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BuildChat: Residential designer and blogger Kelly Morisseau on the key to an effective designer-contractor relationship


For our latest BuildChat, we caught up with residential designer Kelly Morisseau, CMKBD, CID, who resides in Northern California and maintains an excellent home remodeling blog, Kelly’s Kitchen Sync. We discussed trends in the kitchen and bathroom. We also found out the key to an effective designer-contractor relationship.

Which kitchen design trend are you most excited about right now?
That kitchens have truly become part of our living spaces and are integrated into our lifestyles. I remember hearing the term “living kitchens” back in the ’90s but it took this long to become reality. Of course, today’s engineering has a lot to do with it. Ventilation wasn’t a big option in the early days. We kept the kitchen doors closed because of the smoke and steam (and mess). As a second trend, the interior fittings and pullouts are incredible today. Stellar engineering on glides.

And what about bathroom trends? Any new design trends in bathrooms that you’ve taken a liking to?
I’d say the sleeker, spa-like trends with linear tile detailing is really fun right now. I’m really enjoying the “waterfall” effects of counters extending down to the floor and great mood lighting. Tiles have become so beautiful that they are completely taking the lead for the design in a bathroom. And there are also some amazing plumbing fixtures that are true works of art.

Spring makes us think of natural light in the home. What’s the best way to add natural light to the kitchen?
It would behoove me to say windows and doors, wouldn’t it? But it’s true. We’re careful in sunny climes, of course, against the sun fading, but that’s why we have laminated glass. I do like skylights but study the sun’s location before deciding where to place them.

As homeowners stay put longer, are they designing based on their personal taste or the resale market?
We’ve lost the resale thrust in favor of long-term and personal taste in a home, which suits me just fine. A home should be a lifestyle investment. It’s original purpose was never to be a bank machine. And clearly, I’m prejudiced, but we feel better in beautiful places that suit our lives.

Speaking of lifestyle choices – has the soaking tub replaced the whirlpool?
Personally, I haven’t designed a whirlpool in years. The soaker tub is definitely on people’s lists and in many ways is becoming more like Japanese soaker tubs — deeper. The swimming pool tub has given way to “reading-in-my-tub-go-away.”

What are the key features in a more energy efficient bathroom?
My favorite topic! Better waterproofing and ventilation, which are the key components to any bathroom. Humidistat fan systems — those which turn on when the moisture is too high — are also key. I wish more designers learned more about insulation values and the effects of moisture in a bathroom. In California, we need to include vacancy-sensors as part of our lighting plans which help for energy efficiency.

What’s the key to harmonious designer/contractor collaborations?
Easy. Respect, honesty and open communication. Be a pro, help each other out. And if you make a mistake, own up to it. If the other person makes a mistake, solve it together. And finally, educate. I wouldn’t be here today without fantastic (and patient) contractor mentors.

Note: We conducted this interview via Twitter, using the tag #buildchat to label and track the discussion. Follow @integritywindow on Twitter for information about upcoming #buildchat interviews.