The Innovators: Mc-Sh
Young designer finds niche with pre-purchase clients
These days, the kitchen and bath design industry is brimming with young, talented designers who
regularly push the envelope with new ideas. Brandie McCoy should know, as she is one of them.
After earning a degree in Interior Design at the Art Institute of Chicago, she chose to work at a small family owned kitchen and bath design firm rather than pursue another opportunity in commercial interiors. She spent six years there, was promoted to lead designer and earned a CKD designation in the process.
Three years ago she hung out her own shingle, Ember & Brune, and has developed a niche that has helped her young business thrive. McCoy specializes in helping clients who are looking for a home to remodel.
It began with a couple who wanted to visualize what a particular older home in a nice neighborhood would look like with a new kitchen and master bath. It worked.
Today, most of her clients are looking for homes to buy. She will
walk the homes with them and ultimately help them see the possibilities. It is a role she’s comfortable with because she’s careful to get paid for the work, regardless of the outcome. Clients like it, too. It’s a practice that is popular with young clients making a move from the city to the suburbs. And Ember & Brune is riding the wave with a slew of word-of-mouth referrals.
Award-winning designer is passionate about giving back
Giving back to the industry and the community at large has always been important to Dan McFadden. As the president of NKBA’s Chicago Midwest Chapter, he actively seeks opportunities to attract the next generation of kitchen and bath industry professionals, and his firm’s 2018 Fox Valley Kitchen Walk event raised over $13,000 to benefit Fox Valley Food for Health, an organization that instructs teens how to prepare healthy, predominately organic and nutrient-filled meals for seriously ill or cancer patients.
A design competition judge and recipient of numerous design awards – including a design that simultaneously won two awards in the NKBA Design Competition (Best in Category and Best in Show) – McFadden has seen his work published in dozens of trade and consumer magazines, with his showroom featured on HGTV and the Food Network.
He has found success working with local artisans from outside the kitchen industry – wood and metal craftspeople who bring a unique perspective to the project – and his knack for forging creative partnerships adds an innovative touch to all that he does.
As president of Geneva, IL-based PB Kitchen Design, he prides himself on meeting his clients’ design and budget expectations, while designing them the kitchen of their dreams.
Designer’s trademarked deadline process appeals to luxury clients
Denise McGaha has made a career of servicing clients who hate to wait. Indeed, her 90-day “Designing with a Deadline” process is so unique, it’s actually trademarked, providing turnkey, concierge-level service to discriminating clientele who want prompt completion of their luxury projects.
McGaha honed her skills working in the upscale market with a decade in the corporate world at retailer Neiman Marcus before launching her own firm, Denise McGaha Interiors in Dallas, TX. Her designs, which have been described as fashionable, diverse and adventurous, quickly made her an inspiration and influencer in the design world. She has been featured in national advertising campaigns for such luxury manufacturers as Miele and Silestone by Cosentino, where she was part of the design team that helped to develop innovative countertop designs for Silestone.
McGaha’s projects have been featured in top shelter publications, including House Beautiful, Luxe Magazine, Modern Luxury Interiors and Traditional Home, as well as numerous books.
A frequent speaker on the business of design, she’s been chosen to design several showhouse rooms, including the Hamptons Designer Showhouse in Sag Harbor, NY, The Modernism Showhouse at the Christopher Kennedy Compound in Palm Springs, CA, The Southern Style Now Showhouse in New Orleans and Savannah, GA and Dallas Decorators Showhouse in Dallas, TX.
Designer crafts colorful, runway-inspired interiors
Lisa Mende graduated with a degree in apparel design and spent several years working in the fashion industry before returning to school to pursue a degree in Interior Design. After design school, she began working for a local kitchen and bath firm in Charlotte, NC, and in 1998 opened a residential interior design firm of her own. Given her fashion background, it seems only natural that Charlotte, NC-based Lisa Mende of Lisa Mende Design should gravitate toward unique hues, textures and patterns in her kitchen and bath designs. Her passion for runway fashion has led her to cultivate a style of her own that blends ultra-modern elements with vintage and antique pieces to create fresh, exciting, Instagram-friendly spaces. She sources unique goods both domestically and internationally and has written about international artisans she has encountered on her travels.
In addition to being a sought-after luxury designer, Mende is also a tastemaker and blogger, and is on the #Authlux Design Guild Member panel for ROHL 2018. She has also served as a Style Spotter for the High Point International Market, an Honorary Member of the Thermador Design Council, a 2015 Member of DXV Luxury’s Design Council and an Ambassador for Legends of La Cienega. She has covered major trade shows on her blog, including Ambiente in Frankfurt, Decorex and London Design Junction in London and KBIS in Orlando and Las Vegas. Mende’s distinctive bold, southern flair can be seen in a number of shelter and style magazines, such as Southern Cottages, Decor Magazine, Magnolia Journal and Traditional Home as well as The Wall Street Journal.
Industry veteran forges new path for sharing information, inspiration
Veronika Miller is a multitalented design, marketing and social media pro who has literally changed how designers communicate. As founder of Modenus Media and the creative mind behind BlogTour, Designhounds and Designtrail, she brings together designers and manufacturers in partnerships that allow for the dissemination of design information and inspiration from North America, Europe and beyond.
With a mission of connecting industry influencers, specifiers and brands in the interiors and kitchen and bath industries, this social and digital marketing visionary is always exploring collaborative opportunities – whether heading up Designhounds trips to major design shows, hosting talks on design and business or consulting directly with brands on influencer campaigns.
She started her career in marketing before returning to school to study interior design and kitchen/bath design, later opening a successful kitchen/bath and interior design studio in Winter Park, FL.
After struggling with the lack of modern Eurostyle cabinetry, she developed a marketing collaboration with two German cabinet manufacturers and garnered the exclusive distribution rights for the U.S. for both in 2006.
The recession caused her to rethink her career, and realizing how the rapidly advancing digital age would impact design marketing, she conceived the Modenus.com platform, which would ultimately evolve into Modenus Media.
Award-winning designer shares his expertise
From the time he and Sandy Monson founded the Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN-based Monson Interior Design in 1980, Lynn Monson has made innovation an essential part of his business. Whether pushing the envelope with creative designs, gaining certifications in areas ranging from Universal Design to Lead-Safe Design from the EPA, being active with various professional associations, creating a training program for his staff so they could reach their greatest potential or speaking to university students, his passion for the kitchen and bath industry continues to shine through.
Monson, who added DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen to his business in 1997 to acquire a production staff and a showroom for a complete design/build experience, has won 87 local and national awards and been featured in 108 local, national and international publications. One of his most notable projects, a small condo kitchen that was opened up into the living/dining area to maximize the beautiful city views, had such broad-based appeal it won first place in four different competitions (NKBA, ASID, NARI and NAHB-RCTC).
A leader in Universal Design long before it was in vogue, he designed his first accessible bathroom in 1994, and has studied and implemented the concepts of UD ever since, earning his CAPS certification and continuing to move the field forward.
Award-winning designer strives to go beyond expectations
Since founding her Chatham, NJ business in 2004, Heidi Piron has created a name for herself as an adaptable, thoughtful designer with a knack for crafting spaces specifically tailored to her clients’ needs and wants. Her work has received plenty of attention from top brands and industry publications over the years – she is a two-time regional winner of the Sub-Zero and Wolf Kitchen Design Contest, and has also received nods from the BlueStar Kitchen Design Competition and KBDN’s Kitchen and Bath Design Awards. Additionally, her work has been featured in House Beautiful, Luxe, Veranda and more.
Perhaps even more than her impressive history of accolades, what makes Piron an innovator in the industry is her careful consideration of state-of-the-art appliances and indefatigable experimentation with new materials, techniques and innovations. She exclusively works with Premier Custom Built, chosen, she says, for its precision engineering and cutting-edge craftsmanship, and this collaboration is one built on mutual passion for customization. Piron is passionate about discovering new cabinetry and countertop materials, as well as developing custom finishes to utilize in her designs. “It is exciting and deeply rewarding to be in an industry that is constantly evolving,” says Piron. “A favorite saying of mine is, ‘Move forward against all odds, because if you are standing still, you are going backwards.’”
New York designer takes on leadership roles
To say Toni Sabatino paid her dues before striking out on her own is an understatement. Working with a kitchen cabinet manufacturer and then a distributor in house, the designer amassed a portfolio of over 1,000 kitchens before starting her own Long Island, NY-based firm Toni Sabatino Style.
An award-winning kitchen designer, Sabatino has designed residential and commercial projects on Long Island as well as in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and beyond New York’s borders to resort destinations including Vermont, Palm Beach and Las Vegas. Her style is a mix of high and low design elements, with a focus on distinctive details, large-scale, rich colors and sophisticated patterns.
Sabatino’s expertise goes beyond standard kitchen design, with her interest piqued by the idea of creating safe, accessible spaces for everyone, regardless of physical, cognitive, developmental or mobile levels of functioning. She has earned a CLIPP certification as a Certified Living in Place Professional.
A recipient of several Best of Houzz Awards and an Interior Design Society Designer of the Year Award for Kitchens, Sabatino has extended her reach as a designer, collaborating with Baden Haus Spa to create The Retro Collection, a line of Italian-crafted bath furniture.
As president of the Manhattan Chapter of NKBA for 2018-2019, the designer is displaying her skills as an industry leader. Sabatino is also an active member of the Interior Design Society and the Sustainable Furnishings Council. She travels as a blogger and DesignHound with Modenus, and continues to be a featured speaker at industry events.
Tech-savvy designer is always ahead of the curve
Designer Susan Serra, CKD, has made a career of being innovative. From her early days of creating the first online forum for designers to share their ideas, challenges, questions and best practices to her widely read kitchen design blog, her own Google+ group and her work as kitchen/bath moderator for the IDC-Interior Designer Community’s Google+ and Facebook groups, and as an accurate forecaster of trends for the industry as noted in her reports for Design Milk, Serra is always ahead of the curve.
An award-winning designer whose work has been published extensively – including two of her personal kitchens, which were featured in a Better Homes & Garden publication and Dwell – Serra is a go-to source for kitchen design information for national media ranging from HGTV, Better Homes & Gardens and Oprah.com to This Old House, Martha Stewart radio, the Financial Times, The New York Times and numerous other online and print publications since the 1990s.
Serra was one of only 17 design professionals worldwide chosen to participate in Cosentino’s report, The Home Kitchen in the Globalization Era, and shared her insight on a panel with other participants of the study at a conference in New York City. Serra was invited as part of the inaugural group of designers to design a kitchen for DXV by American Standard as part of its national launch. Always at the forefront of new technology, Serra is a sought-after speaker, has served on numerous design panels and judged design competitions.
Designer draws inspiration from blogging
When Courtney Shearer took her first kitchen and bath class while studying Furnishings and Interiors at the University of Georgia, she didn’t warm to it immediately, finding it somewhat technical for her tastes. However, a fortuitous meeting with her future employer at KBIS led her to a career in kitchen and bath design, which soon became her design passion. She dove into the industry head-first after graduation – in 2011, she won the Calla Award for Kitchen of the Year, and she was selected for the NKBA’s 2013 ‘Thirty Under 30’ group. She also served as the Kitchens Expert for About.com from 2015 to 2016. Currently, she is the director of design for Atlanta, GA-based Bell Cabinetry & Design.
Early in her career, Shearer began documenting her design work and life in her blog, The Cow Spot, which has since become both a creative outlet and a source of inspiration for her. According to Shearer, she has always found inspiration in reading about others’ visions in their own words, and adding her voice to the conversation has given her the drive to stay on top of trends and continually pushes her to think critically about design decisions for both clients and her own home.