Kitchen design by Fletcher Cameron Kitchens

At Your Modern Cottage’s first roundtable discussion, our very own Rick Staub (also an architect with Point One Architects) moderates a panel of industry experts discussing how they figure out a homeowner’s design style.  Held at Fletcher Cameron Kitchens’ New Haven showroom, the talk was lively and informative thanks to Clarke’s corporate showroom manager, Marco Barallon; Design House Interior’s Ramona Eldridge; and owner of Fletcher Cameron Kitchens, Christine Ingraham.

After introductions to an audience of industry professionals, the group didn’t waste time telling us what works and what doesn’t, as well as tips to getting to the heart of what a homeowner really needs and wants.  Hint: Its much more than the picture(s) that you bring to them.

Kitchen design by Design House Interiors


Question:  As designers, we often see clients coming to us with a picture or image, a dream that they are striving to achieve.  But good designers tend to nudge those images to the side and dig deeper, getting beyond the image.  We want to get to the root of who they are and what drives their happiness.  What are some of the resources, tools and tricks that you use to do that?


We’re going to listen to what they have to say and look at the pictures that they bring, but we’re going to read even deeper.  We always like to visit the house and actually see how they live, see if they cook, or if they say, “Oh, I’m not going to cook. I just want it to look great.”  They want what’s in the picture, but their life might be a little different than that. So, we need to read between the lines and listen to what they’re saying.


For us, it’s important that they have what they need in the core body of that space. Find out how much entertaining they are doing and knowing where those areas are going to be. We need to get to know budgets without really asking what that budget might be and giving them some secondary options.


We start each project by bringing what we know to the discussion. We start with our experience.  Being involved in so many different types of projects, you build upon what you know.

What We Learned:

Each design professional may have their own unique way of starting a project, but they have one thing in common – they want to get deeper than the pretty image.  They want to get below the surface and get to know the client on a deeper level, understanding how they work and live in their homes.  This becomes the foundation for their design work.  Design becomes more than a surface exercise. Instead, it becomes a deeper understanding of how you want your space to support and enhance your life.

Photo Courtesy of Clarke


Question:  So, if you had the perfect client walk through the door, what would they bring to the table at the start of the first conversation?


Architectural scale and perspective. An awareness of their dimensions.  They might think that 20 something feet is long on paper, but until we show them in our facility, they aren’t really aware of the actual size.  Size matters in kitchens and the details.  So, understanding your own kitchen, space wise, becomes fundamental to starting your project.


An open mind is really key.  They might want to renovate, but want it exactly the way they already have it because they don’t like change. They want their microwave to be right there — even though it looks terrible and doesn’t function very well there.  So, really, if they could understand how we work and how we can make it better than what they have.  Often people will start to compromise with themselves. They’ll say, “Oh, I had never even thought of that.” So, maybe, she is a professional and maybe her idea is better than ours.  That’s what I hope for.  Come in with an open mind and be able to compromise a little bit.


And trust us! We’re the professionals. We’ve done this a million times. However, expect there to be a problem somewhere down the line. But, understand that we are there with you every step of the way to help walk you through whatever comes up. Having them understand that they have a partner that is going to get them through this to the end is key. So, come with trust and an open mind.

What We Learned!

When you first meet with your selected design professional, be prepared.  Do a little research and put the effort in to know your space requirements.  But most importantly, come to the table with an open mind and trust in the process and your design professional. After all, isn’t that the reason why you hire them?   They bring the experience. They have been through this before.  Trust them and let them turn your dreams into reality.

Look for more awesome snippets of our conversations with the experts in upcoming posts.

Pictured from left to right: Christine Ingraham, Marco Barallon, Ramona Eldridge and Your Modern Cottage Co-Founders Rick Staub & Jennifer Carmichael