By Hannah Gray | Image from Member Designer Melanie Millner
Embarking on a home renovation can reveal much about a person: their unique style, their work ethic, and also, their breaking point. It is a stressful process and an expensive, time-consuming one at that.
Chicagoan Sabrina Vodnik is well aware of all of these things, learning about them firsthand during her own 2010 home renovation. But two years later, when the reno was finally complete and her vision fulfilled, Vodnik was left unsatisfied by the decentralized network of all things interior design. Where there should have been a curated network of capable interior designers and quality local resources for homeowners to browse and connect was a gaping hole. So Vodnik set out to fill it.
Refined Haystack is her answer: a curated site where local vetted designers and quality products are featured. It’s a browse-able platform that homeowners can visit as a virtual one-stop shop to streamline the renovation process. “What we do is support cross-promotion and cross-branding between interior design resources and designers themselves, and it’s all an effort to attract the right clientele from style and price points,” says Vodnik, the company’s CEO and founder.
Founded and formed in Chicago, Refined Haystack is extending to Atlanta — its second-ever market to breach. Vodnik is simultaneously reminded of Chicago’s fragmented interior design scene and impressed by Atlanta’s potential. “The real estate is booming in Atlanta. And then you’ve got marketing events. There’s a lot of attention to this space in Atlanta and so for us, it’s just the perfect city to expand to,” she explains.
Now Atlanta-area homeowners have access to Refined Haystack’s carefully curated collection of top designers and quality products and resources. Essentially the heavy lifting is complete and the information consolidated. With the research behind and fun part easily navigable and ahead, homeowners around the Atlanta-metro area have it made. “The benefit that this gives the homeowner coming to the site is they really have the ability to quickly, all in one place, explore, discover and learn more and preview local design resources, whether it’s a designer or a business-or both, preview them before hiring them,” she says. “They can browse, they can see who’s connected, which sources they like and which designers work with them.”
She and her team understand the power of the Internet — and user-generated reviews. “You want somebody else’s opinion and perspective. It’s another form of word of mouth,” Vodnik says. And she’s right. Cyber-giants like Amazon heavily feature user-reviews, and customers depend on the content of the reviews to guide their purchases.
“There’s so much information on the Internet that’s available to people today that it’s almost too much. It’s very overwhelming and it makes it very hard to make decisions. So just from a personal perspective, from a homeowner, I needed something that I felt like I was curated that I could trust, that I knew had been validated by professionals who are in the industry and in the market because that was important to me, not just any person.”
So with Chicago’s interior design network sorted and settled, Vodnik and her team set their sights on the next city to conquer: Atlanta. “We’ve had quite a bit of success in Chicago, but Atlanta, much like Chicago, is decentralized and it’s very fragmented when it comes to interior design. You’ve got interior designers that are spaced out all over, even beyond the Atlanta area but they all pull from resources there,” Vodnik says.
Refined Haystack’s Atlanta arrival basically means one thing: You no longer have an excuse to procrastinate on that home-improvement project. So sit down at your computer and get started, the hard part is already over.