Lake Worth, FL — Although she has been in the industry for 25 years, kitchen and bath design is actually Gloria Graham Sollecito’s second career. “My degree is in fashion design and merchandising,” she explains. “I made the switch when I became intrigued with interior design about 25 years ago. I went back to school to study interior design and I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful mentor, the late Malcolm Thomas, who was well established in Palm Beach.”
Since the advent of her second career, Sollecito has established her own business, the South Florida-based Artful Kitchens. In addition to holding an AKBD certification, she is on the BLANCO Design Council and has participated in the Wellness in the Kitchen panel during the DCOTA Fall Market 2019 – and was named a 2019 KBDN Innovator. Her work has appeared in several publications, including This Old House, Florida Design magazine, The Sun Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post, and she has even co-authored her own book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Remodeling Your Kitchen, Illustrated.
South Florida Flavor
Sollecito primarily works in single-family homes and condos, many of which are vacation homes. “My native home state of Florida absolutely informs my design work! I believe if you design for where you are and what your client loves, rather than solely based on trends, the result will be timeless,” she offers.
According to Sollecito, bringing South Florida into a space means embracing natural light and natural inspirations. “I love to bring in the sunshine and reflect the vibrant colors we have, such as palm tree-green and ocean-blue,” says Sollecito. “I do that through reflective finishes, painted glass backsplashes and open layouts.”
South Florida-style does not mean one size fits all, she cautions – “I also consider the style and age of the home. There is not just one Florida style.”
The Threads That Connect
Building a working connection with new clients is a process that Sollecito approaches with care and attention to detail. “I’m big on the interview process,” she explains. “I use a customized questionnaire to get the ball rolling. For me, it’s all about connection.”
According to Sollecito, the designer-client relationship is built on many small elements. “I look for the threads that can connect me with my clients,” she explains. “Sometimes their homes offer clues, such as art, family pictures, etc. I believe this is crucial for building trust and a good working relationship.”
The process of building connections with her clients does not stop after the honeymoon phase, either. “Once the process is underway, great communication is key,” Sollecito believes. “It helps manage expectation and keeps clients, designers and trades on the same page.”
The location of Artful Kitchens in South Florida does create some unique challenges in the design process. “Many of my clients are seasonal residents, so we are frequently working long distance,” Sollecito explains. In order to maintain open channels of conversation, Sollecito has had to embrace digital communication as a necessity. “I share my computer screen with them and it works beautifully.”
Sollecito’s client and community connections have provided her with a steady stream of work over the years. “I get most of my clients via word of mouth because I have been working in the area for so long,” she notes. ▪