St. Paul, MN – In the years since Lynne Stryker, CKD, started her design firm, Spaces into Places in St. Paul, MN, she has gained a certain confidence that didn’t necessarily exist when she initially opened the doors in 2003.
“At that time I didn’t know anyone who was doing design only,” she says. “I didn’t even know if it was feasible to make a living just doing design work, without contracting and large project management. But I wanted to focus on things I love to do, things that give me the most happiness… rather than doing everything, and being all solutions to all people.”
Stryker’s background is in interior design, but she realized after gaining her bachelor’s degree that kitchens and baths gave her the most pleasure, ultimately earning CKD accreditation as well. “I think it’s because of the architectural aspect of those spaces,” she says.
Flexible to all budgets
Stryker focuses on older historic homes in the St. Paul and South Minneapolis areas. “The radius of my work is small,” she says, adding that the 10 to 15 mile radius keeps driving time down. “And I’m also focused on older homes, since they tend to be more problematic than newer ones,” she says.
Her strength is in the consideration of the entirety of kitchen and bath spaces as they relate to the rest of the home. “When I design a kitchen or bath, I look at the entire home and how these spaces tie into other rooms,” she says. “As I work with people, oftentimes they’ll ask me to come back because I’ve made suggestions for other rooms… for example, lighting in the living room or carrying colors throughout. I don’t work in isolation and I’m very cognizant of the details, rather than only focusing on a nice kitchen. There’s a sense of continuity.”
She also offers an array of services to her clients, including one-hour consults if someone just needs help to select paint colors, lay out furniture or add lighting. “I’m flexible with all budget types,” she says. “I think everyone has the right to great design, regardless of budget. Hiring a designer used to be exclusive, but design has become more accessible. People have been given permission to ask for help, and to accept design help, even if they aren’t uber wealthy. I find it gratifying to have an impact on people, even if they don’t have much to spend.”
This design approach helped her maintain business through the recession, giving her more eggs in the basket from which to draw. “I was getting calls for exterior paint consults,” she says, which she gladly accepted. “It’s a good relationship builder. People will call me even if they don’t have a giant project to do.”
Bring the soul in first
Another aspect which she feels has helped her business is the absence of a showroom. “I thought about opening a showroom with a partner,” she explains. “But I realized I didn’t want to spread myself too thin. If I was going to work for myself, I wanted to have it be a joyful use of what I love to do. It’s really hard sometimes for us to give ourselves permission to do what we love.”
Stryker maintains a small quantity of samples from some of the major cabinetry lines, as well as countertops… “the basics,” she says. But she relies most heavily on taking clients to area showrooms. “There are about 400 cabinet makers in the Minnesota region, from the very large ones such as Crystal Cabinets and Dura Supreme Cabinetry to small mom and pop shops. The Twin Cities area really has some beautiful showrooms, and it’s great to have the freedom to go anywhere.”
One showroom she frequents is a tile showroom that features the work of more than 40 local and regional artisans, including the owner who makes product onsite. “He has bins of tiles in various colors and sizes,” she says, adding that this approach encourages mixing and matching. “People can pick up samples and play with them like puzzle pieces. It’s really fun for clients!”
Her clients also like the fact that the tile is a local product. “They consider it ‘green’,” she says. “They know who makes it, and it gives them a sense of satisfaction that they’re supporting local artists.”
Stryker encourages her clients to visit this showroom first to create excitement for more personal materials at the beginning of the budget. “The handmade tile is one of the first elements we pick,” she says. “My clients carry it around with them as they select countertops and flooring. That’s completely different from what most people do. But I want my clients to realize the importance of the jewelry on the black dress. The black dress is important, but it will be boring if you don’t have some beautiful details.
“My concern is that people pick appliances first,” she continues. “They blow too much of the budget, then are left scrambling to make everything else fit. My goal is to get people excited about ‘personal’ elements – those that put soul into the space – at the beginning of the process so they don’t fall out of the budget. I think the handmade quality of products, such as this tile, is what’s missing from many designs. They change it from just a pretty kitchen to an interesting, homey, comfortable space. To a designer, a handcrafted backsplash or floor tile is like a great rug or a piece of artwork is to an interior designer. It gives inspiration for the room. I think you need to bring the soul of the room in first… don’t wait to pick that last.”
At A Glance
Spaces into Places
Location: St. Paul, MN
Principal: Lynne Stryker, CKD
Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday 8:00-5:00
Number of Employees: 1
Design software: hand drafting
Business Philosophy: “Everyone has the right to great design, regardless of budget.”