Our newest team member Cynthia Sullivan joins us with a world-wide perspective on architecture and design. After completing her degree in Interior Design from UC Davis, Cynthia set off to travel the world for a few years. She and her husband have since settled down in Santa Cruz county with their 2-year-old daughter. She brings a vibrant approach to home design, always looking for innovative ways to blend form and function. She has an enthusiastic attitude that complements our the rest of our team, and we’re thrilled to have her on board.
What was the first significant project you ever designed?
One of the first design classes I took in college was in furniture design. In that class I created an armoire for one of our major projects. I designed it with a modern style, and it had this great mix of plastic and wood elements. While I was thrilled about the design, it was certainly a prototype. Then during the grading process my professor told me “I would buy that.”
As far as my professional career, I started to notice I had significant expertise during one particular kitchen remodel. I helped a woman design her new kitchen and she told me that she wanted a white palette. While that sounds simple, in reality you have hundreds of shades of white, and you’re incorporating all sorts of materials. She was thrilled with the result and it was a piece that I was really proud of. After that, I thought “Okay, I’ve made it.”
Talmadge prides itself on being a Design-Build company. How is it working in this system as opposed to a traditional design firm?
The previous company I worked for was a design-build firm as well. However, prior to that job, I hadn’t heard of the concept before. At my previous company, I grew so much appreciation for the process. With a traditional remodel, homeowners encounter so many problems and they’re left to deal with them on their own. While problems can still arise with a Design-Build process, it feels so much more satisfying because our team can take care of our clients. It’s exciting to be a part of it because the processes are so well organized and our care for the client is excellent. You can tell that everyone here really cares about the final output and the happiness of our clients.
How have your travels inspired your approach to design?
I did a semester abroad in Copenhagen. Throughout Scandinavia, they are very much into melding form and design. I think that experience really helped me visualize how to meet form with function. I like to find ways to blend those together, and in Santa Cruz the clientele are very much open to that kind of approach.
What is your approach and process in helping homeowners choose a style and overall design aesthetic for their remodel?
I like to find out as much as I can about their personality. Are they bold, or are they calm? Do they want something clean with no fuss, or do they want something wild? If the space doesn’t flow with their personality, it can clash and create an imbalance between that person and their space.
Some people have already created a space, so my role is to figure out how this remodel will incorporate new elements into that design. Some people are looking for a new or fresh design style. In that case, it’s about trying to match this design with their existing look.
After the project is completed, how would you like homeowners to describe their experience working with you?
For me it’s very important to be professional. It’s important that I’ve created the space they will continue to love for many years to come. I want them to feel that the remodel was carefully planned and considerate of their desires. It’s a huge collaboration between us.
What room or living space do you find the most intriguing to design and why?
I like great rooms, or kitchens that are a part of the family room. The open concept plan is very popular, but it still has to be delicately executed. If you create an open space without a lot of delineation, it can create a lot of problems with noise and mess. There are subtle ways to create a separation of space and function while maintaining an open look throughout the room. You can create a wonderful balance and flow with that kind of room.
What is your new role in the company?
As a designer, I’ll be helping clients through the space planning stage. This includes creating the right space and flow, resolving any of existing issues the client has with the space, and talking through the parameters of the design. Then we dive into the selection process, choosing materials, fixtures, and making sure those coordinate with the rest of the space and the home. Then through the construction, I help with any changes that arise or issues that need to be resolved.