LOS ANGELES, CA— The grass may not always be greener on the other side, but the kitchen and bath are two areas that certainly can be.
These are the sentiments of Alison Shoemaker, principal interior designer and owner of Alison Designs, based here, who set out to educate and inspire her clients with one simple message: Design is where your style meets Mother Nature.
Shoemaker, a native northern Californian, notes that early exposure to nature – and the kitchen and bath design process through her mother’s interior design business – paved the way for her firm’s business philosophy.
“We are a full-service design studio specializing in both residential and commercial interior design. The studio covers a vast array of projects from new construction to remodels and has a strong focus on ‘green’ interior design,” explains Shoemaker.
Specifically, the firm offers custom furniture and cabinet design, kitchen, bath, media room, master suites and children’s room design services as well as contractor referrals.
“We’ve worked on high-end residential homes and urban condos as well as commercial projects throughout the Los Angeles area,” she adds.
Shoemaker, who is LEED accredited by the U.S. Green Building Council, focuses on bringing the green architectural movement indoors by designing interiors with furniture and fixtures that maintain these same eco-sensibilities.
“Besides the humanitarian upside, and the feeling you get from participating in the green movement and helping the environment, I think there is also an advantage for any kitchen and bath designer to be at the forefront of learning about products that are as good as – if not better and more long-lasting than – non-green products,” she says.
A Touch of Green
To completely capture the green needs of her clients, Shoemaker initially consults with clients on ways they can incorporate green elements into their home, whether they want a few green touches or an entirely eco-friendly home.
“We strive to create a look for clients we refer to as “Green and Gorgeous.” To that end, we convince people that green design does not mean you have to sacrifice on style,” she explains.
To buttress this approach, the firm offers a wide variety of green products including recycled glass tile and countertops, cabinetry made of FSC-certified wood, bamboo flooring and cabinetry, quartz countertops, cork flooring, low-flow bath fixtures and Energy Star-rated appliances.
“By continuously staying up to date on new materials and innovative techniques, it has enabled me to become a green product expert. That is why I strive to inspire my clients to mix these green design ideals into their projects,” she says.
According to Shoemaker, many of her clients specifically seek out her firm with the initial desire for a green lifestyle, “and we take them step by step through education on how and why to become green. We simplify the overall process and present the design along with the benefits of potential earth-friendly choices. By the end of the project, our clients have often become eco-warriors,” she proclaims.
The Green Man Group
To best display these items, Shoemaker has eschewed a typical kitchen and bath showroom full of busy displays and vignettes, opting instead for an intimate studio setting that allows for a more personalized presentation of each product line.
“Our studio is designed around green principles. Not only do we have eco-based samples available of products for our clients to peruse, but we are also surrounded by eco-friendly furnishings and fixtures. We live by example,” she explains.
She has also noticed that as more people opt to go green – in spite of what is perceived as elevated prices – the more there becomes a market shift that leads to a reduction in overall cost in the green materials: a win-win scenario for all involved.
In fact, the firm has developed a diverse portfolio ranging from traditional to modern design themes for clients to choose from – all with a twist of green, she adds.
“I worked on a condominium that started out as only a kitchen and bath remodel but became a complete renovation and we gutted the entire space. He was on board to do the entire remodel but the green movement was new to him, so we tried to do things step-by-step as opposed to overwhelming him with green products,” she describes.
“Instead I brought him one product at a time and gave him choices between green products and non-green products. He often chose the green option. We slowly introduced green principles and it turned out great with locally built cabinets, CaesarStone countertops and a beautiful backsplash. So, he kind of went green without even realizing it!
“My passion for the environment drives me to give personal attention to each project to ensure its success for both the client and the environment,” she says.
Green Means Go
Undoubtedly, Shoemaker’s philosophy has resonated with many first-time consumers and has resulted in repeat customers.
“We don’t have any proactive marketing approaches. Aside from being listed in the Yellow Pages and participating in Low Impact Living, most of my clientele comes from referrals,” she points out.
“The majority of our clients are through word-of-mouth referrals and relationships we’ve developed with past clients who we highly value,” she notes.
For others looking to get into the green movement, Shoemaker advises, “The most important thing to remember when going green is to do your research. Some companies unfortunately participate in ‘greenwashing,’ which is marketing themselves or their products as green when in fact they are not eco-friendly.”
She further suggests designers should do their homework and verify a product’s formaldehyde content, finding out where the product was constructed and from where the materials in its construction originated to reduce on fossil fuels used to transport
“Kitchen and bath designers should definitely do their research to ensure the products they are ordering are truly green. One of the things to look for is third-party certification such as Green Seal, Green Guard, CRI and those contributing to LEED Certification – and this will increase the chances of a successful design, [and ultimately a green-oriented business.],” she concludes.