Kitchen & Bath Design News

AUG 2017

Kitchen & Bath Design News is the industry's leading business, design and product resource for the kitchen and bath trade.

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MANCHESTER, VT — Raised in a very artistic home, Wendy Johnson attributes her strength and success as a designer to her mother, Janet Raser Faunce. A well-known portrait painter in Dallas, Faunce struggled for many years to make a living for herself and her two children. While working for a fabric designer in New York, she was painting in her spare time, and finally was commissioned to paint a portrait for one of the Firestone brothers. To be a successful portrait painter, she was told that Texas was the place to be. Packing up every- thing she owned, Faunce moved the family to Dallas, though they often returned to Vermont and New England for summers and vacations. "Vermont was our first love," Johnson remarks. Johnson and her brother used to play at drawing and designing houses together as children, so it was no surprise that she initially planned to go to school for architecture. At the time she was living in Colorado and go- ing through a divorce; she told her divorce attor- ney about her next steps, and he responded, "You don't want to go to architecture school. You can't ever design anything you really want to design. Why don't you get into the kitchen business?" So on the word of her attorney, Johnson contacted the current president of AKID (now NKBA), who was remodeling the lawyer's kitch- en at the time. She entered the three-day school, learning the basics of kitchen and bath design: organizing, space planning and aesthetics. With this brief education, a small painting portfolio, and her on-her-feet thinking, she applied and was hired at Kitchens by Klein as a kitchen designer, and as a commission dealer for St. Charles. As to why she got the job, she re- flects, "[It was] not because I had thought I had talent, but because I was brazen enough to ask for the job." This she learned from her mother. "The lesson I took [from my mother] was I could do anything – I didn't depend on anyone else to do it. Growing up, we did everything ourselves. She certainly set that example: If you wanted to do it, you could do it." Johnson practiced for many years, but even- tually realized she wanted to return to Vermont and run her own design firm. Drawn to mid- and high-end design for the greater freedom with budgets and design styles, Johnson began Designs for Living in 2005. She adds, though, that she "also loves the challenges of producing gorgeous results on modest budgets." As sole designer at Designs for Living, Johnson does full design and product sales, as well as offering total space planning, color consultation, and consultation and design-only services. As a kitchen and bath designer for more than 35 years, she has worked all over the country – travel for projects outside Vermont is not uncommon, she notes – from the Atlantic to the Pacific and many places in between. In 2006, Johnson opened an 1,100-sq.-ft. showroom equipped with a working kitchen as the central display, along with a working bar. The showroom was designed to reflect the trends in her area, and it continues to evolve along with those trends. "[Right now] traditional farmhouse style reigns, but here, as everywhere, the trend toward a modern organic aesthetic is evident. The balance is achieved by producing a 'rustic contemporary eclectic transitional' look," she explains. The showroom integrates earthy elements mirroring the historic farm and mountain surroundings: barn boards and other woods, concrete countertops and pewter. She feels that the variety in the showroom helps make clients more comfortable branching out into new ma- terials and design styles. Johnson also provides kitchen sinks, which is one of her passions. "It's the center of everything you're doing in the kitchen," she says. Seven of the 13 sinks she carries are displayed in her show- room. One of her favorites is the galley sink, by designer Roger Shollmier, who she worked with for two years in Tulsa before returning to New England. As she sees it, "In the kitchen kingdom, if the cooktop is king, then the sink is queen." Johnson also carries Bentwood and Harmoni Cabinetry, Signature Custom and Wellborn Forest – embracing cabinet lines ranging from budget friendly to high-end luxury. She specifies countertops ranging from natural and engineered stones, to wood, metal or glass, and specifies or advises on plumbing fixtures, decorative hardware, appliances, light- ing, tile and other interior furnishings. In college, she had originally majored in biology with a minor in botany, so nature has a large influence in her design. "As a designer, I am rejuvenated and inspired by all things outdoors – sunlight and color (the full spec- trum from grays to brilliants) and the infinite textures and smells of nature," she maintains. She also recognizes the power of a well-or- ganized space, and states, "I love organizing, love the little details…space planning plus beau- ty, aesthetics and making a home beautiful." LIFE-LONG LEARNING Life-long learning remains a priority for Johnson. "I'm extremely passionate about staying educated and [making sure I'm] current with anything new and unusual," she shares. Without a formal background in design, such as many colleges offer today, Johnson supple- ments her many years of work experience with seminars, webinars and trade shows. Designer Follows Mom's Artistic Footprints BY DIANA CLEVELAND A New England kitchen and bath designer follows in her mother's artistic footsteps designing award-winning kitchens and bathrooms across the country. Johnson helped this kitchen get a contemporary update after the homeowners became empty-nesters. Created for entertaining, the space features an open plan with a colorful backsplash to fit the rest of the col- orful timber-frame home, as well as neutral and darker tones to draw focus outside to the woodland scenery. Photo: Eric Roth Photography 32 Kitchen & Bath Design News • August 2017 DESIGNER PROFILE

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