In home building and renovation, there’s the plan — and then there’s what actually happens. For Jaime Hager, taking over Hager Group from his father was the plan ever since he started working at the family-owned business out of high school. But when the transition started to actually happen in the last few years, things changed.
“I found that people looking at new homes were bringing us in to do a cost analysis on potential renovations to see if they could afford it,” Hager says, “and I realized we do all this legwork for the real estate side.” So, becoming a licensed realtor, and opening a realtor division in the company to add value for clients, became part of the new plan.
Renovations would remain the company’s expertise, but Hager says that it always “seemed funny that we’d spend a year customizing a home, just for the owners to go furnish it from big box chain stores.” New plan: hook clients up with local craftspeople and artists, including Jaime’s wife, Cassidie Miller, and expand their Studio YEG Art gallery — beside Studio YEG Art, in the Westbrook Shopping Centre — that shows what Hager Group, and its growing community of Edmonton-area creators, can do.
“We had clients who wanted art for their home, so it just made sense to connect them with the people that we knew, from furniture and upholstery, to leather makers, to metal workers, a bunch of carpenters, and even light experts — a lot of these people sell in New York and L.A., but nobody in Edmonton seems to know them.”
With the rebrand complete, Studio Hager is set to have its COVID-opening this month for the ecommerce company. And the Hagers — the company still includes his father — look forward to the hopefully-not-too-distant future when they can host packed art workshops and exhibitions, Scotch and wine nights, sell their new furniture line and showcase local artists’ stunning work.
In the meantime, they continue to execute the tried-and-true plan of renovating houses, a lifelong craft that conjures emotion in Hager. “I get frustrated with how many of these homes get knocked down. You have these homes with beautiful features that you cannot recreate, and it drives us nuts when they’re knocked down. So, the big thing we’re trying to push for is to show people, through our work, what they can do with renovations.”
The owners of this Brookside bungalow didn’t need much convincing to let Hager’s team do its work — he played there as a kid 30 years ago, and the families have kept in touch ever since — but that doesn’t mean everything went according to plan. After some back and forth, the couple decided to remove the wall dividing the kitchen and living room. It opened things up nicely, but made the transition from the living room’s sloped ceiling to the kitchen’s eight-foot height awkward. So, mid-renovation, they extended the sloped ceiling 10 feet into the kitchen, so the dining table didn’t sit in two spaces at once.
But that made things awkward again, because of one of those “beautiful features” you cannot recreate: The brick-walled fireplace, complete with an indoor barbecue (the ‘60s were a crazy time). It only extended to the original dividing wall, so they matched the brick (using bricks from another renovation) and turned the barbecue into one of the coolest wine and Scotch bars you’ll see.
That was the big spatial picture. Next came the details, specifically in the kitchen, which angles out from the now open living and dining rooms in a way new homes generally don’t. For that, Hager relied on his army of experts to share their ideas. “It was a little unorthodox,” Hager says. “Normally we have a designer that kind of handles the full scope and then some of the trades have their inputs in suppliers and products. But this company, Attlea, who did the cabinets, worked with the interior designer to help make the transition from the flooring to the wall colours and some of the fixtures. I like to use carpenters and furniture makers who are passionate about design not just doing the work for the paycheque.”
The collective’s goal? To renovate the home without erasing its original aesthetic — to extend its former era into a modern design while keeping its ‘60s style. This includes shaker kitchen cabinets (as opposed to modern flat panel doors), and dark-grouted backsplash tiles that match the light fixtures and tie in to the barbecue bar. “If I told you it was a ‘60s bungalow, you would believe me, because it still has that feel.”
It speaks to the philosophy Hager’s implementing into Hager Group version 2.0. “Edmonton has a limited number of buildings with any sort of history that were architecturally ahead of their time. I think it’s a shame that they just knock them down and I’m hoping as people see what we can do with renovations, the more that will catch on and we’ll stop losing all these places.”