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Designers Tell All

Timelessness, Trends, and "Tell All"

By Sharon Johnson

We asked top interior designers Kathleen Hay, Sue Adams, and Cindy Aplanalp to tell us their personal interpretation of timeless design, to describe the trends they're seeing in kitchen design, and to confess what they know now as a designer that they wish they had known ten years ago.

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Define Timeless Design as Rules to Live by.

Relaxing Transitional Kitchen
Cindy Aplanalp

Kathleen Hay: Choose things you love and surround yourself with objects that appeal. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you will still love those objects twenty years later.

Timeless design doesn't play to trends or fads. Of course, all rooms need refreshing over time. But a timeless room builds on itself. It evolves with a layered and eternal quality rather than as a slave to current fashions.

Sue Adams: Start the design process with simple shapes and clean, geometric lines. You can always embellish and add details later.

Timeless design is about classic shapes, forms, and materials. Keep in mind the distinction between stylish design and good design. Stylish is "of the day," while good design truly endures.

Cindy Aplanalp: Try using classic materials in a different way to get an updated look. Instead of using a traditional, square Carrera marble tile, cut it in half to transform it into a subway tile.

Check out the latest in tile and stone.

Timeless design is the most "green," environmentally sensitive thing designers can do. When a room is created with timelessness in mind, it will still look as fresh, and function as well, twenty years later. If you can't tell when a room was designed, then you know it was designed well.

What are the Newest Trends in Kitchen Design?

Kathleen Hay: The trend is still towards function and technology; kitchens that have multiple areas for varied tasks. My clients want kitchen innovations that enhance their busy lives while retaining an inviting sense of warmth.

For instance, we now use refrigerator drawers and wine coolers to augment the larger main refrigerator unit, and to facilitate the multi-tasking that happens in a modern kitchen.

Learn about hot new kitchen products and technology.

Light Contemporary Kitchen
Kathleen Hay

Sue Adams: One trend that's finally beginning to catch on is the move toward environmentally sensitive design. Using reclaimed wood for cabinets and countertops is a great way to incorporate sustainable design in a kitchen while adding a level of warmth and character that really sets it apart.

More eco-friendly options for your home:

Warm finishes in general are popular now. People are gravitating toward the comforting feeling that comes from finishes and furnishings that hearken back to an earlier time. Lately, I'm seeing greater use of the wire brushing technique on wood and granite to give a surface instant patina.

Cindy Aplanalp: A big trend I'm seeing is empty nesters redesigning their homes to reflect the new phase of their lives. Their kitchens require a dual personality: There's the "Monday through Thursday Kitchen," when it's just a single couple making simple meals. Then there's the "Weekend Kitchen," when friends come over and the kitchen has to transform into one suitable for entertaining.

Another trend I'm seeing, or maybe it's one I'm starting myself, is changing out the standard microwave with combination steam/convection ovens. You can do things with this appliance that you can't do with a regular oven.

I encourage clients to go to kitchen showrooms and use the appliances before buying them. You wouldn't buy a car without first test-driving it. Do the same with your appliances.

Tips to help you choose the right kitchen appliance.

What Do you Know Now That you Wish you'd Known Years Ago?

Classic Traditional Dining Room
Sue Adams

Kathleen Hay: Interior design is 10% inspiration and 90%administration. Behind every successful installation is an organized pile of paperwork: floor plans, fabric swatches, paint chips, sign-offs, emails, contracts, purchase orders, and invoices. I wish I had known how many post-it notes and Zip-loc bags I would have employed in ten years…I would have bought stock in both companies!

Sue Adams: I have been in the interior design business for more than twenty years. I wish I had known from the very beginning of my career just how valuable I can be to clients. The knowledge and experience I have really does make a big difference in their lives, and in the final outcome of the product. It took a while for that deep inner confidence to take hold in me, but now that it's there, I feel it to my core.

Cindy Aplanalp: I wish I'd known about interior design as a career earlier in my life. Designers get to create all the time. What a great way to earn a living! I truly feel I have the best job in the world.

Admire these designer kitchens:

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