Budget-friendly is a term you may not expect to hear in the home improvement business, but Dawn Willis, owner of Great Spaces, Inc. in Acton, said she will work with any budget when it comes to helping a home owner with a project. Her main goal when she does a consultation with a potential client is to learn what will make them happier with their space.
“The bottom line is, we are giving someone something that will make them feel good,” said Willis.
She started her business 13 years ago and opened her showroom at 245 Arlington St. four years ago. When she graduated from Northeastern University, she started her career as a field engineer for the Big Dig. She quickly realized how much she liked the home improvement business after flipping a house with her then boyfriend who has been her husband for the past 20 years.
“I never looked back,” said Willis.
She realized there was a need in the market for a a budget-friendly design/build company.
“We do soup to nuts. From inspiration and design all the way through to design-construction management,” said Willis.
Business is booming
For the past 18 months, Willis said her phone has not stopped ringing.
“We get at least 10 new inquires per day,” said Willis.
She believes this uptick in her business is pandemic-adjacent – more people working from home means more people looking to improve the space where they spend so much time.
“If you are only home from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m., if your bathroom is ugly, it doesn’t bug you as much,” said Willis. “But when you are sitting in your kitchen all day, using it as your office, maybe an idea you always had on how to improve the space is now pushed to the forefront.”
Prices are up and wait time is longer
The price of cabinetry has gone up about 15%, said Willis. Cabinets have also gotten harder to acquire. For the past 12 years, her cabinetry had a four to six week lead time. Now, the lead time for the five lines she carries is 16 to 20 weeks. She said the lead time has been creeping up along with the prices for the last year and a half.
She said it’s worth the wait and, because contractors are also very busy, the wait time for the cabinetry to arrive and the wait for carpenter to do the installation evens out.
How to do a kitchen on a budget
Willis said sometimes adding a hutch, replacing counter tops, changing a backsplash or updating an island can improve a kitchen without breaking the bank.
She also has had clients that go wall by wall, making phased improvements.
“Everyone’s wants and desires are unique and what’s important to them,” said Willis.
She also can help a client value-engineer a space based on what else is happening in their lives.
“If it’s the beginning of your life with young children, you know you are going to be spending the next 20 years in a kitchen making big family meals or you might be downsizing and will make different choices about where you want to spend your money,” she said.
According to Willis, most budgets can be used creatively or constructively to make improvements.
If you are selling your home, that’s not the time to do the renovation, Willis said. Instead, Great Spaces can provide three-dimensional renderings of how a bathroom or kitchen space would look when updated to display at an open house.
What’s hot and what’s not
Interior renovation is a cyclical business, prone to ever-shifting trends.
Right now, Willis said many people are taking walls down – opening up spaces – especially between kitchens and formal dining rooms.
Separate wall ovens and cook tops are a hot trend.
Natural light is important to people spending a lot of time in a space, so big windows are a huge add.
Taking out upper wall cabinets and putting storage in base cabinets to allow for more windows is popular.
Mudrooms, laundry rooms and offices are also common projects. People no longer want their laundry in the basement, so she helps find spots where it can be added, such as closets.
Mudrooms with charging stations and places for the mail, keys, backpacks, and shoes, are trending.
Desks are no longer part of new kitchen designs, she said. Instead, people do what she calls “command central,” a file cabinet drawer where bills can be stored with a charging station for a mobile device.
Finding a contractor
Willis does not do the actual construction for her projects but she does have a list of contractors she refers to clients.
She said it’s important for people to have a good working relationship with their contractors.
“Respect them as much as you want them to respect you so they can be trusted to work on schedule,” she said.
Lastly, have patience, said Willis.
For more information, visit greatspacesinc.com.