The Innovators: Al-Ca

by Autumn McGarr


Michele Alfano

Designer uses architecture background to craft thoughtful spaces

With formal architecture training and experience, Michele Alfano brings a distinctive bold, modern flair to her designs. The founder and creative director of Hudson Valley-based Michele Alfano Design holds a Masters of Architecture from the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and is known for her architectural approach to kitchen and bath design.

Alfano refers to her livable modern design style as “a tailored emotional intelligence” – thoughtfully designed spaces that are eye-catching, highly functional and inspire well-being. According to Alfano, her design process begins with a program of listening to her clients and understanding the context of the problem before developing a solution. Her disciplined detailing brings spaces to life by inviting people to feel and to touch, and challenging them to think.

Alfano has received plenty of attention from brands, publications and media for her work. She was selected for the DXV Design Panel 2017, received accolades from the 2017 BLANCO by Design contest and was a speaker on design panels at KBIS and Wanted Design.

In addition to being a sought-after designer, Alfano is also a strong voice in the design blogosphere. In her design blog MOD Design Guru, she explores new innovations in the industry and investigates how lifestyles evolve alongside design trends. MOD Design Guru has been recognized by the JDR Industry Awards and the Modenus Top 100 Interior Design Blogs, and Alfano has been invited to travel and write for brands such as Tile of Spain, Miele, Mr.Steam, Brizo, Zephyr, DXV, Du Verre, the NKBA, Modenus and Axor.

Michael Ampuja

Designer crafts inventive solutions for challenging spaces

Coming from a family of architects and builders, Mike Ampuja knew that he wanted to be a designer from an early age. After attending a technical high school for building design and studying architectural engineering in college, Ampuja went on to become an NKBA-certified designer with the North Smithfield, RI firm Closettec.

Ampuja previously received a nod in KBDN’s August 2018 issue for his mobile showroom design, a solution born out of a need to work around customers’ demanding work schedules. In designing the showroom, Ampuja had to deal with many unique concerns, including weight distribution, lighting the displays and incorporating a mobile power source. According to Ampuja, the showroom puts clients in need of custom storage solutions for tricky spaces at ease. He hopes to have additional mobile showrooms on the road in the near future.

Much like the mobile showroom, Ampuja’s designs are perfectly tailored to clients’ specific needs in order to maximize the utility of available space. One recent project in Boston, for example, a custom movie theater bar, boasts custom storage for 3-D glasses, remotes and candy. When considering customers’ needs, Ampuja emphasizes the need to create timeless designs that will grow with clients and their families.

Dr. Julia Beamish

Academician makes mark in education, research

Dr. Julia Beamish has made a major impact on the campus of Virginia Tech, but her influence on the kitchen and bath industry is hardly restricted to the halls of academia.

A certified kitchen design educator and accomplished researcher, Beamish serves as professor and head of the Department of Apparel, Housing and Resource Management at Virginia Tech, widely acclaimed for its curriculum in residential environments, a four-year major that includes extensive coursework in kitchen and bath design.

Beamish, one of the architects of that curriculum, teaches residential space planning with a focus on Universal Design and accessibility. She was also a member of the founding faculty for Virginia Tech’s Center for Real Life Kitchen Design, a 1,500-sq. ft. learning center that incorporates kitchen vignettes, a flexible classroom and research space with multi-media capabilities.

But Beamish’s impact extends far beyond the confines of her college’s campus. She has also served as an at-large delegate for the White House Conference on Aging. And, along with two other Virginia Tech professors, she was the co-author of a pair of reference books – Kitchen Planning and Bath Planning – that are considered among the most authoritative planning resources available for professional kitchen and bath designers. In addition, among other projects, she was involved in a widely cited research initiative that identified how people use, and what they want in, their kitchens.

Christy Bowen

Communication, collaboration and community lead to design success

Communication is at the core of Christy Bowen’s success. Whether she is talking with clients, forming partnerships with builders or organizing community and industry events, Bowen, CKBD, UDCP determines what is needed through communication and collaboration.

As principal of Twelve Stones Design in Austin, TX, the designer has used her technical skills, creative savvy and design expertise to forge partnerships with some of the area’s top design and build firms. Her passion for specialized design disciplines inspired her to gain certifications in both kitchen and bath design and Universal Design.

Her vision and attention to detail have won Bowen recognition and awards on local, regional and national levels. Her work has graced the covers of Professional Remodeler and Symmetry Magazine and has been featured in several publications, including Austin/San Antonio’s Urban Home Magazine and MODERN Builder & Design.

Bowen gives back to the industry by being an active member of two prominent trade associations: the Austin National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) Chapter and the Texas Hill Country National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) Chapter. In recent years she has served on the Texas Hill Country NKBA Board as v.p. of Programs, and v.p. of Academic Relations. Presently, she sits on the Austin NARI Board of Directors as a director at large and serves as the NARI Tour of Remodeled Homes committee chair and board liaison.

Michael Berman

Product and design reflect a distinctive mix of classic and modern

Interiors and product designer Michael Berman has created a portfolio of projects that span the globe. From residential homes to luxury hotels, Berman’s signature “Trans-Modern” American style reflects the designer’s interest in history, art, architecture and nature, forming a mix of completely livable – and widely celebrated – interiors, furniture, lighting and textiles. His work strikes an uncommon balance between timeless style and of-the-moment relevance inspired by comfort, American Modernism, simplicity of form and classic Hollywood glamour. He explains, “My objective is to create classics with restraint and elegance that will stand the test of time.”

Berman has lent his design expertise to several lines, including outdoor furniture collections for Brown Jordan, a Modern furniture and textile line for Kravet, a bath accessories line with Labrazel and a lifestyle furniture collection for Theodore Alexander. ROHL has partnered with Berman for its American Modern plumbing line, which reflects a combination of craftsmanship and authentic materials and finishes. Walker Zanger has also been on the receiving end of Berman’s talents via its Stu-dio Moderne collection of stone and tile.

Berman is also the founder and principal creative visionary behind Michael Berman Limited, a multi-faceted design firm focusing on interiors, architecture, furniture and all aspirational products for home design.

Patricia Davis Brown

Industry luminary inspires through lighting expertise, design blog

Patricia Davis Brown has long been an industry luminary, whether promoting her well-read blog as a media platform for the industry, developing an extensive expertise in lighting or serving on the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s Board of Directors.

A 31-year veteran in the design industry, she is a professional interior designer and a certified kitchen and bathroom designer who is well known for her intricate lighting designs. An award-winning designer whose work has been featured in Florida Architecture, Traditional Homes & Design, Florida Design, Better Homes & Gardens Kitchen and Bath Ideas and “The Kids Space Idea Book,she started her career in the industry in 1985, and in 1992 opened her Vero Beach, FL-based design studio, Patricia Davis Brown Fine Cabinetry.

Since then, her designs have garnered 15 national and multiple state awards, and her reputation as an industry influencer has grown exponentially with the growth of her widely read design blog,

In 2010, she opened a full design firm, Patricia Davis Brown Designs, and today she is a sought-after brand consultant who continues to work on a diverse array of projects, recently landing a large, luxury home development project in Vero Beach.

Innovation also colors her designs, most recently a master bathroom that includes custom-designed black vanities with a custom mirrored furniture piece and custom lighting, and a kitchen with a unique custom pot rack.

Julia Buckingham

Mix of vintage and modern styles has carved a multi-faceted design path

“Modernique” is a design term coined by Julia Buckingham to describe her design style – a distinctive blend of modern and antique. Her mix of signature vintage and modern style is reflected in her designs, licensed products, her new book and a new boutique.

The principal of Buckingham Interiors + Design Ltd., a Chicago-based design studio she opened in 2007, Buckingham is a fixture in the design industry, enjoying leading roles in major projects and collaborations. She is a Trendspotter for Silestone by Cosentino and an inaugural member of the Authentic Luxury Guild with ROHL. She also partnered with Kohler, Cosentino and Benjamin Moore to create a designer kitchen and a vignette in New York for DIFFA Dining by Design.

Buckingham contributes to Traditional Home magazine’s Color Master Classes, and is a founding contributor to the design blog Material Girls. Her designs have appeared on the pages of Elle Décor, Interior Design, Traditional Home, House Beautiful and Luxe, to name a few.

Her design style is also captured in her new book, Modernique, Inspiring Interiors – Mixing Modern and Vintage Style, and will be on display in her new Modernique boutique in Upper Phoenix. The boutique will feature a collection of her designed furniture and accessories, alongside lighting, textiles, antiques and artifacts. The space will showcase Buckingham’s distinctive style – mixing and matching different genres and eras for a warm, classic look.

Denise Butchko

Marketing savvy storage pro and educator shares expertise

Denise Butchko is a born marketer, one of the first to embrace online marketing, enewsletters, webinars and social media – areas in which she continues to excel.

But while her expertise is impressive, her desire to share that knowledge is what has made the certified closet designer and author a well-known presence in the kitchen and bath field. One of the first 10 people to be invited to participate in NKBA’s Chapter Education Program, Butchko is a regular presenter on storage-related topics, and will again be speaking at KBIS 2019.

A member of the inaugural class of Registered Storage Designers in 2010, the owner of the Chicago-based Butchko and Company  has now achieved Master Level certification and is one of only three people to achieve this level. An active member of the NKBA, she works with chapters across the country teaching closet design and sales, and also teaches an on-demand class for industry pros looking to get more involved in designing closets.

Her work has been featured in The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times and Fortune Small Business, among others, and she is a respected blogger, as well as a judge and former winner of the closet industry’s “Top Shelf Design Awards” competition.

Marie Cairns

Designer creates spaces for people of all ages, abilities

Marie Cairns of the San Diego, CA-based CairnsCraft Design & Remodel has spent nearly 30 years creating functional and beautiful living spaces for her California clientele. Her award-winning design build firm specializes in kitchens, baths, home additions and full home remodels, offering design services, project development, management and construction, along with a specialized knowledge of all things Universal Design.

Indeed, as a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist, she sees it as her mission to remodel homes to be functional and usable by anyone, regardless of age or ability.

A creative talent with a strong head for business, Cairns designed and built a one-of-a-kind kitchen and bath mobile showroom that allows her to display cabinetry, lighting, countertops, backsplashes, appliances, fixtures and built-ins to bring to her clients to provide a vast selection of choices for their remodel.

She established CairnsCraft Design & Remodel in 1990 in conjunction with Charles Cairns, and has been creating highly personalized designs ever since. She believes trust is essential to her success, and she places high value on customer service and attention to detail, which is evident in her Better Business Bureau A+ rating.

Her work has been published in Coastal Magazine and Home & Garden Magazine, and she has also served as v.p. of Academic Relations for the NKBA San Diego Chapter.

Jonas Carnemark

Sweden-born remodeler in step with Scandinavian design trend

Jonas Carnemark spent much of his childhood in Sweden. Scandinavian design is literally his heritage. For the past 30 years, the principles of this newly popular style have infused his award-winning design and build work.

According to Carnemark, who also owns the KONST SieMatic showroom near his Bethesda, MD firm, the Scandinavian style is not just “whitewashed walls, wood floors and blue accents,” rather it’s about beautiful spaces that are highly functional. It is about minimalism, expert craftsmanship, a respect for the environment, affordability and the use of natural materials, he says.

Today the Scandinavian look and style is found in the concept of “hygge” or “lagom” as they say in Sweden, which have recently re-entered the design lexicon. “These are the design principles I grew up around,” says Carnemark. “My parents, my grandparents, my family summers in Sweden…I don’t adhere to everyday function and minimalism intentionally. These concepts are in my blood.”

Carnemark’s reputation for award-winning design goes back many years. Today he is a frequent speaker on the topic of balancing luxury and budget in kitchen and bathroom design, green design and aging in place.

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