The Innovators: DE – GI
Mick de Giulio
Renowned design leader unveils 11 ambitious new showroom concepts
Mick de Giulio is one of the world’s top kitchen designers. Beginning in the 1980s, he’s been among a handful of individuals responsible for the transformation and elevation of the kitchen from a utilitarian space to what it is today: the soul and heartbeat of most homes. This is due, in no small part, to his ability, with each successive project, to consistently advance bold new ideas and artistic visions for warmth, comfort and style.
De Giulio seems to especially push boundaries in the arenas of product and showroom design for brands like Kallista, SieMatic, Sub-Zero/Wolf and others. His 2002 Beaux Arts inspired kitchen for SieMatic is widely seen as an important design milestone in the industry.
Late last year, responding to a challenge put forth by long-time client, the late Bob Abt, owner of Abt Appliances in Glenview, IL, de Giulio took the wraps off a series of 11 interconnected kitchen vignettes at Abt’s 100,000-sq.-ft. location, resulting in Inspiration Studio. Each vignette highlights the possibilities that can be achieved using 11 different brands of appliances: Bosch, Dacor, Gaggenau, Jenn-Air, La Cornue, LG, Monogram, Thermador, Samsung, Sub-Zero/Wolf and Viking. “The spaces were designed on a continuum, with each space flowing into one another,” notes de Giulio, who consciously avoids declaring standard design boundaries like traditional and contemporary. “I wanted to challenge conventional design and inspire visitors to think differently about kitchens and appliances.” Mission accomplished.
Gail Monica Dent
Promoting entrepreneurship is just part of this designer’s success plan
Gail Monica Dent is an interior designer with an MBA and a project management approach guided by her Five Essential Keys, a step-by-step approach to completing a job. “I bring in a level of planning that includes project and design management, which represent the gap between design and construction.”
Beyond her business, Provanti Designs in Bellevue, WA, Dent serves as a mentor to designers and is involved in organizations that encourage entrepreneurship. She understands that many designers have the talent to be creative, but lack the business knowledge or self-confidence to succeed. “I love owning my own company, and I just want to support other designers who want to do it on their own,” she remarks. “I want them to receive recognition and numerous awards, just as I have.”
Dent also participates in the Houzz Industry Research Barometer, the Sherwin-Williams Pro Advisory panel, the NKBA and a local organization, Washington Women in Need. Committed to improving the lives of low-income women in Washington, the organization WWIN provides financial assistance for health care and education. “Many of these women are down on their luck, and when you hear their stories and see things turn around for them, it’s amazing,” Dent reports.
Kimball Derrick, CKD
Renowned designer creates inspired kitchens, showrooms
Kimball Derrick has been guided by a trio of principles that have defined his 35-year career as a nationally known designer of inspired kitchens: (1) strive for originality in every aspect of a project; (2) focus on the delicate but critical balance between functionality and aesthetics, and (3) maintain a sensitivity to purpose by understanding the kitchen’s role in the home.
Those principles have served both Derrick and his clients admirably.
A Cincinnati native with roots in the custom woodworking trade, Derrick developed a passion for exquisite design and craftsmanship during an era when the demand for custom cabinetry was dovetailing with sharp growth in the kitchen and bath market. That passion led to the founding of a well-regarded custom cabinet manufacturing company and, eventually, to the launch of a successful kitchen design firm.
Derrick has also distinguished himself as president of the Southern Ohio Chapter of NKBA, as a board member for the Bath & Kitchen Buying Group (BKBG) and as a judge and three-time regional winner of the Sub-Zero/Wolf Regional Design Competition. He recently created showrooms in New York and Cincinnati for Sub-Zero/Wolf, and for Mason, OH-based Tisdel Distributing, while continuing to sustain his business with showroom designs, consulting roles and kitchen and bath projects across the U.S.
International designer wins awards for architectural vision
Sandra Diaz-Velasco adds an international architectural flair to all of her designs. Diaz-Velasco, who holds a license in architecture, was originally an architect in her native Colombia before coming to the U.S. to serve as project designer for Dean Lewis Architecture. She later served as project architect for Taylor & Taylor Partnership in Miami Beach, FL, before founding her own firm, Eolo A&I Design in Miami in 2008.
Many of her award-winning designs have been featured in consumer and trade publications and, in 2016, she was recognized as a Modern Luxury Interiors Dynamic Woman, and featured in the Ornare Miami Tastemakers Showcase. An award that served as a culmination of her 20 years of contributions to the profession in her adopted home of Florida was being selected as a “Star on the Rise” by the Design Center of the Americas (DCOTA) in 2015.
Diaz-Velasco is known for her sleek, contemporary designs that are on the cutting edge of technology, and integrating “smart home” components without obstructing the design’s form and function. She is constantly striving to stay in tune with the “latest of the latest.”
“My favorite new design elements are…where we had to deal with the challenge of incorporating functional elements without sacrificing design. In this project for a young executive in Miami, we made the kitchen stylish but not distracting, almost as though it were hiding in plain sight.”
Kathleen Donohue, CMKBD, CAPS
Designer and educator spotlights theme design, sustainability
Kathleen Donohue has a long and storied career, having worked as an award-winning designer, speaker, author and educator, with specialty areas including theme design, architectural history, sustainability and accessibility.
Theme design remains a passion for the Neil Kelly designer, who’s currently working on designing a historically accurate garden shed in a neighborhood of 1910 historic homes, after recently completing a master bath in a 1910 Greek revival home, restoring it to the classical style.
As part of the Neil Kelly team, she is also helping to elevate the industry through her efforts with sustainability, and notes that the company is a “B Corporation,” which “is a special designation saying that you choose to put people before profits – pay living wages, give back to the community, be very conscious of sustainability, etc.” She incorporates this into her own designs by creating more energy-efficient features and giving clients options for natural materials rather than products that off-gas.
Future plans include what she calls “rewirement” – a semi-retirement that will allow her to focus on fewer projects for previous clients and referrals. She concludes, “The idea of being able to work on one project at a time – what a luxury! We do this for the inherent love of it, and I’m looking forward to spoiling my clients with all my attention!”
Gail Drury, CMKBD
Trend setting designer and mentor has a passion for personalization
While designer Gail Drury is well known for her trend-setting designs, multiple design competition awards and plethora of published projects, she is currently breaking ground in an equally meaningful, if less visible, arena: as a mentor to the next generation of young designers.
The president of Drury Design and former NKBA instructor is on the board of a local college, and says she “loves mentoring students and being part of an interior design advisory board.” Her commitment to promoting future designers extends to her business, where she hires student interns to give them a taste of the industry.
With 35+ years of experience, Drury recognizes the need to be well versed in the latest trends, and has been making a name for herself in design circles with what she calls “a new twist on modern, I call it ‘farmhouse modern,’ offering a unique, contemporary look that also focuses on convenience.”
She believes her design success comes from her commitment to creating personalized living areas that truly fit the client’s lifestyle, and channels her passion for art and interior architecture into creating spaces that not only address fashion and function, but that also maximize the client’s ideas and preferences.
Plumbing & hardware specialist advances the DPH channel
Gary Erickson’s goal, apart from running his California-based company, is to advance the business and professional interests of the decorative plumbing and hardware channel, a critical design and specifying niche in the residential construction market.
Erickson is fulfilling that goal through a track record of service to the Decorative Plumbing & Hardware Association, a 300-member trade organization of independent dealers, suppliers, manufacturers’ reps and other key players in the decorative plumbing and hardware industry.
Erickson, who began his career in 1987 at Snyder Diamond, a major kitchen and bath presence in southern California, is a partner and vice president of Renaissance Design Studio. The company’s pair of luxury showrooms serve the Los Angeles market with a comprehensive collection of products – including architectural hardware, designer plumbing fixtures, handcrafted doors, stairs and custom millwork – and an equally wide range of services, from millwork design and installation to construction and project consultation.
Long active in the DPHA, Erickson has been honored by DPHA for his company’s showroom, and as “Showroom Professional of the Year.” His installation this month for a two-year term as DPHA president epitomizes the kind of volunteer leadership that trade associations rely upon to operate and thrive.
Risk-taking CEO puts emphasis on giving rather than getting
For more than 30 years, Bill Feinberg has been taking career risks. His first big leap was in 1984, when he went from being a door-to-door window salesman to owner of a cabinetry and remodeling business. Not one to shy away from adversity, Feinberg – who is the president and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, FL-based Allied Kitchen & Bath, as well as its co-founder – took a second leap when he decided to pursue a costly dream in the middle of the Great Recession, tearing down three duplexes to build a new 15,000-sq.-ft. flagship showroom.
In 2016, he leapt again, adding a second showroom in Fort Lauderdale/Oakland Park’s burgeoning Culinary Arts District. Feinberg is still pushing the envelope today, expanding his business into the outdoor kitchen market, growing his company’s decorative hardware and plumbing selection, and collaborating with various big-name partners, such as Cosentino and Monarch Appliances.
His business risks have meant not only professional success but charitable returns to the community. On a monthly basis, Allied partners with local charities to host events in the showroom. Allied’s 50-plus employees are the beneficiaries of Feinberg’s motto: “If there’s anything I can teach my employees – you get a lot more by giving than getting.”
Robin Rigby Fisher, CMKBD, CAPS
Teaching design and sustainability keeps designer ahead of the curve
Since Robin Rigby Fisher began designing kitchens and baths 32 years ago, the industry has changed dramatically. “Every single day, I learn something new,” stresses Fisher. “It’s a career that constantly evolves, which is what I love.”
An award-winning designer, Fisher has been a founding partner of both a Portland, OR design/build remodeling firm and an independent residential design firm. As an advocate of sustainable design, she has co-authored Sustainable Design for the Kitchen and Bath Designer, part of the Professional Resource Library for the NKBA.
During the interview process, the designer talks to her clients about their sustainability quotient with regard to indoor air quality, energy efficiency, water conservation, buying locally, recycled content and Universal Design. She states, “I don’t think sustainability should be an option, it should just be what we do.”
Fisher regularly shares her passion for design and sustainability with the next generation by teaching the cornerstone classes in kitchen and bath design at Portland Community College. “One of the reasons I teach is to keep me at the top of my game, because I expect my students to be at the top of their game,” she reports.
Award-winning designer hits the road to educate and publishes new tome on kitchen ideas
It is hard to find a designer today whose portfolio of work, commitment to trade education and writing cuts a wider swath across the kitchen and bath industry. Jennifer Gilmer, CKD, is founder and owner of Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen and Bath in Chevy Chase, MD. And, in over 30 years in the business, she has designed more than 1,000 kitchens, and her business has grown to become one of the top-billing design firms in the Washington, DC area.
Two years ago, Gilmer hit the road with Kitchen & Bath Design News, co-presenting day-long business and design seminars in eight markets per year. The program, “Client Engagement Strategies for Today’s Evolving Market” continues the rich legacy of local trade education established by KBDN with Ellen Cheever from 2002 to 2015.
Most recently, Gilmer is the author of The Kitchen Bible, a guide for homeowners undertaking kitchen renovations. The book, with more than 250 full-color photographs and 224 pages, sold out its initial run and is in its second printing. Her work has been featured in numerous national publications including Better Homes & Gardens, This Old House, Southern Living and on HGTV.