You have not seen most of your friends in months. The constant handwashing is busting your water bill. Your mask keeps smearing your lipstick (or worse, it never really matches your outfit). On the bright side? You just scored the cutest love seat for the foyer.
These days, we will take the small victories.
Breathing is still hazardous, but the thrills of redecorating are truly breathtaking. We are all finding creative ways to achieve “shelter-at-home chic.” Not just a vase here and a decorative bowl there. Many of us are knocking down walls. I enjoy swinging a sledgehammer as much as the next gal, but when it comes to a load-bearing wall I tend to call a professional.
According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, that is what Americans have been doing during the pandemic, spending close to $340B on home improvement and repairs in 2020, up 3.5% from the previous year, and expected to continue through 2021.
At the same time, with a shift away from commuting to work, the housing market is booming. Demand is strong and mortgage rates hit a record low of 2.65% this past January. With home values rising, equity has increased, and so has the popularity of home equity loans to finance renovations, from DIY projects to big upgrades.
As someone who has brought 30 years of fashion design experience to the home in my current venture, Style Union Home, it is clear the effect the pandemic has had on design trends. In a survey by the American Institute of Architects, 68% saw a rush of client requests for home offices, followed by exercise or yoga rooms, and flex spaces for home schooling or other uses.
And that is just the bones of it. Along with more functional spaces, we have become obsessive about making them bright and colorful, happy environments to lift our mood like a double shot of tequila. We are spiffing up our outside areas as well. The home remodeling site Houzz says outdoor professionals are in high demand—from pool and spa builders to landscape contractors.
I understand this search for domestic bliss. Sometimes it is just one element, even a small thing, but finding it can turn into the quest for the Holy Grail. Several years ago, when I started buying, renovating, and selling houses, I always got stuck staging them. I could not find one cohesive brand that set the right tone and tied everything together, from dinnerware to accents.
Having grown up in Malibu, one of triplets raised by a Jewish mother, I have always had nostalgic memories of family dinners. A symbol of those dinners was a huge serving bowl my mom had. Its size and shape were unusual, not a standard piece you would find in a traditional home store. When I had kids, I wanted a big special bowl like that. A bowl with chutzpah. The Streisand of serving bowls. For the life of me, I could not find anything like it.
These two unsatisfied needs pushed my entrepreneurial button. What the hell, I thought. I have founded five companies. One of them, True Religion, sold for $835M (booyah!). I can do anything I set myself to. And with that I decided to launch a new ceramic and lifestyle brand. In one fell swoop I had an entire collection worthy of staging a fancy house, while replicating the awesomeness and originality of my mom’s family serving bowl. When the pandemic hit a few months later, the fact that we were all quarantined at home nesting, taking joy in our domestic trappings, proved to be a silver lining.
Necessity is the mother of invention. And as my mother would agree, when you are cooped up together playing Monopoly until your eyeballs shrivel, you should be grateful you have a home to share.
Kym Gold is a serial entrepreneur and most recently founder of Style Union Home, her first home lifestyle brand. Her original clothing labels have included True Religion Brand Jeans (which she sold for $835M), Bella Dahl, Hippie Jeans, and Babakul.
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