“Insights Into Design” is a Riggs series on local designers highlighting the process, style, and inspiration that drives impactful design. Each post will feature a local designer and their designs to gain an inside perspective into the work and imagination of their kitchen projects. This edition features the designer Debra Winston, of Harrell Remodeling.
Tell us a little about your background. What factors contributed to you becoming a designer? How did you decide to become a designer?
I have always been a visual person; before I can remember, I was always drawing, and I started sewing clothes for my stuffed animals by hand at age 5. Taking as many art and sewing classes as I could throughout my childhood led to a BFA from Washington University in St. Louis in painting. After graduation, I moved to New York where I enrolled in the Parsons School of Design and studied Fashion. Working my way up from an internship in the art department to director of Scarf Design during my 13 year long career at Ralph Lauren, I married the painting skills of college with the sewing and textile skills from Parsons.
After moving to the SF Bay area with my husband, I began quilting while raising my two young daughters. This evolved into some large scale works of quilted art hung in public spaces. As my daughters grew more independent, I returned to school at Canada College, earning my certificate in Kitchen and Bath Design.
What is your process like when you approach new projects? What would you like new clients to know about your design process?
I ask a lot of questions! Many times, people come to me with a long list of things they want, and, of course the budget doesn’t always match the dream. I seek to understand what they are looking for in the big picture and help them prioritize what is the most important thing they are looking for once the project has been completed. My fun analogy is the distinction between the cupcake and the frosting: If we can get the space planning worked out well, with function and ease of use crucial, then the finishes are the frosting!
How does living in the West Coast affect your design practice and your design thinking?
We are living in this paradise of mild weather and sunshine, but housing prices and space are at a premium. I get a lot of people who have lived in their homes for many years and need more space but are unable to afford the cost of moving to a new house. I love solving the puzzle of making a space more usable, more accessible, with plenty of storage. Often it is a matter of moving a door or a window to create better traffic flow and functionality. The ultimate compliment for me is when the client moves back into the new remodeled space and now has more storage than they can fill! I love to take advantage of the high tech friendly vibe around here. Aesthetically, I prefer clean lines that are classic and won’t be a passing trend.
Tell us about your 2015-16 Sub-Zero and Wolf KDC entry. How did the addition of Sub-Zero and Wolf enhance the design?
This couple wanted a space that was clean, light, and open. The Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances give the highest quality performance and are all engineered to allow for cabinet panels to be integrated into the installation. We were able to achieve a seamless look throughout the kitchen. The induction cooktop was installed flush to the island counter. The steam oven and convection oven look very sleek with the stainless steel and black glass, and the warming drawer, under counter beverage refrigerator and refrigerator all disappeared behind matching cabinet panels. The coffee system and cup warming drawer are the focal point of the kitchen: at the beverage center, they start their mornings with cappuccino (for him), tea (for her) and on to wine or cocktails in the evenings!
If you were to give your younger self advice in regards to a career in design, what would it be?
As a shy child, I would never have guessed that I would be working in a field where I meet new people all the time. It turns out that working with clients on such a personal level is one of my favorite parts of the job! I would also have told myself to have more confidence in my instinct, talent, and abilities.
Tell us something fun about yourself: Any hobbies about which you are passionate? Most recent book that you finished reading? Up next on the Netflix queue?
I just moved into a 1918 Craftsman house, so I will be working on updating its electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems. I look forward to tackling the flow of the kitchen (the cupcake) to allow for two cooks, while keeping its overall character in the fixtures and finishes (the frosting)!