Firm Cooks Up Personalized Designs for Clients

WYCKOFF, NJ— If someone were to ask Sharon L. Sherman, “What’s cooking?” there is little doubt she would have the answer. After all, Sherman, CKD, ASID, NCIDQ, NJCID 348 and principal for Thyme & Place Design, based here, has used her nearly 30 years of design experience – as well as a passion for cooking – to lead a firm intent on providing health, happiness and efficiency through its designs and services.

Sherman, who has led the firm for the past eight years, explains: “I love to cook. I have kids who cook, a husband who cooks and friends who cook, and they always want to be in our kitchen at the same time.”

She continues: “This interest in cooking has allowed me to use many of the great appliances that I recommend to my clients, so I know the merits of certain brands – and I also know what it is to have a stove with no working oven and only two burners igniting. If you can’t relate to the design process [and issues that the client may be facing] it is that much harder to create a viable space for them.”

She also credits this ability to frequent trips she has taken to Europe to visit her husband’s family, where she has been exposed to French bistros, tapas in Barcelona and small trattorias. According to Sherman, these experiences have added to her “mental resource file” and often manifest themselves in her designs through the distinct colors, textures, patterns and architectural details she chooses.

“Of course, good food is a must,” she says, adding that she still takes cooking classes in professional kitchens to learn creative, nutritious dishes, and gain design inspiration.

Sherman notes that her firm is geared toward the luxury market, catering to clients in search of custom living spaces that are best suited to their lifestyles, rather than “a generic layout.” In fact, many of her projects are second homes located at the beach front, near mountains or in Manhattan – needless to say an eclectic lot.

“The key to success in the kitchen and bath industry is using common sense and looking toward the longevity of every design,” says the designer. “It is very easy to change color schemes, but it is quite another thing to create functional, beautiful spaces by moving walls and planning for additions such as grab bars in showers.”

Sum of its Parts

According to Sherman, a huge key to her firm’s success is her philosophy to “work with the home as a total space rather than one room at a time in order to create a living flow for a family to enjoy.”

To that end, she notes that the firm specializes in kitchens, baths and custom millwork, but can complete the furnishings, wall finishes, window treatments, lighting and accessories as well.

“For example, I have been working on a whole-house project where we designed and supplied cabinetry, interior design and finishes for a contemporary home,” she explains.

Sherman has never been a believer in the old adage that too many cooks spoil the broth, at least not when it comes to the design broth. Rather, she frequently collaborates with the firm’s three staff members, as well as subcontractors to make sure each design is a unique and personalized creation.

She credits her staff with being a key part of the firm’s success, noting: “By combining a unique blend of construction experience with design eloquence, our staff can oversee and implement all of the necessary elements to create an exceptional project.”

Her design studio is very small but well designed, notes Sherman. “Our products are shown in a very realistic setting for our clients,” she comments. “We have a very beautiful complete powder room, while our fabrics are stored in a free-standing cabinet that I have even reproduced in homes as a display piece,” she reports.

Specifically, the firm handles Pennville Custom Cabinetry, Greenfield, Corsi, Royal by Thyme & Place Design, as well as custom millwork.

She states: “We are not a large design firm working on too many projects at one time. Therefore, we can [provide] personal attention to every one of our clients.”

Access for All

Since she travels quite frequently to Europe, and those spaces are traditionally much smaller in square footage than their American counterparts, she has picked up space management techniques, particularly for suburban homes and New York City apartments – a definite advantage.

“That is real design work. Being on the same page as my clients or having been in the same situation as my clients, it gives me a hands-on approach,” she says.

Sherman carries a passion for designing accessible layouts for all ages, and insists that any kitchen design can only benefit from this whole house-oriented approach.

“Whether it is through Universal Design or by creating a warm place to retreat into, it just has to be the right place for you,” she says.

“Accessible space does not have to look accessible,” Sherman emphasizes. “Most people do not want to think about getting older and needing accessible spaces, but designing doorways at 36" is a simple way to incorporate those types of principles.”

Sherman goes on to describe a master bath she created for clients with an aging aunt who insisted on a space with a door where she could feel comfortable. The result was a bath and bedroom that was barrier free without feeling institutional, she says. “She was able to stay at home, which was important to her family. That’s a design success.”

She continues: “Tubs that are easy to get in and out of without steps, as well as space around the tub in the platform, and accessible storage for towels are all [important aspects to a successful design]. Even something as simple as an adjustable showerhead height on a bar can be a lifesaver. Honed surfaces are another element in this type of design.”

In order to properly integrate these elements, she notes that it is imperative to listen to clients, understand their lifestyle and consider the future changes they may need as they age.

“Universal Design, environmental considerations and family needs are critical to the design process and the success of the project,” she says. Communication with the client is ultimately what is most important to a successful project for her firm, she believes.

“It’s important that the clients know the ins and outs of the remodel. That’s why we try to prepare them for what they will be living through and how wonderful the end product will be. It is also the reason I love this business – because I enjoy creating homes for the whole family,” she concludes.