The Innovators: Cl-Gi

by Autumn McGarr


Cheryl Kees Clendenon

Designer, influencer challenges the status quo

Cheryl Kees Clendenon has a long history of being a trend setter. A well-known industry speaker who loves to challenge the status quo, the 20-year veteran designer and blogger is often in the limelight, whether taking home NBKA awards four years running, participating in the Modenus Blog Tour, being a Silestone Trendspotter, serving on the BLANCO Design Council, being one of the first to be selected for the DXV designer panel or being a featured presenter at KBIS.

After starting her entrepreneurial pursuit in her own home as a solo act, she quickly built her reputation and client list as an interior designer, and soon she decided to put together a design team and open a retail showroom showcasing original art, furnishings, hardware, lighting and other beautiful objects. This year, In Detail Interiors was selected by the home furnishings industry as a finalist for the prestigious Dallas Market Arts Award for her showroom and her team’s innovative marketing efforts.

Her fearless style and irreverent approach to design have won her numerous design awards, and her well-read blog has further extended her reach, with Fixr naming her a Top Influencer in 2017. Her work has been published in over 70 consumer magazines and books, including multiple covers. She now mentors other designers with her no-nonsense approach in all matters of small business and running a showroom.

Eric Cohler

Personalized style using well-loved pieces, objects and art deliver the joy this designer seeks

The house down the street and the famous residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC can have something in common – a design touch from Eric Cohler. Principal of Eric Cohler Design in New York, the designer has been dubbed “The Mixmaster” by Traditional Home magazine for his ability to blend classic and contemporary elements to create fresh, comfortable spaces.

A respected keynote speaker on design, art and collecting, Cohler holds an MS in Historic Preservation from Columbia University, as well as a Certificate from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and Oxford’s New College. His education in art and architecture influences his individualized style, and he has garnered numerous awards, including being named to Elle Décor’s annual A-List and the “Top 100 Designers” issue in House Beautiful, as well as being tapped Designer of the Year by Traditional Home and Decoration and Design Building in New York and Florida’s DCOTA.

His award-winning product designs include textiles and furniture for Lee Jofa, lighting for Visual Comfort, luxury fireplace surrounds for Chesney’s and rugs for Stark. His Lee Jofa “Tyler Crewel” rug graced the Obama family dining room.

The author of “Cohler on Design,” he serves on the board of directors of Manhattan’s Museum at Eldridge Street. Causes such as the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island, the Kips’ Bay Boys and Girls Club and the Susan G. Komen Holiday House are personal passions. A prestigious honor, he is an ambassador of Creativity and Spirituality to the United Nations.

Robineve Cole

Universal Design inspires fashion-conscious designer

Robineve Cole of the Walnut Creek, CA-based Robineve Interiors Universal Design founded her firm on the premise that good design solves problems and improves quality of life. Initially inspired by her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s and then a car accident that left her in a wheelchair for several months, she began to look more seriously at how the principles of Universal Design could be incorporated into a home to make the space work for a variety of needs, from a temporary injury to a permanent disability – as well as for a range of ages and life stages.

Universal Design precepts continue to impact her work today; indeed, her company’s tag line is “Designing Homes for Life,” and her firm offers an innovative three-hour Universal Design Walk-Through checklist to address the myriad ways a client’s home can be remodeled to integrate UD principles.

But while function is a critical element of Cole’s design process, fashion is equally important to this award-winning California designer. Indeed, she started her career in the fashion industry designing one-of-a-kind celebrity dresses before moving into interior design. Her extensive international travel also colors her designs, which have been published in Architectural Digest, Washington Post, California Home Design and more, and she is also a sought-after speaker.

Steven Cooper

Designer shows innovation via strong client relationships

Steven Cooper is a renaissance man. Yes, he grew up in the business – from the days when his father Neil Cooper was a design-build home builder in Minnesota through the family’s move to Los Angeles in 1984, and the subsequent launch of Cooper Pacific Kitchens. But Cooper’s early years with Cooper Pacific were on the business side of things. He studied finance in college and since 1989, he’s helped build Cooper Pacific into a leading design-firm brand in West L.A.

Over the years, he gradually became a leading designer in his own right. Today, in addition to being owner and business chief, Cooper is the company’s principal designer. In recent years he’s led the firm to create a number of award-winning kitchens that have burnished the company’s reputation for its leading-edge design – modern with a relaxed California coastal feel. He’s often quoted on kitchen design trends by national publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Forbes. And, last year he earned Gold in Kitchen & Bath Design Award’s Best Kitchen over $200,000 category.

He describes his designs as detailed and layered but firmly rooted in the client’s tastes. He sees the depth of connection to clients as key to design success. “We are in an exciting market here in Los Angeles,” notes Cooper. “So I have the luxury and the ability to be very forward with our designs but also to push that envelope a little bit. We find that people are pretty receptive to new and different ideas.”

Vanessa Deleon

Influential designer and tastemaker infuses minimalism with glamour

Vanessa Deleon, ASID, IIDA, developed a taste for interior design while offering insight to customers in her father’s furniture shop, where she worked to put herself through college. She started her design business two years before she graduated from Berkeley College for Interior Design, and an appearance on HGTV’s “Design Stars” in 2006 introduced her to the public eye. Since those early days, she has become not only a sought-after designer, but also an influencer, tastemaker and television personality.

Deleon’s distinctive classic modern style has appeared in many publications, including Elle Decor and Interior Design. The New York City designer has coined a term for her style – “Glamilistic” – which describes her signature harmonious combination of elegant minimalism and glamorous flourishes. Her kitchens boast unexpected and fascinating details such as inlay on doors, metal features and unique furniture-style hardware that set them apart from the ordinary. She focuses on including just enough glamour to make a space pop without going over the top.

Major brands have taken notice of Deleon’s thoughtful use of their product. In 2017, she became a brand ambassador for True Residential, a partnership that Deleon calls a “true fit,” as she very often utilizes True’s products in her designs, including her own kitchen.

Beverly Ellsley

Crafting custom looks demonstrates designer’s passion for excellence

Luxury home design is the forté for Beverly Ellsley, president of Beverly Ellsley Design. Her home base of Westport, CT offers the opportunity to design for every type of residence – from 18th century homes to contemporary steel and glass structures.

Ellsley, who has been actively designing since the 1970s, shows no signs of slowing down, now creating beautiful spaces with her daughter Rebecca, who joined her in the business in 1995. She even started her own cabinetry shop for the purpose of  implementing her fine furniture-quality cabinets for kitchens, libraries and other spaces with built-in cabinets.

She has served on the design advisory boards of numerous companies, including the Pella Window company, Sub-Zero and Minwax. Her Villa collection of woodcarvings for Enkeboll showcases her love of details, and the design guides she wrote for the company reflect her expressive and meticulous style. Her company has also produced rugs, dinnerware and furniture that feature art she created.

The company’s designs have been published hundreds of times in numerous shelter magazines, newspaper articles and books, and the mother-daughter team has been featured on radio talk shows and television programs. Showhouses are a particular passion, as the designer has participated in at least 25 designer showhomes, including the prestigious Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse in New York seven times.

Stephanie Frees

Award-winning designer finds success with ‘client-first’ approach

In a time of mass-produced style and impersonal communication, Chicago-area designer Stephanie Frees serves as an admirable reminder that slowing down and taking the time to form a real connection benefits both designer and client. A mostly self-taught designer, Frees built her firm Plain & Posh from the ground up starting in 2006, and has been striving ever since to ensure that each of her clients is comfortable and informed through every step of what might otherwise be a stressful and overwhelming process.

Frees opened a storefront showroom in Westmont, IL in 2015, which has allowed her to carry not only major cabinet brands, but her own new original line, the Plain & Posh Collection. The collection is locally crafted and completely customizable, enabling Frees to design truly exceptional spaces tailored to her clients’ exact needs.

The unique care with which Frees treats her clients, as well as the quality of her designs, has made Frees a favorite among Houzz users. Plain & Posh was a Best of Houzz Winner from 2015 through 2018 and has also been awarded “Houzz Recommended Pro” status. Her reputation has earned her clients from as far away as Florida, California, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

Kirsten Gable

Young designer already an industry leader

By the time Kirsten Gable received her degree in Interior Design from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 2014, she had already been working in the kitchen and bath industry for two years as a showroom manager. Now a junior designer at luxury DC-area design firm Anthony Wilder Design/Build, Inc., Gable has already been making her mark in the industry, both as a designer and in her local NKBA and ASID chapters. Her promising career progress and leadership were recognized by the NKBA in 2017, when she was inducted into the Thirty Under 30 program and invited to present research findings at KBIS.

A member of the Baltimore/Washington Chapter of the NKBA for over three years, Gable will continue to serve her second term as programs chair in 2019. During her tenure, she has worked to provide fresh programming for chapter members and expand the chapter’s network. Additionally, she is developing stronger finance-tracking protocols in order to strengthen chapter leadership. Simultaneously, Gable serves on NKBA National’s Chapter Leadership Committee, whose purpose is to provide a link between the grassroots of the Association, its chapters and the National Board of Directors and staff. Gable also served as finance director for the Maryland Chapter of ASID from 2015 to 2017.

Gable is constantly seeking out further education opportunities, participating in webinars, reviewing industry publications and working toward her Associate Kitchen and Bath Designer certification. She has also taught kitchen and bath courses at a local community college.

Laura Giampaolo

Mini-movies and automated design reach customers in unexpected ways

Creating inspired designs – and presenting them effectively to clients – sets Laura Giampaolo apart. A kitchen and bath designer at Nu-Way Kitchen and Bath in Utica, MI, she uses her talents in 2020 3D CAD design and as a mini-movie maker to wow her clients.

In 30+ years, she has designed spaces around the world. Her creative process starts with asking her clients what their dream space would be if money was no object. She then goes to their home to see how it is currently being used, how the rest of the home is decorated and how she can maximize their dream while staying within the set budget.

Giampaolo’s approach includes developing a “Live Movie” format to present kitchens and baths to clients. The presentation is designed to inspire them and put them into the space.

Winner of the 2020 Inspiration Award for 2017 in the Bath category, Giampaolo continually researches 2020 as well as other programs that she can use together to have the most realistic presentations. “I use all the catalogs, as each one serves a unique purpose in completing the overall look of the space,” she offers.

Giampaolo reaches out to other designers, teaching them tips and tricks of the Design program to improve their work. She advises them to “not be afraid to experiment. Play and practice.” She notes that there are still things she is discovering in 2020 Design that she can bring to the table.

Lori Gilder

Architectural style and digital media platforms signature for California designer

California Modern best describes Lori Gilder’s style. The architectural interior designer – CEO and founder of and Interior Makeovers Inc. in Beverly Hills, CA – is known for her clean, architectural lines and relaxed, classically contemporary spaces.

The award-winning designer has been a featured speaker at High Point Furniture Market, the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, West Edge Design Fair and participated as a 2015 Highpoint Style Spotter and the Modenus BlogTourNY.

Gilder’s passion for kitchen and bath design led to her role as co-founder of the Kitchen Design Network with KBDN Innovator Rebecca Reynolds, an online resource site devoted to kitchen lifestyle, design, sources and professional directory. The site will house inspirational kitchen projects from around the world, renovation ideas and advice, expert information and kitchen lifestyle and culture from design professionals.

Gilder and Reynolds also collaborated on two design vignettes for the 2015 Design Panel for DXV Luxury and, in 2016, the duo designed the 2016 Traditional Home Napa Valley Showhouse kitchen and were named Viking Kitchen Designers of the Year for 2016.

Traditional Home, Elle Décor, Architectural Digest, Distinctive Kitchens and California Homes magazine have featured Gilder’s designs, and she has appeared on HGTV, BlogTalk Radio and The Chaise Lounge Podcast. The designer has also lent her expertise to, providing an interior design video series for designing and decorating “Beach Spaces.”

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More