BEST OF HOME: Building Up Your Home Alone

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STAY-AT-HOME: More people invested time and money in their gardens this year.

Admittedly, the best trends in home improvement during 2020 resulted from being locked up like pandemic prisoners in our homes. Even so, shelter-in-place incarceration and the necessity of clean hands gave cause for celebratory, socially distanced shopping at locally owned hardware stores such as Telegraph Hardware, Cole Hardware, Ellis Ace Hardware, Montclair Village Hardware, Moraga Hardware and others. Mud rooms and entryways that were once filled with, well, muddy stuff, were transformed by home-dwellers into sparkling sanitation stations with antibacterial soaps, sprays, wipes, UV light blasters and other viral-hating cleaning supplies and equipment.

Garden nurseries, especially because they often have outdoor shopping areas, had a heyday supplying newbie green thumbs with soil, tools, plants, knee pads, watering cans and other botanical whatnot. Expert advice delivered casually at the stores or in a generous blooming of online offerings flowed at East Bay nurseries including Annie’s Annuals and Perennials in Richmond, Oakland’s Broadway Terrace Nursery, Panting Justice’s garden shop and online market, popup nursery The Plant Plug, succulent-savvy Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek and East Bay farmer’s markets. Customers who once needed a map to find their way to their own backyards spent hours digging in the dirt, recreating miniature Gardens of Versailles or simply reveling in getting their hands dirty enough to make use of those spanking-new mud rooms. Along with botanical achievement, marvelous realizations occurred: Green beans grown in one’s own backyard taste superior to anything purchased in a can or a frozen-food container, or raw and “fresh” from a grocery-store bin. Oh yeah, and those farmers at the local farmer’s market? They sure do work hard for a living. That, and every blossom, whether grown by a novice or a master gardener, is worthy of cheers.

Gyms and fitness centers were forced into lockdown for much of the year. Even short spells allowing socially distanced outdoor workouts or indoor, limited-capacity openings were sporadic as Covid-19 waxed and waned. Good thing for some: no more $75 bucks a month drained from the bank account. Declaring themselves liberated forever from pumping iron in a cavernous warehouse with hundreds of sweaty, grunting people—or getting aerobic with the bouncy bouquet of a Zumba queen filling their nostrils—people turned garages into gyms. Competition for equipment was fierce, but diligence, enough money and a plethora of online sites for scrounging could land a home-gym rat with a rack and enough dumbbells to keep those biceps and pecs growing like the bougainvillea in the backyard.