Wendy Yates of Abigail-Elise Design Studio: “The possibilities feel endless as time advances”

In my opinion “trends” are somewhat of a dirty word, but I would say sustainability is a movement worth noting and getting involved in. My company has been providing lifestyle and luxury in a sustainable way for years, and I believe it’s possible to do both. Luxury is not synonymous with waste, as many people […]

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In my opinion “trends” are somewhat of a dirty word, but I would say sustainability is a movement worth noting and getting involved in. My company has been providing lifestyle and luxury in a sustainable way for years, and I believe it’s possible to do both. Luxury is not synonymous with waste, as many people tend to think. It can be a way of living or designing so that your choices value experience, provide a positive return of investment, and support brands or products that give back to society. We believe the future of building homes in a more sustainable way is the new luxury.

As a part of our series about “Homes Of The Future”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy Yates.

Wendy Yates is an entrepreneur and philanthropist dedicated to leading by example as she inspires her team and like-minded leaders to create a culture rooted in value. After dropping out of college to prematurely launch into the world of business, she’s experienced failure on many levels and she’s learned how to use her grit and purpose-driven motives to ultimately succeed. Yates is the CEO and founder of multiple internationally recognized companies that work to elevate the overall quality of people’s lives by being a force for good.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Growing up I had always been one of those kids who wanted a sense of place. We moved homes often, so making an environment and space that allowed me to thrive felt important. I focused on the color palette and feeling of my room over random objects or toys. Many years later I was going through a divorce, I didn’t have a place to live and I had a two year old. It was really out of necessity that I moved fully into entrepreneurship utilizing skill sets that came naturally

Beyond that there isn’t really ONLY ONE event or something pivotal that happened in my life that I can attribute to what led me to my career as an entrepreneur. I’ve always had a drive to constantly grow in ways that made me incrementally better so that each day I can live with purpose and joy. It took me failing several times to learn how to successfully utilize my natural creativity and leadership skills so that I can collaborate with high-reaching design teams, change people’s lives, and create both spaces and experiences that change what others believe is possible for themselves.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Hmmm… Can you define interesting? If by interesting you mean valuable then I have a story.

Beginning my career may be one of the most interesting/valuable stories I have because it forced me to grow up and live with intention. I was divorced with a baby, my car was broken down, I didn’t have a job or friends, and …I was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Add in the fact it was during a recession and there wasn’t a single person to help me at that time, I did what was necessary, I started a company.

I fully believe that if you are paying attention, life forces you to be intentional with your time and resources. My experience showed me that once I was able to recognize this reality, I was able to accomplish anything. I want to help guide others to know and embody this life lesson so that they too can create their lives in a positive and productive way.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

I don’t know of a true tipping point that I can call out because to me it’s all been about living, growing, and evolving. I believe if you’re not failing you’re not trying hard enough, so every time something pivotal has happened in my life I’ve made it a priority to learn and grow from it.

I am nowhere near where I want to go and everything I want to accomplish, however I can say it was when I started to define what life meant to me that I began to outline what I wanted with more clarity. This enabled me to create goals based around lifestyle design so that I was gathering valuable experiences vs collecting things.

What I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is that this process of self evaluation and goal setting will always be a constant pour.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My mother has always been supportive, even when I didn’t fully realize it. I also believe that every person that gave me a job or said something kind to me helped encourage me to keep going or to come up with a new idea. For that I am thankful.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

The NPR podcast How I Built This has greatly influenced how I chose to think about my companies. Hearing real authentic stories of business owners overcoming the impossible made me realize my passion for building and creating beyond design. It gave me motivation to connect with a circle of like-minded people so that together we can champion solutions that have a positive impact. Surrounding yourself with those who are doing what you want to do better than you, know more than you know, and have a heart of service is 100% a game changer when you’re actively moving in the direction of growth.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There are 2 quotes that I think of daily:

  1. “Someone once told me not to bite off more than I could chew and I said I would rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity.” — I don’t remember who said this
  2. “Decide what you want. Determine what price you are willing to pay — go to work.” — Zip Ziglar

I heard the later quote on a Zip Ziglar tape while driving. It made me realize — I have the power to decide. I have the power to determine what I am willing to do. And I am privileged by having the freedom of choice in a way that enables me to utilize my time and skills in a way that will help others.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Homebuilding in the US has grown tremendously. We’d love to hear about some of the new trends and techniques that are being used to build the homes of the future.

In my opinion “trends” are somewhat of a dirty word, but I would say sustainability is a movement worth noting and getting involved in. My company has been providing lifestyle and luxury in a sustainable way for years, and I believe it’s possible to do both. Luxury is not synonymous with waste, as many people tend to think. It can be a way of living or designing so that your choices value experience, provide a positive return of investment, and support brands or products that give back to society. We believe the future of building homes in a more sustainable way is the new luxury.

Can you share with us a few of the methods that are being used to make homes more sustainable and more water and energy efficient?

At Abigail-Elise Design Studio, we are constantly researching and creating relationships with like-minded innovators in the sustainable arena. To design an energy efficient home, we collaborate with partners that seek out the best technologies and value environmentalism. Some methods in which we focus on are as follows:

  1. We utilize materials that are made by companies that dedicate a percentage of their resources to R&D so that they can pioneer new production processes that have less of a negative impact on the environment.
  2. We select low-flow faucets, showerheads and toilets, which can reduce indoor water usage by 30 to 40 percent.
  3. We install cisterns above or below ground to collect and store run-off from rooftops and other impervious surfaces. This gives our clients a harvest of water to nurture their lawns, wash cars, or if they add a filtering and disinfecting system it can be used for potable needs.
  4. We suggest our clients invest in solar panels, LED light bulbs, solar garden lights, and even solar phone chargers.
  5. Lastly, we recommend smart thermostats that can be programmed around the homeowners schedule so that the heat or air conditioning is only being used when it needs to be.

There is a lot of talk about Smart Homes. Can you tell our readers a bit about what that is, what that looks like, and how that might help people?

Smart homes allow homeowners to perform a variety of automated tasks that make life simpler. They enable you to control appliances, thermostats, lights, and other devices remotely using a smartphone or tablet through an internet connection. As technology continues to evolve it is being integrated into everything we do and use. We can now turn our stove off or assure the refrigerator is at its optimal temperature from across town. The possibilities feel endless as time advances.

Aside from Smart Homes, can you talk about other interesting tech innovations that are being incorporated into homes today?

Air quality is high on the list. With wildfires consuming the west coast and the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many people to stay at home, indoor air quality is more important than ever. Installing an air purification system is a great way to remove pollutants and pet dander from the air or add aroma therapy options.

Other tech innovations that are worth noting are building structures from fire resistant materials, installing “smart glass” that changes from clear to translucent that partially blocks the sun’s rays when an electrical charge energizes special materials inside the glass, or purchasing a steam washer that sanitizes fabrics and removes dirt or grime better than any average washing machine.

Can you talk about innovations that are being made to make homes more pet friendly?

First off, I own several pets myself and love seeing what is new on the market. Some innovations I find worthwhile are air filters to minimize pet dandruff and odors, microchip pet doors that allows pet owners to control the pet door remotely using their smartphones, smart pet beds that have climate control and an activity tracker that can be connected to Google’s Alexa, and smart pet feeders and bowls that share alerts when there are unusual changes in their activity levels.

How about actual construction materials? Are there new trends in certain materials to address changes in the climate, fires, floods, and hurricanes?

Many of our extreme weather patterns are being caused by global warming and as many people know greenhouse gas emissions are largely to blame. We promote helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions by choosing to use recycled or more environmentally friendly materials and designing buildings to be more energy efficient with more insulation, appliances and systems improvements, as well as passive cooling and heating will have a substantial impact. Some examples of construction materials to use are timber from sustainably managed and harvested forests, high strength-to-weight ratio bamboo, fast-growing cork, and reclaimed or recycled wood and metal.

For someone looking to invest in the real estate industry, are there exciting growth opportunities that you think people should look at more carefully?

I think investing in condo and vacation homes will continue to be a worthwhile investment. To add to that idea I believe investing in international properties such as the Dominican Republic or the British Virgin Islands is a great opportunity to 1) do something good for their communities and economies and 2) create a space in which you can share the wealth of cultural experience with others. It is for this reason that I am currently working in the DR and looking for more development opportunities in similar areas.

Let’s talk a bit about housing availability and affordable housing. Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

In 2012 it was estimated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development that it would cost 20 billion dollars to end homelessness. I’m not sure what that number is today, however if large retailers were able to provide 1 cent for every dollar of profit to a specified fund I’m sure it would generate a substantial amount. Beyond the monetary value, I think a greater part of the problem is addressing mental health and providing individuals with resources they can use to become active members of society that can then afford housing. It is incredibly challenging to move out of poverty without assistance in this day and age.

Is there anything that home builders can do to further help address these problems?

Yes, developers can donate a percentage of their profits from every build to go towards funding an organization dedicated to resolving homelessness. At AE, we strive to do this in addition to donating to nonprofits that address mental health.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂 …

I am dedicated to leading for change by showing others how to find opportunities and help them overcome limiting beliefs. When we share knowledge and work as a global society, there is greater equality. For me, the movement to end poverty starts with equity, empathy and education on a global level. If we could see money as an expansion tool of the heart and not something to hoard we would have a greater ability to positively affect the world. If more people could adapt this type of mindset it would be a major game changer for our future generations.

How can our readers follow you online?



This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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