated across three floors. It is on the market for $12 million.

When her children—a 14-year-old girl and 12-year-old twins, a boy and a girl—started back at school in the spring, Ms. Steinberg, an interior designer, found that the homework area created boundaries for using electronics. The desktop computers can’t be easily moved from room to room and so screen time is kept mostly to one area.

Doing homework in their bedrooms is now out of the question, she says. “I know they’d be slouching and laying down.”

The kid-approved office is around the corner from the ninja-warrior room and climbing wall, which makes it easier for the children to take breaks, she adds.

Real-estate agent Jim St. André says he is staging more lower-level floors to combine play and work areas for children. For older children, buyers are asking for spaces that are sealed off from the main living areas, for online work or even for musical-instrument practice, he adds.

A Place to Put Your Thinking Cap On

A New York townhome asking US$25 million includes a dedicated kids’ floor with lounges and study areas.

A children’s classroom is part of a dedicated kids’ floor inside a renovated New York townhome on sale for $25 million.
A children’s classroom is part of a dedicated kids’ floor inside a renovated New York townhome on sale for US$25 million.
BRYAN BANDUCCI FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“People now look at those spaces as being less recreational,” says Mr. St. André, who works with Compass in New York.

He is selling a 7,058-square-foot, renovated US$25 million Greek Revival townhouse complete with a kids’ floor that includes bedrooms, a lounge area with a couch and a learning space. “Buyers want a usefulness to some of these spaces that we are repurposing,” he adds.

In Los Angeles, a newly constructed 1765sqm home on sale for US$70 million includes a second-floor children’s wing complete with a study portal with a central library-style desk, built-in lighting and shelving. A kids’ television lounge borders the space, with the children’s bedrooms directly behind the recreation areas, says real-estate agent Blair Chang from The Agency.

Mr. Eklund, the Douglas Elliman agent, worked with a staging company to create a learning centre complete with Zoom art backgrounds, custom shelving and educational games for a five-bedroom, eight-bathroom Los Angeles home that recently sold for US$13.8 million.

“It’s kind of like a library but for kids,” he says. The rooms are on lower floors in areas that used to be reserved for family entertainment or exercise.

In other luxury listings, clients are forgoing traditional libraries, man caves and multiple offices in favour of dedicated areas for young students, he adds.

Developers are anticipating an uptick in demand for the organised learning areas. In Sudbury, Mass., three newly developed homes will have learning areas off the kitchen when completed later this year, in an effort to appeal to young families.

Another learning space on the second floor is aimed at older children or adults who need a more secluded work area, with built-in seating and an outdoor area. “The design and inspiration was Covid,” he says.

The homes are on sale for about US$3.5 million.

Shahla and Rob Sandoval created a home classroom for their 9-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. The couple repurposed the playroom at the front of their four-bedroom, 2,800-square-foot home in Danville, Calif. The Sandoval children take a break. Shahla Sandoval helps her children with their homework.PHOTOS: ULYSSES ORTEGA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

In New York’s Chelsea area, Maverick, a building that offers a mix of condo and apartment units, offers a Children’s Imagination Learning Center, with learning workshops and interactive play-based areas, says developer Eran Polack. Condo units in the building, minus the penthouses, range from US$1.4 million to US$6 million. It is set to be completed this fall.

For parents designing study rooms on their own, Naomi Coe, an interior designer of children’s spaces in Irvine, Calif., says it is important to create spaces that adjust to the changing needs of the students.

For example, she recommends opting for good-quality desks and chairs while adding small décor pieces that are easy to swap out as the kids grow and their tastes change. Separate areas for lounging with bean bags or hanging chairs can add a fun factor.

“Flexibility is always going to be the most important,” she says.

Repurposing virtual classrooms can take some unexpected adjustments, says Shahla Sandoval, who, with her husband, Rob Sandoval, turned the playroom at the front of her four-bedroom, 2,800-square-foot home in Danville, Calif., into a learning area last summer. The couple bought the home for US$825,000 in 2011.

With desks at a premium, Ms. Sandoval, who runs a lifestyle blog, built her own against one wall, hung up a white board and put school supplies in a shared utility cart. She tasked her 9-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son with adding their own plants and creating a gallery wall with their artwork. She spent US$2,000 on the setup.

Having the children share space for study sessions tends to lead to arguments. Ms. Sandoval prefers a staggered approach to who uses the space and when. “My kids couldn’t last side-by-side,” she says.



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