Alumnus Brent Potter is an award-winning architectural designer in Decatur. A specialist in designing home renovations adaptable to the changing needs of baby boomers and those who want to age in place, he says that his Andrew Young School degree provided him particularly unique skills that he needs to do the job well.
“My primary passion has always been residential design and building, but helping people on a personal level is my enthusiasm and the driving force behind my work.” So, in his mid-20s, Potter attended Georgia State to earn a Bachelor of Social Work with a certificate in gerontology.
In fact, he says, his earliest experience in applying social work to architectural skills was during his time at Georgia State. He volunteered for a service project with Rebuilding Together Atlanta, which helps seniors stay in their homes. Later, he served at several Martin Luther King Jr. service projects in Decatur, repairing homes for seniors.
Potter has seen how this work can transform his client’s lives. “I had the opportunity to work with a couple who had been married for many years and suddenly found themselves forced into separation. The wheelchair-bound husband had to move into assisted living, while the wife still lived at home. It was difficult. They had a typical 40’s bungalow that needed wider hallways and a bathroom that would accommodate his chair. Designing them a new accessible bathroom and hall allowed him to move back into the house, so they could spend their remaining years at home together.”
The desire for most people is to age in place, he explains. “That’s being able to live comfortably and safely in your home and community through a variety of life stages and personal circumstances and challenges, including physical, financial and family changes. My grandmother has been fortunate enough to live in the same house for 50 years.”
Atlanta’s aging population is growing faster than in other locations, and Potter recognized that trend early. However, he sees the need for his design work as universal. “Good planning and design can improve living spaces for anyone from young couples to empty-nesters.”
“Our work designing and renovating people’s homes is a service industry, and the social work training at Georgia State taught me how to serve others as a professional,” he says.
Potter admits this training has been particularly helpful for earning trust with his clients. “It helps me communicate effectively with people of all ages. I’m more aware of their needs. My clients are making sometimes stressful decisions, and there’s money involved, sometimes life savings. Also, people either leave their house or stay there for several months while we renovate, inconveniencing their lives.”
Sometimes he’s a mediator. “Opposites attract, and often a couple approaches their project from different opinions or priorities. You may have to talk to them about doing things they don’t necessarily want to do, like sacrificing bedroom space for a larger bath. Social work has helped me to mediate, to help them compromise and come to a decision.”
Critical thinking is another skill he attributes to his social work education. “Dr. Elizabeth Beck taught my research class, and now I realize how important it was. When I’m evaluating building resources, I can recognize the potential bias in the study findings and determine what the best products are for my clients.”
Since 2007, Potter has worked for Renewal Design-Build, a Decatur residential renovation firm. “Many of our clients have not renovated before or have had challenging remodeling experiences in the past. We provide a full-service experience to guide them through the whole process.”
Potter’s national awards include the Chrysalis award for best kitchen remodel $50-75K, and his kitchen design won Best of Best from Remodeler Magazine. He has won the Gold OBIE for Best Kitchen, second place in Whole House, and was recognized as Best of the Best in an Atlanta Home Improvement magazine. His designs have been featured in Renovation Style and Atomic Ranch magazines, on Houzz.com and in the Atlanta Journal- Constitution’s “Private Quarters.”