The definition of home certainly took on a brand new meaning in 2020. Kitchens became offices, living rooms turned into virtual classrooms, and going out could be equated to walking outside in one’s own backyard. As many Americans shifted to the new normal, home renovation and design projects soared. We sat down with Katherine Yeager of ICON Custom Builders and Amanda Hiatt of Amanda Hiatt Interiors to talk about their biggest design takeaways from the past year, as well as asked them to provide simple ideas to spruce up any space.
Katherine Yeager joined the ICON Custom Builders team in 2019, and her primary goal since has been to guide clients through a project timeline and selection process, helping to make any project as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.
“In the initial phases of the COVID pandemic, we were not doing large projects like kitchens,” says Yeager, who enjoys working for ICON, which was started in 2005 by Chuck Hicks. “Something large like a kitchen reno is disruptive to families. We shifted to a lot of outdoor projects, bathroom renovations, and a few laundry rooms; smaller rooms that weren’t so disruptive to the client because they were in their houses.”
While the kinds of projects shifted for Yeager and her team, the pace of work did not.
“We are essential business, so we did not stop during COVID,” she says. “People are looking around at all these projects they’ve wanted to do for years and our industry as a whole is so busy.”
With this in mind, Yeager looks forward to what lies ahead for the industry and her clients in 2021.
“I see this year being an incredibly busy and exciting year for us,” she says.
The year of major renovations Amanda Hiatt founded Amanda Hiatt Interiors 20 years ago and says that without a doubt, 2020 was the biggest year for her business.
“People really started investing in their homes,” says Hiatt. “In the first few months, it was a flurry of current clients who knew that I knew their home [saying], ‘Help me find a desk, help me find a chair.’”
Like Yeager and the ICON team, Hiatt was faced with helping families redesign their homes to meet the new demand of being home 24/7. Whether it was virtual schooling, home offices, or full-blown bathroom renovations, Hiatt and her team were up for the challenge.
“At first I thought it’d be a hurry to get everyone settled and then hit a lull, but it didn’t,” she says. “At one point we had five master bathrooms going on.”
Despite the circumstances, Hiatt looks back on the past year as a welcome opportunity for people to refresh and be inspired, changing things around the house that’s bothered them for years.
“People started pulling the plug and said, ‘Let’s do it, we’re not going anywhere,’” Hiatt says. “I’ve had a lot of conversations with clients centered on, ‘This doesn’t work for us.’”
Hiatt advises clients that regardless of the size of their space to make the most of what they have and assign each area of their home a purpose.
“As a designer I feel very strongly about space. It matters, and it affects us psychologically,” she says. “Our home is a sanctuary.”
Takeaways, tips & trends for 2021
Whether you’re looking to upgrade your home office or gut your kitchen, a new year is the perfect time to re-evaluate your home and rediscover what is — and more importantly what is not — working for you.
Maybe you’re working from home full-time and need a place to unwind after the day that feels separate from work, or you’ve started full-time homeschooling and need a place to relax that’ll allow some separation from your kids. Whatever the situation, Yeager and Hiatt offer up some advice that’s sure to help you get started.
1. Call in the pros
One of the easiest ways to start your next home project (and one that’s often overlooked) is to schedule a one-hour consultation with a designer.
“It’s so worth hiring a professional to come in and give ideas,” says Hiatt.
These sessions can be used to brainstorm about a broad range of topics, from room layout to paint colors.
2. Play with paint
Speaking of color, paint is one of the easiest, most affordable ways to make a room feel completely new.
“When the news is grim and the world is falling apart, a fresh paint color is one of those things that makes us feel better,” Hiatt says.
These days nothing is off limits when it comes to paint; ceilings, trim, and staircases are just a few ways you can give your home a face-lift.
3. Color, backsplash & wallpaper
“In terms of trends, people aren’t afraid of color anymore,” says Yeager.
She explains that the days of white walls and gray accents are gone.
“I met with a client yesterday who’s doing an aqua tile in her shower,” she adds.
There are lots of creative ways to add color to a space. Colorful tile backsplashes, bright hues in the forms of area rugs and pillows, and even wallpaper can transform a space from bland to grand.
4. Start with the basics
If you’ve watched HGTV shows or browsed social media lately, it can be easy to develop home envy, feeling the need to completely throw out everything. The good news? You don’t have to.
Yeager and Hiatt recommend working with what you have before making a new purchase. Simple things like reorganizing a bookshelf or positioning furniture a different way can completely transform the look and feel of a room.
“We get so used to how we’re looking at things,” Yeager says. “Don’t be afraid to play with what you have.”
5. Shop local
One of the best ways to tackle a home renovation project, especially in these crazy times, is to shop small. Many large retailers are still experiencing extreme delays due to supply chain issues brought on by the pandemic, posing a great opportunity to support smaller shops who are feeling the crunch.
“A lot of my clients shop at Meg Brown Home Furnishings in Advance for bigger pieces, and they’ll go to Elizabeth’s at Hanes Park for smaller, unique items,” Yeager says. Additionally, she recommends Accent Prone in Kernersville and Fiddle & Fig in West End for good finds.
Hiatt also gave her kudos to the team at Meg Brown, as well as Trouvaille Home and Idlewood Interiors.