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Home remodeling boom leads to expansion at Abode Interior Design & Homecrafting

STOCKHOLM, Wis. — It's been a boom year for home renovations. The housing market is way up. People are remodeling like crazy.

For Alan Nugent, owner of Abode Interior Design & Homecrafting in Stockholm, these national trends translate into increased demand for his design services. Clients from all over the Midwest have been coming to him with new projects. He realized that he needed to add staff. But what were the odds that he'd find designers to hire in Stockholm, population 66?

Alan Nugent

Then-interior designer Deb Aune moved to Stockholm and Jessie Leonhardt graduated from nearby University of Wisconsin-Stout, with a degree in interior design.

Nugent, the only designer in his small business until last week, was thrilled at the serendipity.

"Deb appeared just at the right moment," says Nugent. "Her skills, especially in home redesign, are in huge demand right now. And our design philosophy and style are very much in sync. She's a natural add-on for Abode."

Aune, who honed her design, decorating and home-staging skills in Pennsylvania and Minnesota before moving to Stockholm, joins Abode as a redesign and staging specialist. Leonhardt, with her recently minted Bachelor of Fine Arts from UW-Stout, will be an interior design associate.

"We just tripled the size of our business in a single week," Nugent says.

Deb Aune

Everyone on the team has deep ties to the Mississippi River area, with clients, friends and family from St. Cloud to Winona, Minn. and Menomonie to La Crosse, Wis. Winona has been a particularly busy location for home remodeling in the past year.

Nugent was a senior designer with Martha O'Hara Interiors in Minneapolis before moving to Stockholm in 2004. He is also the owner of Abode Gallery, a fine arts gallery and gift store. A theater arts major, Nugent has channeled his creativity into home designs that are, he says, "outside the box."

"Homecrafting" is a term Nugent coined when a customer asked him to use his design skills to create a new house from the ground up — despite the fact that he's not an architect. Never one to turn away from a challenge, Nugent worked with architects and draftsmen to translate the client's vision into reality. Now, "homecrafting" is one of Abode's specialties.

Jessie Leonhardt

"With the addition of Deb and Jessie to our staff, we can take clients from one end of the design spectrum to the other," Nugent says. "From simple updates to completely designing a new home, we've got it covered."

Aune says she's looking forward to the homecrafting aspect of her work at Abode, as well as helping people refresh and redesign their current homes. Over the course of her 12-year career, she has specialized in working with clients who want a new look without buying new furnishings or renovating.

"I enjoy helping people settle into smaller homes, full of pieces that evoke memories," she said. As the baby boom generation downsizes, the market for "staging" homes for sale and creating new living spaces has increased dramatically.

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