The Innovators: Ha-La
A background in architecture influences award-winning designs
Industry recognition and awards in abundance have been bestowed upon Laurie Haefele, associate member AIA, and member of NKBA, ASID and ICAA. Armed with degrees in architectural design and its history and theory, she has been using her training to create upscale kitchen, boutique wardrobe and luxury bath designs since 1997.
Haefele launched her own firm – Santa Monica, CA-based Haefele Design Inc. – in 2002, and accolades began mounting soon after. She was tapped as one of the world’s top designers by Robb Report Luxury Home Magazine in 2007 and has been garnering design awards ever since.
Among the accolades she has received are honors from Sub-Zero/Wolf in the 2009 and 2017 competitions, the NKBA Small Bath and People’s Choice Awards and a KBDA Best Specialty Project designation from KBDN in 2016. Most recently she was awarded first place honors for best Large Kitchen and best Wet Bar by NKBA Southern California, 2018.
A regular speaker at events such as the SoCal NKBA and Dwell on Design, Haefele regularly speaks at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, where she was previously a professor. Her work has appeared in over 50 magazine articles, as well as on episodes of HGTV’s “Kitchen Trends.”
Haefele creates custom products for her clients, often working with innovative materials. One such product, which she co-invented, is a new cabinet material created by layering silkscreen between acrylic sheets.
Industry activities keep designer ahead of the curve
Staying active in the design community keeps Patti Johnson at the top of her game. Owner of Patti Johnson Interiors in Lebanon, OH, she is a current member of the National Kitchen & Bath Association, the Dayton Society of Interior Designers and Certified Interior Decorators, as well as the Interior Design Society of Ohio, where she is a past president.
An expert in “Transforming Spaces into Beautiful Places,” Johnson has honed her skills in total home renovation as well as kitchen and bath design, spending 10 years in Michigan and Kentucky, followed by 10 years in Ohio. The studio in her home acts as a meeting place for clients to discuss their dream renovations.
To remain well-versed in the design industry, Johnson attends the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show and other trade shows, in addition to seminars and continuing education programs. She is an active member of her local chamber of commerce, as well as Main Street USA for local small businesses.
Johnson is the only Ohio designer to have acted as an official High Point Market Style Spotter, and was named in fixr.com’s Top 200 Most Influential People in the Home Design Industry for 2017. She is a three-time member of the international Blog Tour delegation and the Interior Designer Chat.
Blogging is an important component of Johnson’s business, and her blog “Chatti Patti Talks Design” presents interior design, decoration and lifestyle trends. Her blogging skills earned her an invitation to be part of the prestigious Blogger19, sponsored by Brizo.
Design/build pioneer known for cutting-edge business practices
Like his father before him, Tom Kelly has long been the driving force behind The Neil Kelly Company, a nationally recognized design-build remodeling firm that’s established a reputation for award-winning design, cutting-edge business practices and community engagement.
In 1979, Tom Kelly assumed the role of company president from his father, Neil B. Kelly, who founded the Portland, OR firm in 1947, and spearheaded its growth into a full-service remodeling firm with a focus on kitchens and baths.
Along its 70-year corporate journey, The Neil Kelly Co. pioneered the design/build remodeling process, opened its own cabinet company and distinguished itself by promoting women to key roles in sales, design, drafting and carpentry. The Portland, OR-based company also established a major presence in the Pacific Northwest, expanding to five design centers in Oregon and Washington.
Under Tom’s leadership, it became one of the first companies of its kind to offer FSC-certified woods and formaldehyde-free cabinets; built the first LEED-certified residence West of the Mississippi; opened a home performance/energy efficiency/indoor air quality division, and became certified as a B Corp, furthering the company’s commitment to social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
Highly acclaimed for his service to the community, Tom Kelly has won numerous personal awards, while The Neil Kelly Co. has been awarded the National Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Business Ethics.
Designer brings expertise to multiple platforms
When she went full time with her design business, Kerrie Kelly Design Lab, Northern California designer Kerrie Kelly, CAPS, FASID, was already wearing several hats within the industry. In addition to being an award-winning designer, Kelly was writing books and serving as the director of Interior Design at the Art Institute. She has since continued her all-encompassing approach to the industry – she is an author, a product designer, a columnist, a multi-media consultant and a speaker.
Kelly’s engagement with so many different platforms has made her a top influencer in the design industry and has kept her on the pulse of the latest trends and innovations. Kelly believes the best way to stay current in an ever-evolving industry is to be involved in as many aspects of the industry as possible. She serves as the director at large for the National ASID Board and is also a member of the NKBA. Recently, she accepted an invitation to join the Houzz Pro Advisory Board. Additionally, she is involved in design industry publishing: She is the author of two books (“Home Décor: A Sunset Design Guide” and “My Interior Design Kit”), serves on the Editorial Board for Furniture, Lighting & Décor magazine and also generates content to help brands reach the interior design market.
Although Kerrie Kelly Design Lab has begun to focus more on product development in recent years, Kelly continues to craft elegant, tailored designs for residential renovations and model homes. She is a recipient of the Nancy Vincent McClelland award, as well as numerous Houzz and ASID awards.
Industry pro helps designers find, protect creativity
It’s been over 20 years since Paula Kennedy left her job at Microsoft to become a kitchen designer. Like most newcomers to the industry, initially she focused on using her creativity to win jobs and satisfy clients. But over time and through her active involvement in her local NKBA chapter, Kennedy grew as a leader and speaker in the industry.
Today, beyond being a successful designer with a successful business, Timeless Kitchens, she’s found her voice as one of the leading educators within the NKBA. Her speaking involvement grew from a CEU she developed six years ago to help other designers through a common problem: design burnout. Every year since then, she’s been hired four or five times to travel to different cities with her message of how to ignite creativity and to nurture it.
“Our job is not like most businesses. I tell other designers to get out of their offices to take walks. Start sketching and doodling. Let your brain wander,” says Kennedy. “When you are stressed, your brain gets disconnected. You need to relax to find inspiration.”
Other topics are now part of her speaking routine. She’s written three more CEU-approved classes and has stepped in to work with GE Monogram on a series of classes.
“Designers take their creativity for granted,” she often says. “They don’t know how to charge for their time. We say ‘yes’ too often. We get stretched too thin. We need to know how to protect that talent.”
International travels and cultures spark designer’s creative talents
Laura Kirar, the founder and creative director of Laura Kirar Design in Brooklyn, NY, is an internationally renowned interior and product designer. Her mission is to foster artistic exploration in all of her endeavors and to inspire others with authentic art, craft and design from around the globe. Under her direction, her team creates elegant interiors and home and lifestyle products that have a timeless sensibility, reflecting her respect for craft, history and authenticity.
For almost 20 years, the Laura Kirar Brand has created licensing partnerships with the design industry’s most sought-after companies. Her home products collections range from tile and bath fixtures to seating, lighting, textiles, rugs and decorative accessories for such companies as Ann Sacks, Arteriors Home, Baker Furniture, Boyd Lighting and Kallista Company.
In 2013, in the pursuit of her own artistic evolution as well as a desire to both preserve vanishing craft pieces and positively affect the economic future of indigenous artisans, Kirar traveled through Mexico to learn about traditional materials and craft techniques. As a result, she produced home and fashion accessories that she calls “the marriage of modern design and traditional techniques.” From her experience, the Laura Kirar Limited Edition Collection was born. The first group launched in San Miguel de Allende at the DOCE18 Concept Store and then later with Kirar’s own online shops.
Since 1999, Laura Kirar’s designs have been profiled in many top print and web publications, including Architectural Digest, Elle Décor, House Beautiful, Interior Design and Veranda.
Industry pro merges design and high technology
Scott Koehler is an accomplished kitchen designer, with over 29 years of experience in business. And he’s also a successful technologist. Beginning in the 1980s, Koehler was an early adopter of AutoCAD using a 10 megabyte IBM PC. In fact, he cites the advent of the PC as one of two major “inflection points” in his career.
The second inflection point came in 2010 when he left kitchen design completely to work on Box.com, which was a Silicon Valley tech startup offering cloud computing to Fortune 500 firms. He was an investor and was active in C-suite sales activity for the company.
When that firm failed to monetize, Koehler took up his design pencil (virtual) and opened Dream Kitchen Builders near Greensboro, NC, with a focus on running his company almost entirely on readily available mobile apps for business.
“Every possible piece of what I do as a kitchen designer is done on a mobile app,” says Koehler. For the past three years he’s been a top speaker at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, focusing on using technology in kitchen design.
Technology guru/marketing pro/rep educates young designers
Karla Krengel literally grew up in the kitchen and bath industry. The third generation kitchen and bath industry entrepreneur who currently helms her own rep firm, Krengel & Hood, was one of the earliest adopters of technology, educating dealers and designers about how to use the Internet to grow their businesses.
Krengel served on NKBA’s Marketing Committee for three years and chaired NKBA’s Technology Committee, and has spoken at both NKBA chapter meetings and at KBIS.
She has twice been selected to participate in Whirlpool Innovation “Think Tanks,” and has served on Jenn-Air’s Design Advisory council.
Krengel authored an Internet Connections column for Kitchen & Bath Design News for 12 years, and has written and writes for a variety of other publications.
As the “face” of Kitchens.com, her brother’s company, she sold websites to kitchen dealers and set the record for most new accounts closed within a month.
Today she is an award-winning sales rep for Greenfield and Siteline Cabinetry, and is regularly lauded for her territory’s sales achievements and outstanding dealer involvement. She is passionate about working with young designers, and helping them establish their businesses. To that end, she gives back by speaking to kitchen and bath design students at local colleges; most recent topics include trends from Eurocucina and how to find inspiration.
Innovator and entrepreneur a trendsetter on the Internet
Steve Krengel has bloodlines in the kitchen and bath industry, but it’s online where the Chicago-born innovator and entrepreneur has made a mark all his own.
Krengel’s father, Ken, headed the nationally known rep firm Krengel & Associates; his uncle Jim was a well-known designer and educator, and his sister, Karla Krengel, serves as an entrepreneur and consultant who helms the rep firm Krengel & Hood.
Steve Krengel has been as pioneer and trendsetter in digital communications, having established a significant internet presence long before others grasped the import and utility of the World Wide Web.
Krengel’s roots in the kitchen/bath industry, combined with an online acumen, inspired him to found Kitchens.com, an award-winning site that serves as a comprehensive consumer resource on kitchen design and remodeling.
Founded in 1996 as Worldview Technologies, the Cornelius, NC-based Kitchens.com established itself, long before others, as an online platform for people interested in kitchens.
Designed to provide both information and inspiration, kitchens.com contains a wealth of information about trends, product choices, popular colors and how consumers can work productively with designers, contractors, suppliers and architects. The site also features before-and-after photos, access to newsletters, product guides, design boards and blogs, as well as a listing service that allows homeowners and prospective homebuyers to connect to the websites of kitchen and bath professionals across the country.
Coaching better business practices helps all designers succeed
Growing up in the family business – Bob Lang Appliances – set the foundation for John Lang’s entry into the kitchen and bath field. In 1985, John and his father attended the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Philadelphia, which launched John into the kitchen business. Since then, Lang has owned Lang’s Kitchen and Bath in Newtown, PA, specializing in creating rooms using the company’s “Signature 12 Step Process.” The team at Lang’s works as a unit, coordinating every detail, including design, project management, purchasing, scheduling and, with sub-contractors, installing.
Joining SEN Design Group in 1995 and applying its principles helped advance the business, and led to Lang joining the organization’s management team in 2008 as the only kitchen and bath industry-specific licensed professional business coach. His main goal as a business coach for SEN is to make sure kitchen and bath owners make real profits. Since the industry is so design oriented, Lang concentrates on making sure owners understand the numbers and correct gross profit margin.
During the recession of a few years ago, Lang actively coached 108 kitchen and bath dealers, and 102 of those dealers are still in business. Today, Lang splits his time between managing his design business and coaching up to 25 SEN members per month on how to make sustaining change to their businesses and help them grow and be profitable.
Time is valuable, and one thing Lang stresses is to not overwork. On average, the three team members at Lang’s only work about 45 hours per week and produce $2 million in income, due to the effective processes in place.