The Innovators: Go-Jac
Designer views clients as creative partners
For San Diego-based designer Rosella Gonzalez, a successful design should encapsulate a harmonious, three-dimensional blend of not only the clients’ needs and lifestyle, but also their culture and personality. Drawing on her background in architecture, Gonzalez works to cultivate what she refers to as “creative partnerships” with her clients, accompanying them on a design journey that culminates in a sculptural, deeply personal product. For Gonzalez, this approach begins first and foremost with clear communication, close observation and an exploratory spirit. She considers herself a ‘medium’ for her clients, translating their expressed wants into beautiful, functional designs.
This approach has drawn plenty of attention, both regionally and nationally, as Gonzalez has, over the course of her 15 years of design experience, racked up an impressive 17 awards, and her work has been honored by NARI, the CotY Awards, the NKBA, ASID and the Chrysalis Awards, among others.
Gonzalez’s pursuit of creative partnerships extends well beyond her work with clients: she also places a great deal of value on creative relationships within her community. Gonzalez frequently makes the trip to an orphanage in Tijuana in order to participate in a project called “El Arte alimenta – art nourishes,” an art education program that endeavors to nurture artistic and creative development in underserved children and teenagers.
Home improvement expert shares knowledge over the airwaves
Spreading awareness about design and remodeling can be done in a variety of ways, and Eric Goranson, CKD, is tackling as many as he can. A fixture in the Pacific Northwest design community, Goranson’s voice is well known to people in his area.
During his 25-year career as a kitchen and bath design/sales professional, Goranson has completed over 1,000 kitchens. Several years ago, he decided to take to the airwaves to assist others with tackling their renovation goals.
As the region’s home improvement expert, Goranson shares his insights on radio and television programs. He is segment contributor for “MORE DIY,” which is featured each week on the “MORE Good Day Oregon” morning show on Fox 12 in Portland, OR and Meredith television stations nationwide. He is also the host of “Around the House with Eric G,” which is broadcast nationally on the Envision Radio Network and is available as a podcast.
Goranson is also educating other professionals with seminars on evolving technology in kitchen and bath design and construction, with subjects including emerging technology with Virtual Reality Design and smart-home integration. He is doing this through the National Kitchen & Bath Association and the National Association of Home Builders.
In 2017, the designer was inducted into the Baldwin Design Council for a two-year term, collaborating with architects and designers on design trends for Baldwin Hardware.
The combination of art and design delivers inspired style
Artful Kitchens, West Palm Beach, FL native Gloria Graham Sollecito’s business, allows her to draw on the surroundings of the beautiful beaches and ocean landscape, yet explore the opulent and more exotic elements of style. The kitchen and bath designer believes that function is the foundation of design, beauty comes next, and the art is getting the combination right. Her work combines her love of art and her love of design.
Graham Sollecito studied interior design and became a full-time design assistant, progressing to the kitchen and bath design segment with a concentration in cabinetry. During that period, the AKBD-accredited designer learned the intricacies of cabinet construction as well as how to design using imported traditional cabinetry and European cabinetry. She was design assistant to the late Malcolm Thomas, becoming known to his clients and moving into his position upon his relocation to Arizona.
The co-author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Remodeling Your Kitchen, Illustrated as well as a freelance writer contributing to the Sun Sentinel about kitchen design, Graham Sollecito has had work showcased on “This Old House” as well as in Florida Design Magazine and the Palm Beach Post, and recognized in 2017 and 2018 Best of Houzz. She was named one of the top 50 design influencers for 2018 by Modenus, and is a member of the Blanco Design Council. She has also served on the South Florida NKBA Chapter’s Board of Directors as v.p. of communications.
Designer fosters customer-centric culture
Many design firms profess to put the client first, but Amy Hart, owner of Charlottesville, VA firm Dovetail Design & Cabinetry, stands a head above the rest. Hart, who began her career in 1991 as a Facilities Design Intern with Eastern Michigan University’s Interior Design program, has constructed her business model around the idea of saying ‘yes’ to her clients where other firms might say ‘no.’
Hart is always willing to take a good hard look at design ‘guidelines’ – in terms of space planning, textures, technology and color palettes – that might be overdone or outdated, which allows her to start every design with fresh eyes and foster a true creative partnership with her clients. She is also dedicated to investing in software to make her team as efficient as possible and stay up to date on client touchpoints. Her background in interior design, along with a collaborative team of professionals, enables her to offer full-service design packages, including cabinetry, interior architecture, décor, furnishings and electrical plans. With two showrooms in Charlottesville and Staunton, VA, Dovetail Design & Cabinetry is a ‘one-stop shop’ for clients.
Hart is also an active voice within the design community locally and nationally, with memberships in the American Society of Interior Designers, the Blue Ridge Home Builders Association and the Blue Ridge Women’s Council of Realtors. She also holds a position on the Wellborn Cabinet Design Council.
Smart-home expert provides insights for today’s designs
The smart-home revolution is changing the landscape of kitchen and bath and overall home design, and Ryan Herd is right in the middle of the storm. Through his businesses and life experiences, Herd has positioned himself as an expert and leader in an often confusing high-tech world.
A lifelong entrepreneur, Herd has been in the audio-video industry for over 29 years, starting his first business at the age of 19. Today he is owner of 1 Sound Choice, which focuses on Smart Home Automation, audio-video and home theaters.
He has spent several years investigating how modern technology impacts everyday life, and his personal experience of caring for his aging parents and grandmother helped him to recognize how aging-in-place can be significantly enhanced through the use of “smart” technology.
This led to the founding of his new company, Caregiver Smart Solutions, with a goal of providing caregivers comfort in knowing all is okay with their loved ones. Sensors provide the caregiver with constant, non-intrusive looks into the loved one’s activities, such as eating, movement and medicine consumption. Sensors also provide reliable fall detection, which may reduce the time it takes to know about and react to a catastrophic fall – even if a loved one is incapable of calling for help.
Herd, known as the “Smart” guy and NKBA Technology Insider, travels the nation speaking and working with major companies regarding smart technology. His passion for the subject is also reflected in his book Join the Smart Home Revolution.
Designer promotes collaborative efforts within the industry
With a broad-based background that includes interior design, hospitality and restaurant work, it’s no surprise that Erin Hurst sees the benefits of industry-wide collaboration. The French’s Cabinet Gallery award-winning designer utilizes her extensive experience to create industry synergies throughout the Tennessee design community.
A double major in Interior Design and Hospitality, Tourism Management, Hurst graduated from Purdue University looking to pursue a career in design with a culinary emphasis. Beginning in restaurants, she worked her way up to management, though it was an internship at an architecture firm specializing in hospitality that launched her professional career. She worked as Project Manager for a food service consulting firm, Retail Manager for Viking Culinary Arts Center and Housewares Buyer for Whole Foods, before moving into kitchen and bath design, where she’s spent the last 13 years designing award-winning residential kitchens. Her work was also highlighted on three “Property Brothers” episodes in 2018.
Hurst earned her AKBD in 2008 and her CKD in 2011, and has served as Secretary and v.p. of Programs for the NKBA Tennessee Chapter in 2014-2017, before becoming president. Her leadership skills have been integral to establishing relationships with various industry associations, creating a new culture of collaboration in Tennessee. By creating cross-over events, she has united ASID, IDS, IIDA, CEDIA and HBA, benefiting members, association leaders and manufacturers’ reps by pooling time, resources and creativity, and creating new learning and networking opportunities.
Designers team up to build community through podcast
At times, it can be difficult to get a feel for the people behind the glossy kitchens and baths one sees on magazine pages or in Instagram feeds, which might lead to a sense of isolation or disconnect within the industry. For Amy Kearns, of Amy Lynn Interiors, and Melissa Hryszko, of Veranda Estate Homes, connecting industry pros on a more personal level is a matter of sitting down and having a conversation. In January 2019, Kearns and Hryszko co-founded the podcast “Modern Design Minds,” in which they host different design professionals for candid, casual chats in an effort to dispel the mystique of social media and magazine glamour and provide a unique point of view on the industry.
The podcast began when the creator of “The Modern Craftsman Podcast,” a podcast geared toward general contractors and the trades, approached Kearns and Hryszko in hopes that they might be able to shed some light on the design perspective of the remodeling process for the trades and fellow designers. Kearns and Hryszko realized that there existed a need for more design podcasts catering to those in the industry, so they set out to fill that niche.
Each episode of the “Modern Design Minds” podcast is comprised of a casual but highly frank and informative conversation with a single guest. Previous guests on the podcast have included Johnny Hourihan of “The Modern Craftsman Podcast,” Dina Holland of Dina Holland Interiors, Amanda Giuliano of Giuliano Designs and Meredith Heron of Meredith Heron Design, among many others. Topics of conversation thus far have run the gamut from hiring effective employees, to region-specific business practices, to social media tips and tricks
Individually, the women behind “Modern Design Minds” are strong, successful designers in their own right. Hryszko is actually part of another dynamic duo, working for the past 18 years in tandem with her builder husband at the Calgary, Alberta-based full-service design-build company Veranda Estate Homes. Hryszko is also an avid social media maven and influencer, with over 83,300 Instagram followers. Veranda Estate Homes is unique in that the firm is a true one-stop shop, assisting homeowners with everything from land acquisition to new-home construction to finish selections. Due to the company’s detail-oriented approach to every project, Veranda only takes on eight to 10 clients per year.
Kearns, meanwhile, is the titular owner and lead designer at Amy Lynn Interiors, a Westborough, MA-based design firm. Kearns, who grew up in a highly creative and driven family, wanted to be a designer since she was very young. She worked in a variety of roles in the industry until she decided it was time to open her own kitchen and bath design firm seven years ago, specializing in highly functional residential design.
Between the two of them, Hryszko and Kearns bring almost three decades of design industry experience to their podcast.
Designer pays it forward with charitable endeavors
Although Erica Islas’s career as a professional designer began in 1994 with her first position at an interior design firm, her love for design and remodeling began far earlier. From playing with a Crayola interior design drafting kit at age 10 to spending time on jobsites with her family’s general contracting business, Islas absorbed design and construction almost via osmosis. Fast forward to 2000, when Islas finally opened her own design firm, Los Angeles-based EMI Interior Design – where she pursues both her passion for design and her desire to pay it forward.
Islas favors a modernist design flavor, with a function-first approach. She is always eager to tackle a challenge, from overhauling small, previously unusable spaces to full-home renovations. Her design efforts are not limited to her paying clients, however – Islas has also participated in pro bono work for those in need, most notably participating in a 2010 project to remodel the new Upward Bound House Family Shelter, a former budget motel. The effort, which enlisted the services of 16 designers, took place over the course of two weeks, and, when complete, could house four families at a time for three-month periods.
Over the years, Islas’ work has garnered plenty of attention from publications and brands alike, with a shelf of awards including Viking’s Kitchen Design of the Year and coverage in Architectural Digest. Her work has also appeared on HGTV, and her charitable work has been featured in The Los Angeles Times.
Dual marketing strategy creates kitchen and bath powerhouse
Todd Jackson has been intensely focused on building a successful design and remodeling business from the very beginning of his career. He entered the remodeling field at the age of 20 and became a licensed general contractor at age 23. In 1989, he founded Jackson Design and Remodeling, which today numbers 62 employees who last year completed 78 projects on $21.3 million in revenue.
The firm specializes in kitchens and baths, but also completes room additions and whole-house remodeling projects around the San Diego area. His design team, led by previous KBDN Innovator Tatiana Machado-Rosas, has won a number design excellence awards from KBDN and other organizations.
As Jackson Design and Remodeling has grown, the firm opened an impressive design showroom that was backed by a marketing campaign positioning the firm at the very upper end of the market. Realizing that some potential clients did not approach his company for work because of the high-end, high-price perception, Jackson opened a second showroom and company next door, Home Expressions by JDR. This company showroom and division was positioned as more approachable and value-driven. The reality is that both company showrooms offer design solutions while attracting a wider base of potential customers. As a result of his bold marketing and business decision making, Jackson’s company is growing dynamically with more growth expected to come in the future.