From the Drawing Board to the Showroom
authors Ashley Lapin Olian | February 8, 2017
TACOMA, WA — Children often love to draw pictures of their house. It is not as common, however, for a child to focus on creating various housing plans at a young age. Yet that is what Kayron Brewer, CKD, CBD, owner of Tacoma, WA-based Studio K B, loved to do.
Brewer knew from a young age that she wanted to design. As an eight-year-old in Chattanooga, TN, she enjoyed drawing house plans in her free time. While neither of her parents were in the design field, Brewer thinks that she may have been unknowingly influenced by her grandmother, a stay-at-home-mom who loved to look at the home section in the Sunday newspaper.
“[My grandmother] would draw on top of the house plan and fix it for fun,” she says. “I didn’t know that until later in life, but I may have picked up on it at an early age.”
Brewer’s passion for home design only grew as she got older. In high school she worked for an interior designer after school, and when it came time to go to college, she pursued a degree in interiors and housing at Auburn University. This is where she first became acquainted with kitchen and bath design.
“The degree was geared more toward residential design, and there was a specialty of kitchen and bath design,” notes Brewer.
INTRODUCTION TO TILE
After graduation, Brewer moved to Atlanta, which she coins the “design mecca of the South.” She graduated during a recession, which made it difficult to find a job. After answering a blind ad, she got an interview with Renaissance Tile and Bath in the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center. She was offered the job and so began her love affair with tile.
“I walked into their showroom and fell in love,” she describes. “They had the most beautiful selection of tile that I didn’t even know was out there.”
Brewer started out as an assistant and was promoted to sales within six months. When she was 27, the firm moved her to Nashville to open up its third store where she oversaw the construction and managed the store.
Brewer eventually followed her career back to Atlanta to work for Ann Sacks, after which she moved to a design build firm, Home Rebuilders, in a kitchen and bath designer position. It was here that she learned about cabinetry, lighting, millwork and construction.
While Brewer enjoyed the work at Home Rebuilders, it was very demanding and she was ready for a change. She picked up and moved cross country to Seattle on a whim in 2003. After briefly working for a cabinet design firm, she found a job as a manager for Waterworks, going back into the DPHA universe she knew so well.
During this time, she would design kitchens and baths for clients on the side and realized that it was something she really enjoyed. About a year and a half later, Brewer decided it was time to make kitchen and bath design a permanent fixture in her life; in 2005, Brewer opened Studio K B, eventually obtaining her CKD and CBD.
TRANSPARENCY IS KEY
In building her own business, Brewer has found success through her frank and transparent approach with her clients.
“Not every designer will go fully into budget and help a client decipher what a kitchen and/or bathroom is going to cost,” she states. “It’s best to get it out in the open right away. It is a very integral part of what we do, and being very transparent with the approach and presentation is important.”
A tool she uses with each client is Smartsheet.com, which sets up a spreadsheet of expenses, detailing each one line by line, helping the clients to see everything that’s encompassed in the project.
“It opens up that line of communication more,” Brewer continues. “If they can see it written down, they know what they’re picking and it helps build confidence.”
In addition, she goes through all plans with contractors in front of the clients so that they serve as another set of eyes and ears. She describes herself as part coach throughout the process.
A NEW VENTURE
Tile still plays an important part in Brewer’s life. In addition to it being “a significant factor” in each project, it has also translated into the opening of a second business, Cupboard & Clay, LLC, a boutique tile showroom in Tacoma. She decided to start this venture because she wanted to feature unique clay tile that she couldn’t find in the Northwest.
“There is a limited selection as far as certain types of tile and different offerings [in Tacoma],” she says.
Cupboard & Clay’s doors opened in January 2017. The store includes products from Quemere Designs, Tempest Tileworks, Red Rock Tileworks, Arto Brick & Tile and Artisan Stone Tile. Brewer is serving a need for both designers and clients, who now don’t have to travel the 35 miles to Seattle to find hand-painted, hand-molded and other unique tile creations.
Brewer finds that she does more bathroom projects than kitchens. Some of that may be attributable to the extensive tile work shown in her portfolio that happens to be mostly in baths.
Recently, she just completed her first outdoor kitchen. A client whose master bath Brewer had remodeled asked her to come back and create an outdoor entertaining area. In order to accommodate the large number of guests the clients would entertain (anywhere from 40-80 people at a time), Brewer came up with a multi-island idea to accommodate everyone, with a variety of appliances and one island section designated specifically for beverages and wine.
“Initially, the clients wanted a normal-sized ice bucket for beverages. When entertaining that many people, though, a single ice bucket doesn’t make sense,” explains Brewer. “[The clients] couldn’t grasp the concept of an oversized ice bucket – they thought it was too big.” Brewer’s clients eventually decided to go along with her idea. Once the space was complete, she was invited back to one of the couple’s parties. They had brought in three chefs to make the food outdoors at different stations. It ended up being a big success: The flow worked well and people were able to mingle around the entire area, including the perfectly sized beverage center.
Brewer concludes: “The greatest compliment a designer can have is for the client to say, ‘I trust you, just do it.’ It makes you want to put in something unique for them that makes it special.”