From the August/September 2020 Issue  

REEVALUATE & RECHARGE Persevering Through the Challenges

Writer Ren Miller

Conversations with Kate

Construction was rolling along on Kate Rumson’s new home in central New Jersey when the pandemic hit and the stay-at-home order was issued. Rather than let the situation get her down, Rumson, founder and creative director of The Real Houses of Instagram (@the_real_houses_of_ig), took time to pause, rest and continue planning for the future. She also welcomed some new family members. In this fifth installment of our series about her project, she offers the details.

Ren: Has the pandemic caused you to make any changes in your new home?

Kate: Yes. Staying home for close to two months made me follow through on something I’ve been wanting to do for over a decade—adopt two kittens. I’ve always had a pretty busy lifestyle that included a lot of travel, so adopting pets before felt selfish, as I wouldn’t have been able to spend much time with them. But now that I anticipate spending a lot more time working from home, I finally feel it is an appropriate time to welcome kittens into my home. I’m happy I made this decision at this stage of the construction process because it gives me the opportunity to make a few adjustments to the house systems, design and décor to make my new home as comfortable and safe for my kittens as possible.

Ren: How has the pandemic affected the construction process itself and how have you been able to keep things moving forward?

Kate: The initial shock of it all made me slow down even before the government instituted official restrictions on construction activities. With so much uncertainty all around us, it was very difficult to continue building. There were just too many unknowns. In March and April, there was very little activity on the job site as I was trying to come to terms with our new normal, but eventually I realized that continuing construction was the only way to actualize my dream home. So I reorganized and regrouped and pushed forward. Even with all of the challenges that the pandemic has presented, my passion for my work has never waivered, and that is what drives me to keep moving forward.

Ren: Will you have to make any changes to the systems or materials based on lack of availability?

Kate: Luckily, we haven’t seen any delays with building materials. We order almost everything from 84 Lumber, and they have been helpful and accommodating throughout the entire process. I make every effort to buy American-made materials so the impact to availability has been minimal.

Ren: How will this affect the timeline?

Kate: I’m one of very few people who actually enjoys the process of construction, so even though the pandemic has delayed construction and we are working at a slower-than-usual pace, I don’t mind. It has actually given me the opportunity to take my time and enjoy every phase of the construction without the burden of an impending deadline. Especially right now, with so many serious problems and challenges in all of our lives, delaying our move-in date by a few months is really just a minor inconvenience.

Ren: Will you install any products or systems related to wellness?

Kate: Although I’ve always been a big proponent of the importance of good air quality, now that I just adopted two kittens, it has become even more crucial for me. So we will be installing the Trane® CleanEffects Whole Home Air Cleaner—it uses technology that removes 99.98% of pet dander, dust mites, pollen and other airborne pollutants while supplying the entire home with cleaner, healthier air and allowing everyone in the home to breathe easier. We will also be installing Envirowise Energy Recovery Ventilators, also by Trane, to exhaust stale indoor air and bring in fresh, preconditioned, outdoor air. Just as I want a visually beautiful and clean home, I want the invisible but vital features of the home to promote a healthier and cleaner environment. Clean air is an essential component to maintaining health and wellness.

Ren: Is there any part of your home that has become more important to you because of the pandemic?

Kate: I cannot wait to have a private home office in the new home! Although I’m no stranger to working from home, I found it very challenging without a private work space these past few months with the increase in digital meetings and simply the amount of time spent at home. Having a private home office helps to add structure to my day, providing a division between my work day and my leisure time. In an effort to save our sanity and productivity, I think we all need a separate room with a door in our homes, and after 2020, I think we would be hard-pressed to find any new homes built without a private home office or study.


The pandemic gave Kate time to reflect not only on construction but also on something she has long considered: She added two kittens—Sophie (top) and Luna—to her family.

Construction of the new home, designed by Dan D’Agostino of Plan Architecture in Little Falls, continues at a thoughtful, deliberate pace.