KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Julie Schuster

Julie Schuster

Julie Schuster is an active member of the New York City Design Community. In 2014 she helped establish the Interior Design Society’s (IDS) New York City Chapter, spearheading the group’s formation as the chapter’s President. Julie also works closely, and engages enthusiastically as a member of International Furnishings & Design Association (IFDA) and National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). Schuster is also a proud member of the Kitchen and Bath Business Advisory Board and the Robern (Bathroom) Brand Ambassadors.

Aug 03 2018

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Design that Heals


As designers and architects, we have a responsibility to protect the health, safety and well-being of our clients and, by extension, the broader public. But can our designed environments go one step further and actually help us heal, too?

Wherever one is in the course of sickness or healing, our physical surroundings can change the way we feel and, as a result, help catalyze and speed up the healing process. We are constantly exchanging energy with the environment around us, from the land, water, plants, trees, sky and stars. Thus, where we live, work, sleep and receive treatment directly impacts our health, vitality and ability to heal.

Biophilic Design: The word “biophilia” stems from the Greek meaning “love life.” Research suggests that both natural and man-made biophilic environments exert a healing effect on the human body. For example, significant health benefits are observed and measured in neighborhoods with tree-lined streets (Karden et al., 2015).

Biophilic design reflects a person’s inherent need for nature and is a discipline that inspires the integration of natural materials and renewable natural resources. I believe biophilic design is healing for both the architect and the user, just as living, breathing structures are energetically nourishing and stimulating.

Homes: A holistically balanced home is essential for our body’s regenerative processes. If we design our homes – particularly our bedrooms and kitchens – to be as healthy and balanced as possible, our bodies are able to heal and detoxify at a faster rate. Some of my favorite interior design strategies for this include: using organic and renewable materials, prioritizing natural colors, layering in greenery and implementing thoughtful lighting design.

Healthcare Facilities: The design of healthcare facilities has been influenced by a number of trends, including elements of biophilic design, in recent years. A common theme has been a focus on patient experience. Whether it’s creating single-patient rooms with residential touches to make them feel more inviting or providing access to sunlight, views of nature or beautiful artwork, it’s clear that the healing process is supported by promoting patient comfort and satisfaction in the design of hospitals and outpatient medical centers.

Jun 26 2018

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Inclusive Design: Bathrooms


We have clients who are preparing their homes for every stage of life. From aging parents moving back in, to families with young children, today’s homes are being designed to serve multiple generations, personal lifestyles and physical abilities. So how do we design bathrooms to meet the needs of all people? The answer is inclusive design!

As a Certified Living in Place Professional (CLIPP), I believe inclusive design has the ability to be safe, accessible AND beautiful! Just because its function is to make life more manageable for those who are accessibly challenged doesn’t mean it can’t be eye-catching, sophisticated and chic. Remember, incorporating inclusive design features into your client’s new bathroom guarantees access to everyone and will save you money in the long run.

Some of my favorite ways to apply inclusive design within the context of bathrooms include:

– Towel bars arranged in a series offer a fun design solution that allows users of all heights to access.

– An under-mount tub with a generous deck serves nicely as a transfer surface to get in and out of the unit without sacrificing aesthetics.

– Threshold-free showers are easily installed by an experienced contractor and, once in, provide a beautiful, seamless look that can make a small bathroom appear larger.

– Hand-held showers allow users of all heights, ages and physical abilities to shower at their most comfortable level.

–Vanity nightlights built into the cabinetry create a safer space by increasing nighttime visibility. Lighting can be integrated with mirrors and medicine cabinets too.

– Bold pops of color can be used to make inclusive design more whimsical and fun. It also helps the user better assess depth of field.

– Grab bars and other safety features are becoming more attractive all the time. Consider integrating those near the entryway, toilet and shower.

– Contrasting tiles at horizontal sight line level enhance visual clarity and increase balance.

– Anti-slip floor materials come in all different shapes and sizes. Textured and rough-finished surfaces in tile and stone are naturally slip-resistant and look beautiful.

– Clearance is key. Where space allows, aim for a 36-in. clearance from sink to toilet to shower.

May 17 2018

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Inclusive Design


Last week I had the pleasure of attending an immersive education program at the Monogram Appliances Showroom, which is at the Design Center Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago. Part of our program addressed universal design, or as I now like to call it, “Inclusive Design.”

What Is Inclusive Design?
Every design decision has to the potential to include or exclude clients. Inclusive design emphasizes the contribution that understanding user diversity makes to informing these decisions and thus to including as many people as possible. User diversity covers variation in capabilities, needs and aspirations. I think of it as, “designing for everyone from the smallest to the tallest.” The beautiful thing about looking at the subject from this angle is that it doesn’t concentrate on aging or physical disabilities but on creating design that makes a space safe and accessible to those who might have those disabilities now or in the future.

Inclusive design does not suggest that it is always possible or appropriate to design one product to address the needs of the entire population. Instead, Inclusive design guides an appropriate response to diversity in the population through:

– Developing a family of products and derivatives to provide the best possible coverage of the population

– Ensuring that each individual product has clear and distinct target users

– Reducing the level of ability required to use each product to improve the user experience for a broad range of customers in a variety of situations

Why Is Understanding User Diversity Important?
In my training with the Living-In-Place Institute, we are taught to think of the lifespan of a home. And if that lifespan is a long and healthy one, more than 1,000 people will interact with that home over that span of time. Within that group will be a large range of capabilities. Why not think about designing for the long term?

Additionally, failure to correctly understand people can result in products, furniture and appliances that cause unnecessary frustration and exclusion. This reduces commercial success due to increased returns and need for customer support.

Applying Inclusive Design to Interior Design
Some of my favorite ways of applying inclusive design to the practice of interior design include:

– Installing levers instead of door knobs to make them easier to grip and use

– Selecting products while thinking about the contrast between counter-tops, cabinets and floors to allow for vision difficulties

– Installing lighting in kick-plate areas to light up floors and provide the perfect amount of night lighting; great in bathrooms, kitchens and on stairways

– Incorporating technology to allow for voice activation of appliances

– Lowering appliance installation to accommodate someone in a wheelchair and incorporating vertical patterned cabinetry to mask the height changes. This is also a great time to talk about French door ovens for those with limited accessibility.

 

Mar 19 2018

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Uniting Built and Natural Environments

By Julie Schuster

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the country’s leading governmental infrastructure initiative. It correctly asserts that: “Decisions about how and where we build our communities have significant impacts on the natural environment and on human health. Cities, regions, states and the private sector need information about the environmental effects of their land use and transportation decisions to mitigate growth-related environmental impacts and to improve community quality of life and human health.”

This philosophy doesn’t just apply to building developers and urban planners. As interior designers, we too have a professional responsibility to find ways to best unite built and natural environments – for our clients and for Mother Nature herself.

Some of my favorite practical interior design strategies for integrating built and natural environments include:

Following Nature’s Lead. Interiors should be designed with humans in mind. It is a Biophilic Design principle that people feel most comfortable in spaces that follow nature’s lead rather than monochromatic bubbles. Our common desire for hardwood floors is a subconscious human yearning for replication of the forest floor. Hence, the ground should be darkest, like a path; mid-range eye-level colors should be neutral and the ceiling should be light like the sky.

               Schuster suggests reflecting a forest in the colors of a room.

Using Renewable Materials. It goes without saying that using renewable materials in your interior design is beneficial for the environment. But did you know that building materials that have been harvested from the earth are also extremely durable and cost effective? Cork and granite are two of my favorite renewable materials to work with. Cork, which is made from the bark of cork trees, is very springy and resistant to damage. Granite is the hardest and most dense natural stone which helps maintain luster and resist staining.

Furnishing Thoughtfully. Furniture made from natural materials like rattan, wicker and hemp channel the outdoor world and are easy on the environment. Another eco-friendly idea is to purchase vintage furniture which lends itself to a beautiful, eclectic feel.

                                 Donna Dotan Photography Inc.

Layering in Greenery. Indoor plants are a fantastic representation of Feng Shui wood energy – instantly bringing interiors to life while simultaneously purifying the air we breathe. Consider clustering small plants in groups at staggered levels to give a sense of natural depth and balance.

                                Plants naturally clean the air in a home.

Prioritizing Natural Colors. Once your home is filled with renewable materials, natural fabrics and greenery, it’s important to ensure a natural color palette is used for the remainder of the space. Neutral colors with subtle variations work a charm and allow greater flexibility for accent colors later down the track. Remember, Mother Nature never goes out of style!

Implementing Considered Lighting Design. Sunlight is a crucial and all too often forgotten component of natural design. It’s also my favorite energetic disinfectant. In addition to letting the light shine in whenever possible, consider natural fiber window treatments, soft/warm light bulbs, unobtrusive fixtures and recessed lighting.

By viewing the outdoors as an extension of the home, you too can find design inspiration in the natural world and bring that powerful, organic inspiration indoors.

Julie Schuster is an active member of the New York City Design Community. In 2014 she helped establish the Interior Design Society’s (IDS) New York City Chapter, spearheading the group’s formation as the chapter’s president. Julie also works closely, and engages enthusiastically as a member of International Furnishings & Design Association (IFDA) and the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). Schuster is also a proud member of the Kitchen and Bath Business Advisory Board and the Robern (Bathroom) Brand Ambassadors.