Designer Profile: Nicole Ellis Semple

Monogram has the pleasure of working with so many talented and impressive designers across the country. Nicole Ellis Semple with Kuklinski + Rappe Architects in the Chicago area is a true design professional we enjoy partnering with, and wanted to learn a little more about her background and experiences.

Photo credit: Leslie Schwartz Photography

SRFD: How did you become interested in design?

Nicole: Even as a child I was always specific about the aesthetics of my environment: the colors, the placement of furniture, finding practical objects that were beautiful. My mother is a pretty serious seamstress and crafty gal so I grew up around textiles, color, woodworking, and painting. My father is handy and took up woodworking and remodeling our house, and several of my uncles are in the construction trades. Design and construction were always a part of my life.

In my seventh grade shop class we had to design and draw a house floor plan and something clicked for me. I came home that night and told my parents that I wanted to be an architect.

SRFD: Tell us about your recent projects.

Nicole: We worked on two projects recently that involved subtle plan changes with a big impact on the spaces: one is a very contemporary design, the other quite traditional.

Photo credit: Leslie Schwartz Photography

Our Little Green Kitchen is a bold renovation of a small condo kitchen that previously had bland finishes and a poorly planned layout. The client wanted a colorful geometric backsplash with coordinating cabinets. We created a color blocked space with a much better work flow. Despite the bold pattern and color, the space is bright, fresh, and well-proportioned now.

Inversely, we recently completed a very traditional English cottage style kitchen on the North Shore. We reconfigured a winding floorplan in a small home to create a generous galley kitchen, a butler’s pantry that doubles as a laundry room, relocate a basement stair, and improve a bathroom. The house is small, but by cleaning up the plan and lightening the color palette, we were able to make a dramatic improvement.

And I’m excited about a third project that will be complete this summer: we moved the kitchen in a project we completed 15 years ago from one side of the house to the other. This is our third project for this client, and as her tastes and times have evolved, she decided she wanted something completely different. She put total trust in us to turn the house upside down and I’m not sure who’s more excited about it – her or us!

SRFD: A trend you’re excited about?

Nicole: I appreciate the increasing desire to live simply in small spaces. Our best innovations come from serious space or budget constraints. I love exploring how to use the existing envelope of a home to make it work better without an addition. Subtle changes can have a much higher impact in small spaces. And when clients decide to pare down their belongings, those improved spaces feel so much lighter and brighter!

SRFD: A trend you are over?

Nicole: As classic as it may be, I’m really over standard white Shaker cabinets and basic white subway tile. I’d much prefer to see a similar rhythm and clean lines achieved in other ways. At the very least, we like to play with the edge profile or panel to give it a little oomph. If you’re already paying for a designer’s expertise and/or custom cabinetry, why select something so ubiquitous? Make it personal!

SRFD: Tell us about your engagement with Monogram

Nicole: We’ve been using Monogram for years now. They are a go-to for solving space problems and innovative technology: a 48” wide range with an oven cavity large enough for the heftiest of Thanksgiving turkeys, or a just-right sized built-in refrigerator for a small condo. We appreciate the consistent pace of innovation and that Monogram seems to have a perfect product for every client. They were a joy to work with for our Little Green Kitchen, which is fully equipped with Monogram appliances.

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