Collaboration Helps Get It Right

For kitchen and bath designers, their specialty typically lies in such areas as space planning, creative design and product selection. The goal is to help clients achieve dream spaces – functionally and aesthetically.

However, there are always areas that fall outside of a designer’s expertise, whether it’s architectural design, building, choosing flooring, wall coverings and window treatments, finding unique plumbing or hardware products, or something else. For that reason, designers may seek out the expertise of other trade professionals to help implement their design vision. Architects, builders, remodelers, interior designers and decorative plumbing and hardware specialists can all provide input that can prove to be invaluable in helping to bring a design to fruition.

This month, KBDN spoke with kitchen and bath designers who offered their insights into the benefits of collaboration, sharing collaborative projects that were a win-win for everyone.

1. Kitchen/bath designer: Anthony Bronzovich, design consultant, Epiphany Kitchens, Northville, MI

Collaborative partner: Edward Postiff, Edward Postiff Interiors, Northville, MI

Project specifics: Key terms Bronzovich adhered to when designing this Ann Arbor, MI, kitchen included “southern,” “cozy” and “not too formal.” The family, with two young boys, likes to entertain, which dictated a focus on the island and range as well as a large 48" refrigerator.

Project collaboration: This project featured custom paint on the cabinets and the island. “Ed and I worked together to get the right look,” says Bronzovich. “I focused on cabinet selection to determine the best style option and he helped choose the finishes. The perimeter is almond with a coffee glaze and the island is a custom green with a coffee glaze and light distressing.

“Granite selection – Eden granite for the countertops – was also a group effort, as was selecting tile for the backsplash. I created the layout while Ed helped select the finishes, which are honed limestone for the field tiles and a blend of stone, metal and glass for the insert behind the range.”

Benefits of collaboration: “We have a couple of complementary businesses within our space,” he says. “In addition to our interior designer partner, we also have a flooring company partner. We all share space, which helps to reduce overhead. We also routinely work with an architect, who has his own space.

“We work together hand-in-hand on many projects. My specialty is cabinet selection and space planning. I also help to keep clients on budget, guiding their decisions so there are no surprises at the end of the project. When we get to finishes, that’s where Ed comes into play. I design a well-functioning kitchen, then he makes it aesthetically pleasing. He helps refine the space.

“Collaborating with other industry professionals, such as an interior designer, is very beneficial. He can help clients select window treatments, chairs, etc. to make the space beautiful – to take it to the next level and tie it into the rest of the home. We can play off of each other, running ideas by one another to see what works with the overall theme of a house to make sure we’re all making the right choices for a client.”


2. Kitchen/bath designer: Terry Scarborough, CMKBD, ASID, CGP, Deane Inc., New Canaan, CT

Collaborative partner: Zach Malpass, Inc., Bronxville, NY

Project specifics: This kitchen was part of a reconfiguration of the existing kitchen/dining room to “right size” the space and allow for a large table/comfortable seating area. Scarborough took down a wall and turned the dining room into a TV area at one end of the kitchen, enlarged the mudroom, added a separate office and moved a bathroom.

Project collaboration: Scarborough worked with Zach Malpass to incorporate the oak flooring, stained dark to match the rest of the house and complement the dark walnut cabinetry.

“He distressed the wood to give it a ‘worn’ look and beveled the edges,” she says. “He added cut nails to make it look really authentic. I’ve worked with this builder on a number of projects, and he’s a super talented craftsman. He has great ideas about mantle styles, stone work and flooring.”

Benefits of collaboration: “Because our company supplies primarily cabinets, countertops and appliances, along with the layout, we really depend on others to collaborate with when it comes to tile, flooring, window treatments, etc.,” she says. “And even though I have a master’s degree in interior design, that is not what I do. It’s not my current skill set.

“The extent of collaboration varies with each client. But I would say in some way, most of my jobs in this area have an architect, interior designer and/or builder who is involved at some level.

“I think it makes for a better project if you have a team of professionals working together, all with the same goal in mind – where everyone wants a client with a great looking project. That’s what we all dream about. If the client can walk away satisfied in the end, and we can make it look seamless, that’s what design is all about.”


3. Kitchen/bath designer: James Blair, principal, DreamSpace design, Santa Rosa, CA

Collaborative partners: Leff Construction Design/Build, Sebastopol, CA; Marilyn Standley Architect, Sebastopol, CA

Project specifics: This nearly 3,500-sq.-ft. home, with another 3,300 square feet of exterior space, sits atop Cazedero Hill on 775 acres. The homeowner wanted a dramatic, lodge-style home with an intimate connection with the environment.

“It’s out in the woods, on a pretty imposing site,” says Blair. “It’s also a very imposing design, both internally and externally.”

The kitchen showcases rich craftsmanship, along with wood and colors with great depth of detail such as a curved bar, coffered ceiling and fireplace.

Project collaboration: “Collaboration between all of the trades involved, as well as the homeowner, was critical for this project,” says Blair. “The architect is fantastic, but there were a lot of details for one person to keep track of since it was a very complicated project. As we got further into it, we realized we had to change a few elements [in the kitchen] such as the width of the crown moulding and how it worked with the coffered ceiling. With a 10-foot ceiling and another foot of coffer, there’s a lot of depth. We wanted it to be imposing, but not top heavy.

“I worked collaboratively with Leff Construction to ensure the services were in the correct location and to determine the best way to create the curved, raised bar, which has a very organic shape. Not only is the top curved, but so is the support. We put our heads together and came up with this stave idea. It’s a bit like tongue and groove, but on a narrow basis, to follow the curves.”

Benefits of collaboration: “I love working collaboratively, and I prefer to have others involved in a project,” he says. “I feel the homeowner gets a well-designed, efficient space when all of the players work together. It’s remarkable how, when everyone sits together at the table, we can find a level of trust and brainstorm ideas.

“Another benefit is that when everyone is involved from the creation of the plan, everyone is one step ahead when it comes to putting everything into place. There are fewer mistakes and surprises that can delay a project quickly.”


4. Kitchen/bath designer: Jackie Smith, senior designer Dream Kitchens, Nashua, NH

Collaborative partner: Village Homes, Windham, NH

Project specifics: This kitchen was part of a whole-house remodel that included three bathrooms and previously unused attic space that was turned into an office. “This was such a big project, with many moving pieces and parts, so collaboration with other people was exceptionally important,” says Smith.

Project collaboration: Preliminary observations indicated that removal of an arched walkway was possible. However, after demolition began, it was determined that the wall contained a structural post, which meant at least a portion of it would have to remain.

“We had an emergency collaboration meeting onsite,” Smith recalls. “We discussed the options, made some concessions, purchased a couple of new cabinets and finished the project. There was a lot of back and forth, and without great collaboration, there’s no way this kitchen would have ever been installed. We would have had to go back to square one to redesign it, rather than making a few tweaks and adjustments. It turned out to be a fantastic kitchen!”

Benefits of collaboration: “Designers can create a lot of fantastic designs, but they can’t necessarily all be built,” she says. “Sometimes we need someone to tell us what we can and can’t do, especially structurally.

“I am also not an expert in everything. I know a lot about a lot, but I don’t know everything about everything. For example, I collaborate with my tile supplier and installer because I don’t know everything about the world of tile. I do my own designs, but I rely on my supplier to take my thoughts and turn them into products, from which I’ll make final selections.

“I consider myself the ‘keeper of the vision.’ It’s my job to understand my clients’ style and to determine the direction they want to take their projects, making sure the pieces and parts fall into place so the end result is what they want. From there, I can convey that message to others I’ve brought into the job, other professionals who I trust and have a good relationship with to help carry out the design.”


5. Kitchen/bath designer: Kelly Thayer, designer, Kitchens & Baths Unlimited, Inc., Glenview, IL

Collaborative partner: Banner Plumbing Supply, Buffalo Grove and Chicago, IL

Project specifics: The previous bathroom was monochromatic and full of mirrors with a dated, 1980s feel. The client had a specific vision that included contrast and warmer materials with a Zen-like atmosphere.

Project collaboration: The location of the plumbing fixtures, etc. was not changed. “It wasn’t about re-inventing the wheel,” she says. “It was more about updating the space by selecting new materials.”

Thayer collaborated with Banner Plumbing Supply to select sleek, stream-lined fixtures that complement other materials chosen for the bathroom.

Benefits of collaboration: “We are a kitchen/bath designer and serve as the general contractor for our projects,” says Thayer. “We do the design work and provide the labor. We have a nice showroom with about 25 displays, but they’re focused more on cabinetry. We can’t show all of the plumbing options available, nor do we want to.

“Instead, by collaborating with a plumbing specialist, such as Banner Plumbing Supply, our clients can test different options. They can turn on a faucet and flush a toilet. Once our clients have made their selections, we work with Banner Plumbing to make sure the fixtures they have chosen will work with the designs we’ve created.

“It’s a great collaboration because they have the knowledge about the functionality of the parts and pieces our clients are interested in. They can also be a tremendous help when budget plays a role. Some of the selections they suggest really help make a bathroom feel more luxurious and high-end, without necessarily being high dollar. Working with Banner Plumbing is a dovetail experience for us.

“Plumbing fixtures can be the jewelry of the space and really add to the project, helping to set off all of the elements we’ve worked so hard to make special. Oftentimes it’s the small attention to details that can really help to set a project apart.”