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.
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 centers.”
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, the owner of The Wall Street Journal, also operates Realtor.com under license from the National Association of Realtors.)
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.
“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 $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 19,000-square-foot home on sale for $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 center complete with Zoom art backgrounds, custom shelving and educational games for a five-bedroom, eight-bathroom Los Angeles home that recently sold for $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 favor of dedicated areas for young students, he adds.
Developers are anticipating an uptick in demand for the organized 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.
Rather than create the typical oversize kitchen, developer David Howe planned the space as a separate area, with built-in desks and shelving, that is geared toward learning but that isn’t isolated from the main entertaining areas. “I feel that the new norm is a hybrid way of learning,” says Mr. Howe, who got the idea to design the space because of his two young children.
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 $3.5 million.
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 $1.4 million to $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 $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 $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.