In Clarke's Designer Spotlight, we go behind the scenes with some of the finest design minds in New England to learn about their inspiration and personal aspirations.
Meet Jean Verbridge, ASID, IIDA, of Siemasko + Verbridge. Jean recently won First Place for "Other Room" in the Clarke Kitchen Design Contest with her stunning Bulter's Pantry (photo below) in a Beacon Hill Townhome utilizing Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances.
Clarke: When did you found Siemasko + Verbridge and what inspired you to start your own firm?
Jean: Siemasko + Verbridge was created in 2000, when I joined forces with Thad Siemasko, Architect. I had worked for several years as an independent interior designer and found that interior designers were frequently called in late on a project; the results were less successful than if the designer and architect had worked in a collaborative manner from the onset of a project. We created the firm with multiple disciplines from landscape design through interior decoration to offer clients the option of seamless integration on their projects. We believe in cross pollination of ideas and skills within the disciplines.
Clarke: What is your proudest accomplishment both inside and outside of work?
Jean: Inside of the work environment it would be creating a well-managed design business. The “business” of design is as important as the design work; the same elements of organization, discipline and process come into play throughout.
Outside of work I would claim the following points of pride: I raised “my three sons” to adulthood; they lived with equality of work load in the household, where my husband and I worked equally hard. They learned respect for hard work and the benefits of doing what you love. I have completed an open ocean competitive row, the Blackburn Challenge, which is 21 miles in a single scull around Cape Ann for the last two years and I am in training for my third. I had never touched an oar until 8 years ago. I see this as evidence of the power of possibility, of tackling something you know nothing about with positive energy.
Clarke: What is you favorite material to use in kitchen design and why?
Jean: Wood floors.They are soft under foot, they bring a visual warmth to the space, they are easy to maintain, they never go out of style, and they work with any aesthetic. And they last a very long time, which is a plus for the environment.
Clarke: Which Sub-Zero or Wolf appliance is your favorite and why?
Jean: I would have to say Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer drawers are my favorite appliance. They offer so many things in the design of a kitchen:
-- Flexibility in appliance placement.
-- Ease of use by multiple people for traffic flow
-- Easy access to food, without body contortions as often occurs in deeper standard refrigeration.
Clarke: Where do you get your inspiration when you start a project?
Jean: Inspiration typically comes from the client and the problems to be solved. Clients can paint a picture of how they want to live their life and what their priorities are. If we're working on a renovation, inspiration frequently will come from the existing structure.
As an aside, I'd like to mention one recent danger in the world of design. It is the proliferation of media images. Between home makeover programs, websites that focus on imagery, as well as Pinterest and similar social media options, we are seeing many clients with an unrealistic expectation of time and money. It is easy to put together images of your “dream home," however, these images do not always translate into the right solution for the space, or to budget and schedule requirements.
Clarke: Do you have a favorite project that you have designed? Why is it your favorite?
Jean: My favorite completed project of late is a Beacon Hill renovation we had the pleasure of working on. The building was historically significant, had always been a single family residence, and was abundant with potential charm. The client allowed everyone involved in the project to do their best work. She has an innate sense of style, and the project team of client, Siemasko + Verbridge and the contractors all worked toward the same goals. The outcome is a nice blend of historic and fresh.
Clarke: What project haven't you designed that you would love to work on?
Jean: I have a vision of a nest of cottages; individual cozy cottages clustered around a great house that provides social space, cooking space and communal opportunities. This wouldn't be a "retirement community," but rather an ideal vacation spot for a limited number of people.
Clarke: When you travel, what's your favorite destination?
Jean: My favorite travels have been treks into unexplored cultures, leaving all communications behind.
There is something about sleeping in tents and doing nothing 12 hours a day but walk and climb with an appreciation for nature that cleanses the soul. My favorite spots are the mountains of Bhutan and the back side of Machu Pichu in Peru. I am looking forward to rowing the Hudson River this summer, combining history, culture and exercise.
Clarke: When you play music, what do you like to listen to?
Jean: I do like silence. However, when I listen to music I have two go-to genres: country music, with longnecks and love gone bad, simple and unchallenging musically and emotionally, and jazz piano, Keith Jarrett.
Clarke: Describe your own home in a few sentences.
Jean: My own home is a century plus a year old this year. It is a rambler, with well proportioned spaces. It isn’t too precious, it’s meant to be lived in. And like the cobbler who’s kids had no shoes, my house is the last one to get worked on. It will never be “done” which is just right for me. Life is a process, not a result.
Congratulations to Jean on her Clarke Kitchen Design Contest Award and we look forward to catching up with her on new projects in the future. Clarke invites the design community to use Clarke's showrooms in Milford, Mass. and South Norwalk, Conn. as a resource for their own design work and for educating their clients. Click here for more information or to make an appointment.