As a corporate event planner, Alyssa Kelley’s job was to take in the blank canvas of an empty ballroom and visualize its potential to deliver results for her clients. But when in-person events were cancelled and her corporate event planning team was dismantled due to COVID-19, Alyssa decided to take a step back and evaluate her career.
“I knew it was going to take some time for that industry to settle and I didn’t want to sit around and wait. Aside from event planning, home is one of my biggest passions so I decided to take the bull by the horns and become my own boss.”
Like Alyssa, many were forced to adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances brought on by the pandemic. For some, it meant setting up a home office in their formal dining room. For others, it meant converting the kitchen into a temporary schoolroom. What were intended to be temporary solutions until life returned to normal became increasingly more permanent as 2020 went on, bringing chaos, anxiety and confusion into the homes of Alyssa’s friends, neighbors and colleagues.
“Home is a feeling, it’s not just a place, and in the last year, people have really rediscovered the meaning of home. I started A Working Home because it made me sad to think that people may not feel as passionately about their own as they could,” she said. “My expertise as an event planner was to know how to take a step back and look at what a space can do versus what it’s doing. Homes have become our big empty ballrooms and we need to change them so they’re functional for all of the different demands we’re putting on them right now.”
Alyssa works with her clients to overcome a wide range of functionality needs associated with multipurpose spaces, offering a variety of services including full renovations, functional design and organizational support. She says the biggest challenge is finding ways to optimize a space while maintaining fluidity throughout the home, especially for those with open concepts.
“Sometimes it’s hard for people to look at a space differently than the way it’s always been used or the way they’ve envisioned it,” she explained. “It’s important to think about the space that you have nontraditionally because our lives are anything but traditional right now. I work with my clients to help them feel like the changes they’re making are good decisions. They are hard decisions but nothing is permanent.”
Renovations. Conversions. Custom Design. Organization.
Whether a client is looking to purchase a new home, renovate or convert an existing space, or simply bring order to the chaos, A Working Home’s goal is to create a fresh, clean slate for those who live there. Alyssa first prioritizes the functional needs of a client, then develops organizational methods and design elements to support those objectives.
“My clients have become so overwhelmed with what they need to accomplish in their daily lives that the last thing they want to figure out at the end of the day is where everything goes. We want to establish a system, or a routine, that makes upkeep simple and eventually, second nature. I start by asking them what needs to happen throughout the day within each space, who will use it, how will they use it.”
Likewise, Alyssa says new home buyers or renters looking at properties should set their priorities before stepping foot in a potential home.
“The most important thing to keep in mind is understanding your family’s needs and goals before you even walk into a home. If you know you need an office, or multiple workspaces, don’t look at a full-open concept plan, especially if you don’t have the budget to build walls or install doors.”
Alyssa says one of the biggest mistakes she sees is clients allowing unused space to continue to go unused. She suggests thinking inventively and nontraditionally about the rooms within a home to maximize its potential and convert dead space into functional square footage.
After seeing a Fortune 500 executive taking video calls from her kitchen island, Alyssa suggested renovating the formal living room into a study. She used creative design elements to alter the space, designed a custom desk, and her client ultimately ended up with a home office she could step into and focus on work.
A working mom of three found herself and her husband simultaneously working from home while educating and caring for their three young children. Alyssa reconfigured the bedrooms to meet their needs: bunking the older children, setting up a home office in the newly vacant bedroom, and converting the master bedroom into a multi-purpose room for the children where they can play and learn.
Market demands and what’s on trend.
Many of her clients are families, especially those with school-age children who are now living, learning, and playing within the same space every day. To meet their needs, Alyssa identifies the areas where children can best focus and then maximizes the functionality of those areas by creating kid-friendly solutions that make it easy for them move through and maintain the space. “It is important for kids to see what they have and where it goes, making items accessible to them.”
Alyssa’s home features a 200 square foot garage conversion, flex space that functions as her home gym, guest room, office, a craft room for her daughter, and during sporting events, it is the man cave. “One of the biggest trends right now is the flex space and getting creative with how we use it.”
Alyssa says the two biggest reasons that people hesitate to reach out a professional like her are the cost and the fear of having someone come into their homes and see how they’ve been living.
“I want to make people feel comfortable and understand that working with a professional to make your home functional is available, attainable and comes without judgement,” she said. “Do I love doing full renovations and full-blown design? Absolutely! But my goal is to make clients feel at home and leave the heart in it while making it a place that can function 24 hours a day.”