With people spending more time than ever at home, apartments and houses are now functioning as workplaces, gyms and classrooms, while socialising with friends and family is being done safely outdoors. Adjusting to this 'new normal' has resulted in an unprecedented boom in do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, along with a surge in sales of gardening and home improvement products.
In the US alone, sales at garden centres and building supply stores were up more than 22% in the first half of 2020 compared to the year before. Additionally, according to a survey from the European Home Improvement Monitor, 25% of consumers in 11 European countries report they are working more on home improvement projects.
“When the coronavirus outbreak began in March, our initial worry was that the whole world would shut down. And it did for a while, as shipping was on hold and factories in many industries were forced to close. But in the beginning of May, we noticed that the lockdown had created a new marketplace for the wood industry, and the demand went up as a result,” says Mika Nokelainen, a Supply Chain Manager at UPM Timber.
The summer holiday, reinvented
Part of that demand was from people like Anna Ehanti and Henna Simola. The long-time friends were planning to spend their summer holidays travelling abroad with their families, but instead they embarked on a journey together by purchasing a 1950s cottage just a stone’s throw away from the centre of Helsinki.
It was love at first sight for Simola, who saw the miniature wooden house first.
“I fell in love straight away,” says Simola. “It was the same colour as the place my grandmother had was when I was a kid and I immediately felt at home. I didn’t even want to think it through, I just knew that I wanted it.”
Luckily, Ehanti felt the same way, and soon the two friends were enlisting the help of their extended families to fix up the cottage. The two women spent the summer installing a kitchen, painting surfaces and putting up new wooden boards in and outside their new summer house.
Neither Ehanti or Simola are experienced at DIY, but they wanted to create a cosy place where they can spend time with their friends and family.
“I like the social aspect of this place. We have a lot of friends who can pop over on their bicycles. This place allows us to spend time with people even during this corona time because we can be outside. We’ve organised some barbecues already. And I like the fact that we can spend a day here and then go home for the night,” says Simola.
A long-term project
For Simola and Ehanti the summer cottage is not a short-term solution but one that will hopefully stay in their lives for years to come, and their DIY projects are far from over. They are planning to build a small wooden storage shed at the back of the house, and they want to renew the old door with help from Ehanti’s father. They hope to work remotely from the cottage once in a while, and also plan to install solar panels or a battery, since the house has no electricity.
“This has been fun because the cottage is so small, it’s like a little playhouse. But it has also made us realise that we wouldn’t want to take on a project that is bigger than this. This is perfect for us,” says Ehanti.
While it is impossible to know if the DIY trend will continue in the longer term, Nokelainen says he is optimistic that it will continue to grow, even if the future is uncertain.
“The feedback that I’ve been getting from the market is that the demand for wood is high right now,” he says. “It looks like the market situation will continue at a good level into early next year.”
Text and photos Laura Iisalo