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How DC-Area Homeowners and Renters Upgraded Their Outdoor Space

After being indoors for so long, families want to get fresh air in a newly renovated space

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Residents of the D.C. area have overhauled their outdoor spaces in the past year, whether their square footage is large or small, and whether they own or rent.

With people holed up in their homes because of the pandemic, many have realized their need for a new space to get fresh air.  

It was at the height of the pandemic when Marnique Heath of Northwest D.C. realized she and her family needed outdoor space.

“We definitely knew we wanted to improve our backyard,” Heath said. “We also are social people and we absolutely needed to reconnect with our friends, and being outside was the safe way to do that.”

Heath wanted to extend her living space with a deck, new patio furniture and a grill. She quickly realized she wasn’t alone; contractors and deck companies were completely booked, and furniture inventory was low.

City dwellers are renovating their balconies, no matter how small the space may be. News4's Erika Gonzalez reports.

“We had to move quickly in order to be able to have something in place,” she said.

Heath and her family hired a carpenter who built them a two-tier deck.

For furniture, they drove as far away as Norfolk to piece together their new entertaining space.

Sara Raak of Alexandria, Virginia, knows the feeling.

“So, basically, all the things people were looking for in COVID, we just kind of wanted to kind of put in our backyard,” she said.

Photos: How DC-Area Homeowners and Renters Upgraded Their Outdoor Space

Raak put off renovating rooms inside her house in favor of the outside space.

“I would much rather have a beautiful backyard where a lot of different people can benefit from it versus a kitchen. We'll get the kitchen eventually,” she said.

Now, her backyard has an outdoor kitchen and dining area, a firepit with seats 6 feet apart, a ping pong table and a trampoline.

Her family is now the first to volunteer to host an outdoor gathering.

Both Heath and Rack said that if it weren’t for the pandemic, they wouldn’t have renovated their backyards so soon and to the extent they had.

“It was absolutely worth it, hands down,” Heath said.

For city dwellers, there isn’t too much outdoor space to renovate — but that hasn’t stopped them.

Ashley Arias from Arlington, Virginia, has a balcony with less than 100 square feet. She knew she needed to utilize every inch of it.

“Everyone is so inundated with Zoom call after Zoom call,” Arias said. “You don’t realize that all of a sudden, you look up and half the day has gone by.”

She’s utilized every inch of it to create a place to both work from home and entertain guests.

“That is my comfort zone. I go out there and I can just unwind. It is a sense of Zen,” Arias said.

She bought a small patio set, played it up with a matching rug, and got her hands dirty with an herb and vegetable garden.

Jodie Fleischer of the News4 I-Team is a city dweller, too, and said she was desperate for outdoor space.

“It became a priority and it had never been needed before,” Fleischer said.

The balcony she once spent years avoiding now became a priority.

She added new chairs, a rug and potted plants. The balcony has bright pops of color and patio lights — an instant mood-booster that’s both form and function.

“Now I’m proud of the space and I don’t mind somebody sitting out there with me,” Fleischer said. “I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve used it. It has been wonderful to have.”

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