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Designs that fit the times
Lynn Reeves opens the Carriage House on Sav. Ave.
062909 BIZ CARRIAGE HOUSE 1
Lynn Reeves sits in the lobby area of her interior design business last week. Reeves opened the Carriage House on Savannah Avenue in November 2008. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    As Americans spend more of their leisure time at home during tough economic times, many want their homes to be a calming, uplifting haven to combat the outside forces of recessionary turbulence.
    The trend is encouraging homeowners to remodel, which is fueling an uptick in business for interior designers like Lynn Reeves.
    Reeves, who decorated homes for family and friends for four years in Statesboro, Augusta and Savannah, felt like she was doing enough business to warrant opening a store that sells accessories, furniture, rugs, silk panels, fabric and gifts.
    "I found that I always had to travel to Savannah, Augusta, Macon and Atlanta to find the perfect accessories for my clients, and I was storing them in my home," she said. "One day my husband Hoke told me that I needed to find office space to stock pile all the 'goodies' and get them out of our house.“
    So, Reeves decided to take the plunge into a full-time career when she opened the Carriage House on Savannah Avenue in November 2008.
    "I was riding down Savannah Avenue one day when I spotted a little white wooden home tucked behind overgrown bushes," she said.  “It was exactly what I was looking for."
    During the months it took to renovate the older home, the economy continued to pull back and the housing market contracted.  
“Needless to say, I was apprehensive about the timing of the opening, but I have found business has been steady,” Reeves said.
During the past two months, clients have called Reeves with the same inquiry – they want to update their existing homes.   
    “A couple from Isle of Hope was thinking about building a new home, but in light of the economy, they decided to update the décor of their 2,800-square-foot home,” Reeves said.  
New window treatments, fabrics for furniture, and updated accessories are filling the Reeves's clients’ home improvement shopping cart.
       Kris Dunsworth, manager of the Tile Center in Statesboro, has noticed the same buying habits.  
    “People are not taking as many vacations and instead are putting their money into remodeling and additions,” she said.  “We are selling a lot of outdoor tile, and people are enlarging their porches so they can cookout at home and entertain family and friends in an attractive area outside.”    
    Dunsworth also notes that consumers want to save money right now, but are still requesting porcelain tile inside their homes for better quality.  “By adding this type of tile, they are increasing the value of their homes, and this is still paramount to homeowners.” she said.
    The timing of the trend toward remodeling locally appears to coincide with national trends as reported by “Remodeling Magazine.”
Leah Thayer wrote in the June issue of the magazine that her publication was receiving numerous reports from builders across the country that requests for remodeling work was clearly on the upswing.
    Local building contractor Tim Durden agrees.
"I have been renovating homes for the last 16 years," he said. "It has always been a major part of my construction business, but, I would have to agree that the demand lately seems to have increased. We are getting a lot of calls in what would be considered a very difficult time for the construction industry. People want to improve or compliment what they have, and we are very grateful for that."
    Reeves said that offering an interior design service component with the retail business has been the key to her success thus far.
    “People come in frustrated because they know what they like, but they
have no confidence that they are making the right decision,” Reeves said.  
The 44-year-old designer guides the clients to the look that they desire.
    “Some clients simply want a fresh, updated room with new colors and are asking me to help them rearrange furniture and jazz up existing rooms with new accessories,” she said.   
    Her business strategy has been to stock merchandise that meets her clients' needs and tight budgets.  
“There are price points for all budgets,” she said. "I think customers that have visited the Carriage House have been pleasantly surprised to find items in a range of prices.  People can accessorize at minimal cost and  make a big difference in the presentation of their home."
       Reeves travels to the Atlanta Gift and Merchandise Mart at least four times a year to scour showrooms in search for quality furnishings at affordable prices.  
“They are challenging to find, but I can find them if I search and search for days on end,” she said.  
      Surprisingly, in our ever-growing, cost-conscious culture, she has found that most homeowners do not want to skimp when it comes to their home.
“One couple recently added on a new office and bar area," she said. "They used granite surfaces and  beautiful tile.  We accessorized with furnishings and accessories from the shop and from other sources."  
    Reeves said others come in on a tight budget and say they want the biggest
bang for their buck.   
“In this situation, I try to mix fine and rich products with less expensive items to create a look that doesn’t break the bank."