Kristin Okeley is an accomplished kitchen designer who works with McKenzie Collection while running her own business, Kitchens by Design. We sat down with Kristin to get her take on current trends, personal preferences, and what it’s like to work with custom homebuilders.
How did you first decide you wanted to become a designer?
Oh that’s easy. My dad was an industrial arts teacher, and he made me a dollhouse for Christmas when I was in the third grade. I was in love with it. I would renovate it all the time from saving up my allowance money and scraps of wallpaper. It all kind of just grew from there. From that point forward I didn’t want to do anything else.
Who is your ideal client?
There are two types of clients who are ideal to me, and we get our fair share of both. First, I like people who are super detailed oriented. They know what they want and are willing to give and take on their budget to get what is important to them. Those projects really reflect who they are, and you can see it in the end result.
On the flip side, I also love clients who give me the basics and walk away. They have a “call me when it’s done” mentality. Those clients give me more space to be creative and inventive.
What is your favorite style of kitchen to design?
I don’t really have a favorite style but what I love is that people now are more into the interworking of the kitchen. They don’t just put things in their kitchens that look good; they want to make sure they can use it and it’s efficient. I’m an avid cook, so it’s exciting to me to see how people are cooking more and immersing themselves in that lifestyle. People are becoming more accustomed to entertaining and are nesting a little more, and that idea has really changed our work.
What styles are really popular right now for kitchen design?
We’re seeing a soft pallet of grays, creams, beiges, golds, and silvers. We’re also seeing painted finishes instead of stained. If there are stained finishes, they are of less color than in the previous years. They are in gray tones or a true brown like a walnut. Overall the pallet is pretty muted. There are cleaner lines and more simplicity. People are really reaching outside the box with accessories. They love having a neutral backdrop and changing the accessories to fit their mood or season.
If someone doesn’t have the budget right now to renovate their entire kitchen, what are some little things they can do to give it a more updated look?
They can definitely change the countertop, or the backsplash tile to something a little more modern. They can also do hardware updates or lighting upgrades. They don’t have to necessarily take out the cabinets and everything in the kitchen in order to give it a facelift.
What room of the house is your favorite room to be in?
That would definitely the kitchen. It’s the heart of the home. Whatever space people are in throughout the day, they always go back to the kitchen. You can have the most amazing dinning room in the world and people will still go to the island in the kitchen and not move. The kitchen is really the center of the wheel, and it’s where you can find the most love and warmth of a home.
What is your ideal builder-designer relationship?
I really like the way McKenzie runs his business; it’s a little different than other builders and it makes for a better experience for the designers as well as the clients. His roots are in production building, so he takes that process that’s simple and streamline and applies it to custom work. That allows all of the details of a custom home to be met on a fast time frame. The homeowner loves it because they get what they want in time and on budget, and it makes all of our lives easier. I also love that he really gives us the leeway to do a lot of things by trusting us to do the work we do, and not all builders do that.