Advice, Inspiration, and More: Thoughts from Industry Leaders at KBIS

We met with several design industry leaders at the 2018 KBIS. Here’s what they had to say about the latest trends.

By Janice Harris


It’s not every day you have the opportunity to meet with some of the movers and shakers in the design industry, let alone an entire group of them. But here at the 2018 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Orlando, Florida, we had the unique opportunity to talk at length with some of the nation’s most renowned, well-revered, and knowledgeable designers.


Spanning the nation from Massachusetts to California, these designers are helping to move the industry forward with their years of experience and unique perspectives. They’re incorporating smart design features, introducing new trends, and providing their clients with user-friendly and personalized design schemes.


Here’s what we learned after chatting with designers Christopher Grubb, Amy Ahern, Julie Schuster, Nar Bustamante, and Brandy Souza at KBIS.


Christopher Grubb: Arch-Interiors Design Group

We started the conversation with our good friend, interior designer Christopher Grubb. Christopher is the president of his company, Arch-Interiors Design Group, a full-service commercial and residential firm based in Los Angeles.




Christopher is quite familiar with the trade show docket and enjoys attending KBIS annually. This year, he’s noticed several trends, including a movement away from grays to wood/warm tones, some major attention to storage, and the transition to solid surface countertops.


The storage options Christopher has noticed around KBIS are knocking his socks off. “Storage is a big deal here at KBIS this year,” he explained. “There’s a lot of attention to detail that we haven’t seen before,” including cabinet slide-out features and even drawers within drawers!


In Christopher’s own designs, he focuses on blending function and aesthetics. For example, “I make the island in the kitchen the home office by adding HDMI strips and special drawers.” He also works wonders in the bathroom by adding a LED strip light that doubles as a night light and incorporating electrical outlets directly in the vanity. “I’m always adding outlets for blow dryers and toothbrushes to help decrease countertop clutter,” he explained.




As a designer, what sets Christopher and his team at Arch-Interiors apart from others is his focus on customer service. “My client is everything,” he told us. He also makes sure to empathize with his clients throughout the process. “When we do a project, we’re disrupting your life,” he said, further adding, “so showing the customer you recognize this is important.”


You’ll hear a lot more from Christopher Grubb in our upcoming videos and media promotions, so stay tuned!


Learn more about Arch-Interiors Design Group and Christopher Grubb.


Amy Ahearn: Decorating Den Interiors

Amy Ahearn is a residential interior designer at her Williamsburg, Virginia-based firm, Decorating Den Interiors. With over 14 years of experience, Amy brings significant expertise in residential design, especially in the kitchen and bath.




What sets Amy apart from other designers is her attention to detail. She explained, “I totally sweat the details. I wake up in the middle of the night wondering if everything is accounted for.” She believes (and we absolutely agree) that this is what separates good design from great design: the details. It’s these details: the specialized storage, for example, that makes Amy’s work truly shine.


Amy also noticed several trendy details here at KBIS, including different types of surface materials. “WilsonArt and Formica are coming out with surfaces that mimic natural stone, but it’s less expensive,” she added.




Just like Christopher Grubb, Amy sees white and gray going by the wayside in exchange for more color, especially in the kitchen. “People are embracing color,” she explained.


We can’t wait to hear back from Amy at the 2019 KBIS!


Follow this link to Amy Ahearn’s Decorating Den Interiors website.


Julie Schuster: Julie Schuster Design Studio

Julie Schuster, the owner of Julie Schuster Design Studio, creates personalized interior designs, feng shui-inspired layouts, and home staging services for all sorts of spaces in and around NYC. In her own words, she provides residential design services and universal design offerings for office spaces.




As an active member of the Kitchen and Bath Business Advisory Board, Julie has a passion for the industry. Therefore, it’s no surprise that a few booths here at 2018 KBIS stuck out to her. One product that really got her attention was a special tub from the company Toto. “It works for all body types, from small to large. It’s an amazing accomplishment,” she exclaimed.


Just like the other designers on the panel, Julie has noticed the trend shifting to more colorful, modern kitchens. She sees all this color as a way to mix traditional elements with a contemporary feel. For starters, many of the featured kitchens at the show showcased black, suede-like cabinetry with white accents. “We’re seeing a trend toward a classic thought process, but with a twist. It’s a classic black and white kitchen, but with a modern take,” was how she described it.


With all this talk of trends here at KBIS, Julie was quick to point out that, to her, the focus is never on what’s trending. “It’s about what’s working,” she explained. She uses that perspective in all of her work. “I focus on creating spaces that nurture and support them. It’s not being cool or trendy, but doing what works for you.”




Julie also tackles her design project with the same gumption. “A decorating project is like a military campaign. You can go straight into battle and fight your way through it, or you can plan it properly and do a lot of hard work in the beginning.” It’s this drive that propels Julie forward.


Above all, Julie is all about creating spaces for her clients that give them the feeling of being in a hotel suite. Sounds perfect to us!


Learn more about the Julie Schuster Design Studio here.


Nar Bustamante: NAR Design Group

Nar Bustamante feels lucky to be part of such a great line of work. As a luxury kitchen designer and business owner of NAR Design Group, coupled with over 30 years of experience, Nar loves what he does. He told us at the 2018 KBIS show, “It’s a great time to be part of the kitchen and bath industry.”




Out of everything he saw here at KBIS, there are a few trends that stood out to him, in particular. “Some of the most amazing items I’ve seen include large-format sinks. I’m also noticing that materials and surfaces are more organic and earthy, such as with linen finishes.” Nar believes these organic materials are destined to stand the test of time because they’re organic and earthy.


Because of his vast experience, we wanted to learn a bit more about what makes Nar tick, and it all boils down to building on his own experience. Although his favorite room to design is the kitchen (he calls it the “grand and central space of the home”), he loves every project he works on. “In the last 30 years, every project I’ve done is my favorite project. Each one builds on the last one.”




Are you a homeowner interesting in revamping your space? If so, Nar has some advice to you. “Be who you’re. Bring in the art you like and the items that inspire you. If you just randomly shop, you’re not going to find the items you relate to. Bring in the things that attract you.”


We couldn’t say it better ourselves.


The NAR Design Group is full of great information. Check it out!


Brandy Souza: Kitchen Views

Kitchen Views, owned by National Lumber (and 84-year-old company!) operates showrooms throughout New England as well. Leading the charge is Brandy Souza, designer and vice president. She oversees 13 locations of Kitchen View showrooms, including the decorating, painting, kitchen and bath design services they provide.




“We install cabinets and countertops, but our biggest product is design,” Brandy explained to the House Tipster media team.


Although she performs a managerial role, Brandy is dedicated to designing. “I find inspiration from my clients,” she told us. “They’re bringing in pictures from online sources, and we’re going into their homes and seeing more of what inspires them.” Understanding what her clients are passionate about motivates Brandy to create designs specific to their desires. But Brandy takes it all one step further. She doesn’t just work to mimic the pictures that inspire her clients; she figures out WHAT in that picture is inspiring and she creates a version personalized to her clients.




One thing Brandy is happy about is a shift away from the grays and whites that have saturated the kitchen and bath market in years past. “I’m seeing more natural woods. We made it cold with the whites and grays, but now we’re warming it up.”


If you live in New England and are interesting in bringing some warmth into your own house, start here at the Kitchen Views at National Lumber site.


As you can imagine, we were both informed and inspired by this conversation. To continue learning about what’s “in” in the kitchen and bath world, follow the House Tipster Facebook and Instagram feeds.

Next: Beautiful Custom Range Hoods from RangeCraft at KBIS