Category: Interview

Designer Profile: Lauren Levant

Our Monogram team met and fell in love with designer Lauren Levant. Lauren is an up-and-coming, award-winning designer, and today we get to talk to her about her design background, projects, and inspiration.

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SRFD: How did you become interested in design?

I became interested in design indirectly at a very early age.  I studied fine art (drawing, painting, sculpture, and photography) avidly from the time I was seven years old.  By the time I was in high school, I had become fairly accomplished in the fine arts, and everyone expected me to go on to study art professionally.  But before I headed to college, I realized that I wanted to channel my creative energies into a more collaborative, dynamic platform that would keep me interacting with other people’s ideas every day.  I also wanted to know that my work would make a measurable impact on others on a daily basis, and help them to live their best lives.  The idea of creating artistic environments that people could live in became an answer to those things for me, and so I decided to earn my degree in Interior Architecture/Design.  After thirteen years working in the industry, I feel lucky every day to have made this my career and my calling.

SRFD: Tell us about a recent project.

I was fortunate to find that my move to Pittsburgh four years ago provided an opportunity to grow as a designer and business woman.  I had been working in Connecticut, New York, and DC before then, and I wasn’t sure what the appetite for interior design would be in Pittsburgh before I arrived.  Once here, I was thrilled with the excitement and support for my work that I found in this community.  I have been involved in several exciting projects since moving, but my favorites are the ones where I have the chance to collaborate with local artists and craftsmen, and Pennslyvania is a rich, fertile ground for that talent.  One such recent kitchen design collaboration featured a large, rolled steel cooking mantle, fabricated for the ventilation of a large Monogram range.  The mottled blue markings of the steel hood are organic yet modern, and it gave this kitchen a unique touch that has a lot of meaning in our “Steel City” context here in Pittsburgh.  It was gratifying to know that the clients are loving their new space, and it was also an honor to see this project receive two 1st place design awards this spring from the National Kitchen & Bath Association.

SRFD: What do you enjoy about working with Monogram?

One of the things I enjoy most about working with Monogram is the attention to detail – both in design and technology.  The line features pieces that are consistently at the forefront of innovation.  The smart cooking technologies in products like the Advantium ovens, or the Bluetooth-enabled induction cooktops make it possible for chefs of all ability levels to make incredible food consistently in their kitchens.  They also instill confidence for cooks to try new cooking techniques.  One of my favorite Monogram gadgets is the Bluetooth attachment for Sous Vide.  I had the opportunity to try this out myself in the Monogram center at Chicago Merchandise Mart, and it convinced me that everyone should try, learn, and love cooking in the Sous Vide technique.  Monogram’s technology makes it safe, easy and delicious every time – and that’s worth a lot to me and to my clients.

SRFD: What’s a design trend you love?

One of the design trends that I love right now is the mixing of materials – particularly multiple metals.  Stainless is still king in the kitchen – but I’m loving the way multiple finishes are being mixed together successfully, and enriching the kitchen experience.  Blackened steel, aged brass, bronze, nickel, and zinc – all finishes that can be blended and worked into a balanced design.  It started with decorative hoods, hardware, and plumbing – but these days, natural metals are also making their way into cabinetry, countertops, and open shelving.  I look forward to seeing more of this mixed material approach in kitchen design in the years to come.

SRFD: What’s a design trend you’re over?

One of the trends I’m ready to let go of is the wood planking trend – which has become fairly pervasive at this point.  In residential projects, as well as in restaurants and bars – it seems like everything is getting planked and distressed to death.  I loved the idea initially – but I think at this point, I’m ready to move on.  Let’s not leave behind natural wood – but most of us do not live in a barn – so let’s keep looking for new, interesting and authentic ways to use it in projects in the future.

Lake House Kitchen Remodel

Following up on last week’s profile of designer Nancy Blandford, we’re including Nancy’s story of her most recent kitchen remodel.

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My clients had just purchased this wonderful lake house. The kitchen, dining, and living spaces are open and face the lake.

The new owners requested an update to get rid of the orange woodwork, the faux painted sky ceiling, and all the murals and painted tiles.

They also questioned the “why” of the angles on the existing kitchen. The home had been remodeled in the early ’80s. I was pretty sure it was just a designer being clever since nothing else in the home was angled.

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Since the kitchen is the backdrop of the living and dining room, the room needed to fit in without dominating. I was able to straighten out the angles. We kept the existing pantry and hid the refrigerator/freezer behind cabinet doors by using two 30” Monogram appliances side-by-side framed by ovolo posts. The 48” Monogram range and hood were centered on the wall space that remained. On either side of the range are wide, deep drawers.

The island is home to a Monogram microwave drawer (hidden on the back side of the island), pull-out trash and recycling bins, a Native Trails curved farmhouse sink, a cabinet front dishwasher, and large, deep drawers for dishes. The backside of the island is raised with furniture-piece cabinets on both ends and four wide, comfy stools tucked into the center.

The island cabinets were painted a custom blue with black brushing. The remaining cabinetry was painted white with a pewter highlight.

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We took the existing hutch space and made it into a dry bar with leaded glass doors above and a Monogram Bar Refrigerator.

We used a honed onyx white quartz countertop with an ogee edge.

The ceiling was painted a deep navy and glazed with silver. In the center of the raised ceiling, we hung a chandelier that when lit, makes the ceiling glow.

And for the finishing touch — what I like to call the jewelry — we used polished nickel oversized handles and a polished nickel bridge faucet.

 

Designer Profile: Nancy Blandford

A couple weeks ago, the Monogram team was contacted by an amazing designer, Nancy Blandford. She shared with us a recent kitchen remodel that she’d just completed with Monogram. Her design work was so beautiful that we had to feature her on our blog. Check out Nancy’s designer profile and learn more about her business, Built In Design. Next week, we’ll talk to Nancy more in-depth about her recent kitchen remodel. Stay tuned!

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SRFD: How did you become interested in design?

I grew up in the 70’s loving to create. I made clothing out of old jeans and flour sacks, repurposing before it was cool. I also loved to paint and draw. I wanted to go to art school, but my parents had a home furnishings store and pushed me to go into Interior Design. Looking back, I am happy that they led me that direction. I have never grown tired of helping my clients discover their design aesthetic. I believe it is important to first get to know my clients and how they use their space and then design something unique that works for them.

SRFD: Tell us about your recent kitchen project.

Most of my work is from referrals and from projects I have posted on Houzz or Pinterest. I had a client recently contact me from projects I had posted on both sites, and she hired me to do her lake house. I was her “boots on the ground” while she was back home. We had weekly FaceTime meetings so that she could watch the project progress. 

She would pin photos of things she liked and wanted to incorporate into her kitchen. I would send her sketches of different options, and together we designed her space. She described her style for this home as “Country French”, but not shabby. I would relabel it as “Elegant French”. I took her clever angled 1980’s kitchen and cleaned up the lines. Since the kitchen was front and center in the dining living space, it needed to fit in and serve without dominating.

SRFD: What’s a design trend you’re over?

Her existing kitchen was the epitome of passe` design! I am so over angles just for the sake of angles. I am also over orange wood tones. 

SRFD: What’s a design trend you’re excited about?

I am excited about the options appliance manufacturers are coming up with. I love, love, love the Monogram 30” Integrated Refrigerator! I was able to put two together and give my clients what they needed for food storage, and it looks like a beautiful piece of furniture. I also like microwave drawers, being able to hide it somewhat. Now if someone could engineer a microwave with a panel front, and while they are at it, make a reversible hinge door.

Designer Profile: Jamie Sangar

The Monogram team came across a photo designer and photographer Jamie Sangar shared on her Instagram account earlier this year and were so impressed by her design aesthetic, we needed to learn more! Today we’re sharing Jamie’s path to design and her company, Mod Abode. Next week we will feature her gorgeous kitchen.

SRFD: How did you become interested in design?

Jamie: Regardless of whether you believe in the myth of people being either right-brain dominant or left-brain dominant, I think we can all agree upon the fact that some people are just born with certain talents. Everybody has their own unique talent, but it’s up to them to discover it and apply it in a real world scenario. The definition of “talent” is “natural aptitude or skill.” In other words, someone was born that way. I have always loved design for as long as I can remember. My style preferences weren’t learned from my parents, it’s just something that I always had a flair for. It wasn’t until after college, where I graduated with a Marketing degree from Miami University, that I got to professionally enter a creative environment. First starting my career in advertising, where I was an account executive for big brands, acting as the middleman between the artists and the client, I got my first taste of the creative world. The environment was awesome to be a part of. Halfway through my 3.5 year stint at the ad agency, I started a photography business on the side. After seeing quick growth and repeat customers, while also consistently gaining new customers, I realized that there just weren’t enough hours in the day to complete both jobs at 100% effort. So I decided to take a leap of faith and pursue my photography career full-time. That was 11 years ago and I couldn’t be happier to be making my own rules as I go, meeting new clients along the way, and continually surrounding myself with creativity! That interest has always been there from an interior and architectural design standpoint, but I never tried applying it professionally. So, I thought, what the heck, and Mod Abode was born. It is a blend of all of my creative passions; photography, design and architecture. I get to take pretty photos of design elements and credit those who are responsible for designing or carrying such cool things in their stores. I am not quite sure where Mod Abode might lead me, but my hope is that new doors open that let me expand upon the things I’m always eager to learn more about.

SRFD: Tell us about your recent kitchen project.

Jamie: The number one, most important room to me, as we were designing and planning the build of our new home, was the kitchen! I love cooking, hosting and entertaining, so I wanted to put a lot of thought into the layout, the design, and most importantly the appliances and technology! Because we were working with, what some would consider, a tough budget in the custom home realm, we knew that the build process was going to be a relationship of give and take. Aren’t all solid relationships about give and take?! We knew that we weren’t willing to backdown on the commercial grade appliances that we had researched and tested-out, so an example of a “give” was to take on some of the kitchen building labor, and build our own Ikea cabinets. They were always the look we wanted, white and glossy, but sure, we could’ve saved ourselves a bunch of time and effort if we had gone with another custom (expensive) brand. But that was one example of us not backing-down to what we felt was important in our kitchen. We chose a Wolf induction cooktop, a Wolf wall oven, a 48” Subzero refrigerator freezer, and a Monogram Advantium wall oven! While the kitchen is not huge, it is very functional for the way that we live in it. It is also designed with 180 degrees of window views overlooking Geist Reservoir in the distance and woods to the side of our property. Not only does the daylight keep the kitchen bright and airy, but the beautiful views help create a warm environment, for not only us, but our friends that we enjoy hosting.

SRFD: A trend you’re over?

Jamie: I almost hate to point-out a trend that I personally do not gravitate towards, because I know that many people don’t prefer my taste. (So, feel free to punch holes in the way I like to design, ha)! However, if there’s one trend that I feel has been used over and over again for years, it’s gotta be the distressed, eclectic, shabby chic look, with mismatched furniture, mismatched fabrics and patterns, combined with distressed everything!

SRFD: A trend you’re excited about:

Not a trend, but a style I obsess over, is bringing the outdoors inside. In fact, that’s a really old idea of mid-century modern style. If you’re remodeling an existing home, you’re definitely limited by window size if you’re not into cutting larger window openings, and making sure appropriate engineering and headers are in place. However, there are some things you can do to help achieve more of this look without a hefty price tag. Simple things like removing the grilles from your windows will completely open up the room and give the illusion of letting more light in. If you have the opportunity to buy new windows, consider something like casement windows that allow you to open up to the outdoors. Consider brands with small, minimal trim/mullions to keep the look minimal, but the daylight to a maximum.

For new construction, it’s definitely easier to plan for these types of things. Think about incorporating a large window expanse towards a pretty and private part of your property. Higher-end window brands have even engineered moveable window walls, that actually allow you to open up to the outdoors, making you feel at one with nature. So while this is certainly not a new trend, it’s one that I feel should be placed at the top of the “must have” list!

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Designer Profile: Garrison Hullinger

The Chicago Monogram Design Center (MDC) brings designers to Chicago, Illinois, for two-day experiences to learn about Monogram, the design process, our appliances – and even cook with them! We interviewed each designer to learn a little more about their background and design experiences. Today we’re featuring Garrison Hullinger with Garrison Hullinger Interior Design based in Portland, Oregon.

SRFD: How did you become interested in design?

Garrison: When I was a kid, my father worked for my uncle, who was a custom home builder. My brother and I would get dragged along to the job sites and I was always fascinated during lunch time to watch them draw out plans on napkins. That interest in remodeling and design has been a part of my entire adult life. My husband and I have remodeled numerous homes over the years, and many times I would get asked by friends and neighbors to help them with their design projects. I was always reluctant to help others, knowing I didn’t have the formal training. I finally took the dive in 2010 and started my design firm in the attic of my home and hired a young lady who had been laid off from a huge firm during the great recession. She had the technical skills and I had the ideas. I hired three more part-time employees and finally, neighbors and others could hire me for their design work.

SRFD: Tell us about a recent project you really enjoyed.

Garrison: I’m really excited about a remodel project that we’re doing for a couple who bought the home a few years ago. The home was built in 1971 by Bob Rummer, whose homes are influenced by the Joe Eichler homes of Northern California. The home has a central covered atrium and all the rooms connect to the central core of the home, bringing a lot of daylight into the home. The owners have asked us to bring the home into the twenty-first century. We’re expanding the master closet, updating the bathrooms, creating a laundry niche (with doors off the hallway) and a completely new design for the kitchen. Amid all this change, we have made a very conscious decision to make sure none of the original concrete floors throughout the entire home are touched.

SRFD: A trend you’re over?

Garrison: I’d really like to see the accent wall in a room go away, though I don’t mind a feature wall. I’d much rather see someone go the extra mile and add wallpaper, shiplap, or reclaimed wood to a wall than simply paint it an obscure color they found on a paint chip at the hardware store.

SRFD: A trend you’re excited about?

Garrison: Mixing metals. I’m so happy that clients are really understanding my desire to mix metals in a space – if everything is brushed chrome you’re more likely to hate it in a few years, but if you allow me to mix in some black, polished chrome, and even a little copper it will stay fresh much longer and won’t leave a time stamp on the project.

SRFD: What did you learn during the Monogram Designer Training Session in Chicago?

Garrison: I learned so many great things about cooking with induction cooktops while attending the Monogram Designer Training session. I was able to cook on the induction cooktop and see how much faster it heats up than the gas range and how much easier it is to regulate the temperature. It was so intuitive – and that’s saying a lot for someone who doesn’t cook much. Thank you again for the opportunity to spend several days in your gorgeous showroom in Chicago and to learn from the Monogram team.

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Designer Profile: Jay Britto and David Charette

We had the pleasure of meeting Margaret Charette with design firm Britto Charette in March when she attended the Design Bloggers Conference in Los Angeles, California, and we shared her blog post about the event here. Today we are profiling the founding principals of Miami-based Britto Charette, Jay Britto and David Charette.

Jay Britto, founding principal of Britto Charette, has spent more than a decade creating high-end residential interiors. His knowledge of innovative trends and his unsurpassed contemporary style have earned him an impressive and loyal clientele. Born and raised in Peru, Jay grew up surrounded by rich colors and a vibrant culture that continue to inspire him. His love of all things beautiful translates into everything Jay does.

David Charette, founding principal of Britto Charette and licensed interior designer, has completed compelling design projects around the globe. He earned a BA and MA in architecture from the University of Detroit and he has more than 20 years of experience working with city planners, contractors, regulatory agencies, and architects. David’s impressive portfolio of progressive design initiatives includes luxury residential interiors, corporate campuses, GSA and higher education. His experiences also include urban planning, master planning, zoning, streetscapes and interior design.

SRFD: How did you become interested in design?

David Charette: After numerous trips as a child to the Detroit Institute of Art and after traveling across the United States with my family in the summer, I started to develop a great interest in design. I thought skyscrapers were the coolest things in the world … Still do! Reading late into the night was also very inspiring. My parents would unscrew the fuses in my room so I’d have to put the book down. But the biggest thing was Lego’s! Having a limited amount of them forced me to constantly tear apart one idea to create another.

Jay Britto: My interest in design evolved, really. Music was one of my first passions and essentially opened the door to creativity and the arts for me. At eighteen, when I was struggling with affording college and choosing a major (architecture or interiors), music was always there, pushing me forward. Patterns and rhythms in music just seemed to be echoed in everything around me. That’s when I realized that my calling was actually interiors. I could walk into a space and visualize the textures, colors and patterns that it needed.

SRFD: Tell us about a recent project you really enjoyed.

David Charette: We have been working on a penthouse at the Ritz Carlton. We began working early-on with our client and the architect of record—before construction even began—which made for great communication and saved money for the client. Because it’s on the top floor, we have 15’ ceilings, which are really unprecedented in penthouse design. We were able to take full advantage of the views.

SRFD: A trend you’re over?

A tough question because we never want to offend anyone, but if pressed to answer …

Jay Britto: Mica wall covering.

David Charette: Textured MDF panels.

SRFD: A trend you’re excited about?

Jay Britto: I love the mixing of metals. Designers and clients are no longer conservative about matchy-matchy, all brass or all chrome. It’s a great look.

David Charette: I’m really excited about the advancement of LED light fixtures. They have revolutionized design with their efficiency, color options, dimmer controls and light dispersement. The possibilities are fantastic.

Introducing Monogram Chef Dana Klitzberg

Welcome to Chef Dana Klitzberg, the new East region chef for Monogram. She will be leading cooking demonstrations at a variety of events with the Monogram team across the region. Recently designer engagement leader Susan Cozzi interviewed Chef Dana to learn more about her background and cooking philosophy.

SRFD: Tell us about your background as a chef.

Chef Dana: I never set out to be a chef! After graduating from the University of Virginia, I came straight to NYC to work in public relations, in fashion, lifestyle and entertainment. After years of event planning, working with restaurants and caterers, and food and beverage clients, I got the itch to work in the food sphere. As a literature major, I’d always loved writing, and the food media world was just beginning to evolve: this was before digital media, the Food Network was brand new, and magazines like Gourmet and Food & Wine captured my imagination. I decided to quit my PR career and go to culinary school in NYC, to then join a food media organization armed with a basic culinary knowledge. But when my professors nudged me in the direction of completing my mandatory externship at a restaurant instead of a food media company, I acquiesced. I worked at one of the top Italian restaurants in Manhattan, San Domenico NY, where I was literally the only non-Italian in front or back of house when I started there. It was so completely different from working in an office environment, and I loved the atmosphere, the teamwork, the creativity, and also the intensity. I was a ballerina for most of my life, and the intensity and technique paired with artistry in dance and performance are also at play in the professional kitchen, and this really resonated with me.

So, I was hired out of my externship and stayed at San Domenico for a year before heading over to Rome for further restaurant training. What was supposed to be a four month stint turned into eight years! You could say I fell in love with my Roman life. Professionally, it was often a struggle, because being female and American in the Italian professional kitchen are two strikes against me, going in. But in time I won over my colleagues and executive chefs. And I was eventually hired as executive chef at two different restaurants in Rome (a first in Italy!). I created, along with close friends of mine, the first American brunch in Rome — a “pop-up” before the term was even coined.

Now I cater and provide private chef services, teach cooking classes and lead culinary tours (I was the first person in Rome to do this in English), and I write about food and restaurants for various publications, including Fodor’s guides and Time Out guides. I also consult for restaurants, and occasionally I style food for photo shoots. I have a food blog and I’m also working on a memoir with recipes. I love the many facets of the food industry, and by wearing several different hats, I don’t get bored and I don’t experience burnout. I learn through travel, through reading, through meeting other food people. And there’s always, ALWAYS something new to learn!

SRFD: What is your cooking philosophy, other than “using the freshest ingredients”?

Chef Dana: My background in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine means that “farm-to-table” was never a trend because it’s always the way things have been done. So yes, starting with high quality, seasonal ingredients is pretty much a given with me. I love to cook food with history, and with meaning for people (myself or my clients — or both). Food is nostalgia, and it’s the future. It is culture, it’s art, it’s entertainment. It can have a sense of humor. It is mood-altering, and I like it to be uplifting and comforting at times. On the whole, quite simply, I like to cook what I like to eat. This is not terribly limiting, of course, as I have a varied palate and I like most things. But I particularly like food from sunny places, whether that means equatorial areas like Southeast Asia, Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean, or the Middle East and the Mediterranean, two areas that feel like home to me. I honor regional traditions and follow the ethos of “what grows together goes together.” Everything you can make from scratch, within reason, is better made than purchased. And I also believe that you get out of food what you put in, so I try to cook when I am happy, interested and “in the zone.” It may sound silly, but I believe it truly makes a difference in one’s cooking!

SRFD: What’s always in your fridge at home?

Chef Dana: I have a fridge full of condiments, both homemade and purchased, many of which are a little esoteric and/or international: tamarind paste, guava jelly, fig mostarda, kimchi, ‘nduja sausage from Calabria, squid ink, preserved lemons, kumquat simple syrup. I always have some homemade dressings and sauces (a good pesto, for instance). Then staples like eggs, butter, parmigiano cheese, lemons, lettuce/greens, bottled water, and a crisp white wine. And dark chocolate in some form, always!

SRFD: What makes you happy?

Chef Dana: I’m an October baby, so I love a gorgeous fall day and a stroll, a great museum, musical theater, or the ballet (I danced for 25 years). I am also a water person, in a big way, so beaches and coastlines make me happy, as does being out on the water or in the water … or eating and drinking next to the water. Great food and conversation with friends and family can never be overestimated. I adore the Mediterranean idea of a long, lingering, multi-course dinner with different drinks at every course, then digestivi. Italians have mastered this art. I’ve also always been a huge fan of comedy, so heading to a stand-up club or improv show makes my day a good one.

SRFD: What do you see in the cooking world that you wish you could change?

Chef Dana: I’m an unabashed feminist — not the ’70s bra burning variety, but I was raised surrounded by men and a strong father figure, and my Mom always taught me that women could do anything men could do. So, I’ve always been an advocate of women in traditionally male roles. The kitchen is one of those male-heavy places, and it can be an incredibly sexist and competitive work environment. I’ve enjoyed knocking down barriers and far surpassing expectation, and winning the guys over by honing and then demonstrating my skills in the kitchen, by killing them with kindness and taking things in stride, and sometimes, when needed, by giving them a taste of their own medicine, whether that’s a display of machismo or being able to take some serious ribbing and giving it back to them!

I must also say that I am encouraged by the huge boom in the interest of careers in cooking, but am disappointed at those in this young generation who expect to become “celebrity chefs” (whatever THAT means!) or restaurant executive chefs and owners after working for 18 months or two years out of culinary school. The food industry is certainly intense and physically demanding, so youthfulness helps in that sense. But you also need experience more than anything else. Ask any great chef, like an Eric Ripert, and they will tell you: you need to put in the time. Peel potatoes and butcher fish for a couple of years, and keep your eyes and ears open around you. Don’t expect that the world should be yours so soon. Everybody needs to do the grunt work in the beginning.

SRFD: What have you learned from working with Monogram appliances?

Chef Dana: I’ve learned that technology and innovation can be applied across various categories to improve very different items. For instance, Monogram applies technology gleaned from its aeronautics division: the ball bearings used on airplanes are built to resist high heat, so Monogram uses them for its rolling oven racks so the racks can remain inside when the oven is in self-cleaning mode. GE invented the halogen bulb, and Monogram implements this technology as part of its speed cooking feature in the Advantium oven. These are just a couple of examples of the thoughtfulness that goes into the creation of Monogram products. I’ve also become much more aware about the particulars of any equipment on which I work.  As a chef I’m always looking to improve, innovate, refine — and understanding one’s equipment is essential to this growth.

SRFD: What can home cooks learn from you?

Chef Dana: I have lots of experience cooking in high-pressure situations in restaurant kitchens, and many of those kitchens were filled with assistant chefs and dishwashers and servers who did not speak my mother tongue. I also have vast experience catering in the strangest of locations, under very odd circumstances. But now, I most frequently cater and cook as a private chef in clients’ homes, and so I’m well aware of the necessity of adapting my cooking and my recipes to the home cook, to the realistic kitchen, not just the restaurant kitchen. Home cooks can learn from my adaptability and flexibility, which will make their work in the kitchen feel a lot less like work. Also, many home cooks don’t realize that half the battle of cooking for family every night, for home entertaining, and for keeping a pantry and fridge that will keep the whole family happy and healthy, is planning. PLANNING. I’ve cooked for 300 people in a kitchen smaller than most Americans’ laundry rooms — it just required planning and organization. Once this is taken care of, the cooking part is just fun!

Designer Profile: Alberto Villalobos

We had a great time at the Monogram Designer Summit in February with all of the designers and participants. As a follow-up, we interviewed some of the designers to learn a little more about their background and design experiences. Today we’re featuring Alberto Villalobos with Villalobos Desio based in New York City.

SRFD: How did you become interested in design?

Alberto: I became interested in interior design from an early age. From building tree houses to playing with Legos, I always had an interest in creating spaces and playing with proportions that led me to interior design down the road.

SRFD: Tell us about a recent project you really enjoyed.

Alberto: My business partner Mercedes and I enjoyed working on our latest project in London. It was a great experience to work there with new contractors and getting out of our comfort zone in the States, by meeting new vendors. The client was really easy to work with which added to the experience, plus shopping in Europe is always fun.

SRFD: A trend you’re over?

Alberto: I am over finishes that are not true to nature. My business partner and I prefer natural materials that are real, we appreciate craftsmanship and details. For example, when we use ceramic, we like ceramic that is true in nature, not one that reproduces another element such as wood.

SRFD: A trend you’re excited about?

Alberto: We are excited about the rediscovery of terra-cotta. Again, it is a natural material that is noble and relates both to our Latin and European backgrounds.

SRFD: What did you learn during the Monogram Designer Summit in Louisville?

Alberto: My favorite take-away from the summit is that knowledge is not understanding, a very interesting principle. It has helped me to see things differently and makes you realize to always question yourself. What a great tool for the design practice.

Designer Profile: Patricia Davis Brown

We had a great time at the Monogram Designer Summit in February with all of the designers and participants. As a follow-up, we interviewed some of the designers to learn a little more about their background and design experiences. Today we’re featuring Patricia Davis Brown with Patricia Davis Brown Designs LLC based in Vero Beach, Florida.

SRFD: How did you become interested in design?

Patricia: I think I was born a creative and I would have found my way to the arts one way or another. As a kid, I remember riding in the backseat of my parent’s car looking at the buildings as we drove past. To entertain myself, I would pick a really worn looking place and imagine how I could make it beautiful. I think you are born a creative, it is in your DNA. Even though I am educated in design and hold a license in interior design and certified in kitchen and bath design, I believe the talent is within, education or not.

SRFD: Tell us about a recent project you really enjoyed.

Patricia: I like a challenge and to me, that is remodeling an old property into a great design. I am currently working on a project located on the intercoastal waterway. The view is amazing, but the original property was a designed poorly and really had never had the design thought out. I believe that they just had maxed the property lines with a building and it was oddly shaped and needed help. I am pretty sure there was no architect involved with the original design, the home had no distinct architectural direction. Properties like this need to be eclectic and the personality have to be designed into it. My style for this project is industrial contemporary. I am bringing in a balance of textures and letting the beautiful views beyond the windows play an important roll in the design. The main floors are concrete and the ceilings are open beamed with a painted rub through finish. I am maximizing all the windows to increase the views into the space.

SRFD: A trend you’re over?

Patricia: Carrara marble has been done and I think it is time for another countertop material to shine. I have never been one for trends. There are lots of material options out there and I think a designer that thinks outside the box is able to set the trends. Let’s just take marble tops as an example. A designer should expand their library of materials in countertop to include some amazing finishes that they can bring to their clients like, glass and lava stone. I love mixing countertops materials in a kitchen to create shapes and artistic details.

SRFD: A trend you’re excited about?

Patricia: I am digging the use of metals in interior design. There are so many metal finishes to choose from, rose gold, brass, black, etc. and it gives designers the tools to create an original design for each and every client. I also, like the large groupings of chandeliers that are being used over islands and dining tables. White walls are trending now and I love how it sets up a blank canvas for popping art and other points of interest in a room.

Designer Profile: Fred M. Alsen

The Chicago Monogram Design Center (MDC) brings designers to Chicago, Illinois, for two-day experiences to learn about Monogram, the design process, our appliances – and even cook with them! We interviewed each designer to learn a little more about their background and design experiences. Today we’re featuring Fred M. Alsen with fma Interior Design.

Designer Fred M. Alsen with fma Interior Design

SRFD: How did you become interested in design?

Fred: There was never an “Ah ha” moment for me; being a designer is just part of who I am. I go into people’s homes for the first time and I start rearranging the spaces’s furniture and tchotchkes in my head. You could say there is a constant conversation going on between the room and I.

SRFD: Tell us about a recent project you really enjoyed.

Fred: When I was asked to talk about a project I enjoyed, that was a tough one for me. I truly enjoy every project I work on. If I don’t feel there is a fit with the homeowner, or I can make a difference in the space, I don’t take a project. Recently, I installed a kitchen in a townhome, in a building which once was a banjo factory!

Before we even go inside, the street of homes is interesting. It is the very well-heeled neighborhood of Lincoln Park in Chicago and the street has multiple homes on it which run in the tens of millions. The building, the old banjo factory building, runs perpendicular to the street and is constructed from gorgeous old Chicago brick. The color of brick is so hard to explain, but it almost a putty-based color with a hint of a warm rose hue – with a slight undertone of copper. I mention this, as the exposed brick carries over into the home’s interior, specifically the kitchen, and this played a role in the color direction of the kitchen.

The request for the remodel included replacing the poor attempt of the previous remodel done to the home before current owners (a couple who are academics and their teenage son). They wanted a layout which worked for the way they lived and used the space (there was just no work flow to the kitchen prior), and of course, increased storage. The husband and son do the cooking and the wife likes to bake on weekends. This is the space where their living converges and the desire was for a more authentic feeling to this space. With a 13’ ceiling, original wood posts hailing from the banjo factory days, and the exposed Chicago brick, I just couldn’t wait to conspire with history on this project!

The previous kitchen only incorporated half the kitchen area and was not laid-out for multiple cooks to work together. The husband wanted his own prep and cooking area – clear of “other traffic.” The wife desired a separate area for her baking and cleaning – and, most importantly a place for family to gather in the kitchen to eat and work.

Before we even started in the kitchen, we replaced the 3” red oak flooring (also installed during last remodel) throughout the 1st floor. The staircase also received a new look with a 5” natural walnut plank to each step to lend a current look. One of my favorite aspects of this remodel was seeing the old white plain glass windows replaced with Marvin wood divided glass in a bronze finish; an architectural detail, which gave a nod to the old iron windows which are normally found in old industrial buildings. I designed custom window sills made out of salvaged wood beams and embedded copper elements in them to pick up on the original copper air vent pipe we found hidden within the old granite box backsplash. The extent of that copper air vent pipe was a “surprise” we discovered during the remodel!  Rather than fighting it – we honored it and it became a beautiful architectural detail.

When I first walked into the space, an 8’ high drywalled pantry with sliding closet doors (also housing the refrigerator), stuck out like a sore thumb! I could not wait to see that go. What are the other highlights of the space?

  • We installed floor to ceiling Alder wood warmly stained a taupe-grey cabinetry, the “Coastal” color from Greenfield Cabinetry.
  • Incorporated the original wood post and beam as the “new” kitchen footprint. The wall incorporates a broom pantry for cleaning supplies, a pantry which houses office supplies for when they work at the kitchen island and this includes two file drawers, as well as a dry food pantry, tray storage and a baking pantry. This area houses a Monogram French door wall oven. The wall also incorporates upper wall cabinets in quarter sawn white oak with cerusing (also known as liming) from Greenfield Cabinetry. I added an additional custom aspect to the cabinets with “autumn” textured glass panel doors. This area now houses china and bar glassware.
  • The base drawer cabinet houses the baking supplies needed next, which I placed next to a wine cooler.  When this counter area isn’t being used for baking prep it also serves as a bar area for when the couple is entertaining. Above these cabinets are a row of cabinets for storage of items only needed a few times a year – all accessed by a custom walnut and iron rolling ladder, which is so beautiful it doubles as art when it is “stored” on the wall on other side of kitchen.
  • Around from the baking counter, is the original location of sink, which continues to be the main clean-up sink. We also added an instant hot / cold filter water tab for convenience of people wanting water or a hot beverage – so they don’t have to get in the main cooking / prep area.
  • A pull-out trash cabinet and dishwasher are on either side of the sink.
  • Next to the dishwasher are drawers and cabinet with roll-out shelves which house the everyday glassware, dishes and silverware – giving easy access for everyone without having to disturb anyone who is in cooking area. Note the use of roll-out shelves here. I can’t imagine life without these!
  • Turning this next corner is where all the cooking / prep happens. There is another double trash can pullout cabinet, this to the left of newly add prep sink, followed by a three drawer base, with a hidden drawer inside middle drawer, housing lids, pots and pans with a upper wall cabinet for frequently used cooking / can food items.
  • We moved the Monogram French Door Refrigerator to the end of this run so it is easily accessed by everyone, not only by the person cooking but for someone wandering into the kitchen for a snack.
  • The family’s narrative really needed a gathering spot and the large island is just that perfect spot.  In the middle of the room, it features Quarter Sawn Oak in a barnwood stain with liming from Greenfield Cabinetry and a Monogram Induction cook top with the Monogram Advantium under it.  The family loves this as it also acts as the microwave. There are a set of four drawers on each side of the cook top to house spice racks, knife storage and other cooking utensils.
  • At the one end of the kitchen, we recessed a Smart TV which I framed out in salvaged wood. The family loves this to search for recipes, Skype, double as a large computer monitor when working from home and to just simply watch the news.

Our ultimate luxury is to share time with loved ones and this kitchen now invites in this family. We defined their life patterns and then honored them via thoughtful design and product choices. When you walk into the first floor of this home now, it breathes in its’ surroundings and there is no bigger compliment I could receive from a space, than just this.

SRFD: A trend you’re over?

Fred: I’m so over the white painted trend. I get it. It is timeless, but white kitchens are being installed in spaces, where white shouldn’t be used, as it is too stark compared to the other finishes in the home. I’m all about the natural neutral and think a naturally neutral painted kitchen can be quite the stunner. In fact, this was the exact situation with my parents kitchen when I remodeled it a couple of years ago. I used the “Silktassle” paint color from Greenfield Cabinetry for the naturally neutral paint color. My parents had wanted white, but they have oak trim in the home and white cabinetry would’ve felt really out of place in their space.

SRFD: A trend you’re excited about?

Fred: Trending ahead? I love to watch what the trends are doing but I really design to the vernacular of the home; I listen to what the house is saying. No one will probably ever walk into a kitchen I designed and say, “Oh Fred Alsen must’ve designed this.” With that said, I do find the trend of blues in the kitchen pretty interesting. Blues tend to not reflect food well – it just isn’t a color we associate with food in our culture. When was the last time you ate a restaurant with blue décor? (Probably never.) Anyway, I’m excited to see where blues go in the kitchen, specifically navy. Blues started appearing in kitchens, bright blue painted cabinetry for example, a couple of years ago. Recently we are seeing a shift to navy. Everything from the kitchen’s perimeter featuring navy cabinetry with a gray island – to a kitchen featuring white cabinetry on the perimeter and a navy island. My feeling is this is a new twist on white kitchens. Why? White is timeless, and so is navy. We also tend to become braver with our cabinetry color choices in a stronger economy – so between this fact and so many of us are tired of seeing white cabinetry, I’m very curious to see where navy trends.

SRFD: What have you learned from working with the team at the Monogram Design Center in Chicago?

Fred: I love working with the team at the Monogram Design Center in Chicago!  They are very knowledgeable and passionate about their products. It is a win-win for both my clients and me.  I can quickly get the specs and information I need to design the client’s kitchen and then I can send clients into showroom to get first-hand experience how the products work and preform while enjoying lunch or dinner with the Chef on duty!