The pandemic has been a boom time for home remodels

LAKE STEVENS — By February, interior designer Kelly DuByne’s home remodeling calendar was already booked for 2022.

“When COVID-19 got here, I didn’t know what to expect, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” said DuByne, the owner and lead designer of Distinctive Interior Designs in Lake Stevens. “The rest of 2020 was very busy, as well as 2021, and now going into 2022, we’re crazy busy.”

Her Snohomish County clients aren’t the only ones booking remodels left and right: Home renovations are booming in the U.S. right now. A recent survey by the online home remodeling platform Houzz found that in year three with COVID-19 we’re still fixing up our homes in record numbers.

From kitchen refreshes and garden makeovers to bathroom renos and laundry room overhauls, we’re redoing our homes — because we’ve been stuck there.

In the 2021 Houzz & Home study, 44% of Americans reported having wanted to remodel their homes all along, and now actually having the time. Another 36% said that they now have the financial means. And 18% of homeowners said their renovations were inspired by lifestyle changes.

Distinctive Interior Designs specializes in home renovations — the Lake Stevens firm is recognized by Houzz for its kitchen and bathroom remodels.

We asked DuByne to share two pandemic projects her firm completed last year for Lake Stevens residents Shelly Henderson and Mary Beth Kurtenbach.

Shelly Henderson’s rambler was built in 1992. The Hendersons moved into the 1,148-square-foot house in 1998.

Henderson had hired DuByne to redecorate the living room in 2018. The designer found new couches, curtains, pillows, a rug, a sculpture, vases, candles, a mirror and a ladder bookcase to liven up the space.

Three years later, it was time to hire DuByne again for two bathroom renovations and to refresh the kitchen and dining room.

Both remodeled bathrooms feature three patterned tiles — classic subway, river pebbles and a sandy porcelain — but they are laid in different ways so that each room has continuity and contrast at the same time. One bathroom got a new tub, the other a walk-in shower with two shower heads. Each room has a custom vanity with white quartz countertops.

In the kitchen, the bottom cabinets were painted blue to add a pop of color, while the cherry upper cabinets were painted white. A gray quartz countertop is complemented by a gray and white tile backsplash. An under-mount sink and faucet also were installed. A new microwave and a new stove were ordered.

Next door, in the dining room, a buffet along the wall makes for a dinner-party upgrade and provides more kitchen storage. Floating alder shelves were added for interest above the buffet.

“Our kitchen is small, so until now we have stored all of our kitchen appliances in the garage,” said Henderson, director of brand strategy and communication at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland. “Can you imagine, ‘Hey, can you get the air fryer? Can you get the blender? Can you get the Pyrex casserole dish?’

“My dream was to renovate the kitchen, but as we looked at the budget and time involved, it just didn’t make sense. Kelly helped us do a refresh with added storage.”

Mary Beth Kurtenbach’s split level was built in 1978. The Kurtenbachs purchased the 2,438-square-foot house in 1993.

Kurtenbach has had DuByne consult her on remodeling projects for 15 years. With the pandemic, she knew it was time to have DuByne renovate the bathroom and the kitchen.

“We were going nuts in our house,” said Kurtenbach, a music teacher at Stevens Creek Elementary School. “The kitchen was ugly, the bathroom was ugly. I was just so sick of it.”

In the kitchen, a peninsula was removed to make room for a buffet. The buffet is topped with a natural stone quartzite countertop. White Spanish tiles that were meant to be a backsplash now go up from buffet to ceiling. There was a false ceiling in the kitchen — not anymore. A desk was transformed into a pantry. There is a lot more light: a new fixture over the sink, strip lights under floating shelves and toe kick lighting under the cabinets. A maple dining table with enough leaves to seat 14 was ordered.

In the bathroom, the vanity now has custom cabinets and a green soapstone countertop. A marbled tan and red linoleum covers the floor. A new toilet is installed, but next to go is the bathtub and the shower.

“I just love remodels,” DuByne said. “I love it when it’s torn out and demoed and then we get to start fresh and make it a new space for the client.”

She founded Distinctive Interior Designs in 1995. Her firm has helped hundreds of clients since then, but DuByne still signs up for design courses now and then to continue to learn the trade.

“It’s been a learning and a work in progress,” she said.

A certified color specialist, DuByne also has been asked by The Daily Herald to reflect on Pantone’s Color of the Year. Working with color is DuByne’s favorite thing about her job. Her motto is “Live colorfully.”

We have that Houzz survey of 70,000 Americans, but what about the numbers right here? DuByne can give us a Snohomish County snapshot.

In 2020, business at Distinctive Interior Design increased by 21%. In 2021, it was up another 37%. And a booked 2022 calendar means an even larger percentage of clients this year.

“There’s so much interest in remodels right now,” DuByne said. “They realize they want to make changes in their homes because they’re spending so much time there.”

More information

Distinctive Interior Designs is a Lake Stevens firm specializing in home renovations and recognized for its bathroom and kitchen remodels. It also offers space planning, color consultation and shopping services. Call 425-238-3678 or email [email protected] for more information.

Design tips from Kelly DuByne

Quartz is queen. Homeowners and designers alike turn to quartz countertops for their beautiful colors and patterns. They are easy to maintain. They never have to be sealed, unlike granite and marble. They are nonabsorbent, meaning they resist stains and don’t harbor bacteria.

Mix up shapes in a room. Say you’re redoing your bathroom: If you have a lot of sharp edges — maybe square tiles on the floor or in the shower and a rectangular vanity — then soften those corners with a round mirror, a curved faucet or an oval sink.

Paint your ceiling white. Whether you’re redecorating or renovating a room, you want all those colorful new changes in your space to pop. You can add to the effect by painting your ceiling white. Also: When your wall is a different color than your ceiling, it adds contrast.

Match the fixtures in a room. The color of your fixtures and hardware should match. If it’s a bathroom, that means the faucet, shower head, mirror and cabinet handles. Popular finishes include bronze, gold, black and nickel.

Don’t be afraid to repeat materials. If you’ve picked out a variety of tiles and laid them out in one pattern for a room, be bold and lay them out in a different way in another room. This practice brings continuity and contrast — which adds interest to a space.

Washington North Coast Magazine

This article is featured in the spring issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to for more information.


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