A tale of two kitchens


Interior design is about much more than picking the right curtains or the right furniture. It’s about creating a comfortable space, a space where families create memories, a space that is warm and inviting.

Two interior designers from the award-winning J Banks Design Group on Hilton Head Island took some time with Monthly to talk about what goes into the process of creating that perfect space.

byrd_00104Kitchen No. 1:
Subtle and subdued


The Designer

Deb Van Plew is originally from Chicago and attended Purdue University. She has been on Hilton Head since 1993 and has been with J Banks for 12 years.




Deb Van Plew was charged with the interior design of a new home in Bluffton. “The objective was to have the home look like it had been there for many years,” she said. “We incorporated the client’s desire to create a sense of age. When you look at the kitchen you see all the modern conveniences, but minimal material finishes. There are heart-pine floors and countertops of Venatino marble. But the real focus is the butcher block island.

“The client brought me a picture of a European block which actually belonged to a butcher generations ago. It was really worn and distressed and had so much character. That was the inspiration for the kitchen and we built around that. We had to salvage architectural elements to make the piece and then we built around that piece.

“This is the gathering room for family; at every social event everyone ends up around that butcher block. And notice that there’s nothing precious. They have dogs and they entertain a lot. We wanted a pet-friendly house. It also has a dock on the May River where they catch blue crab. You can lay out brown paper bags and crack the crab on that butcher block. The kitchen really is the heart of the home.”


The Process

“If it’s new construction and starting from drawings, we start by looking them over. Then comes the first of many conversations with the client. What is their lifestyle? Do they have kids? Do they want the home to be pet-friendly?

“After that we talk about colors, what they like, what they don’t like, types of textures. Do they want formal, outdoor, all those kinds of things. Then I ask the client to do a little homework. There’s so many great publications out there that I suggest they whip out pages they like or that speak to them. It doesn’t have to be a specific item, but a feeling of a room, the feeling like ‘I’d love to spend time in that room.’

“You start to see a common thread …it may be casual, elegant, modern, transitional. A picture really is worth a thousand words. Sometimes it’s hard to articulate what you like and easier to articulate what you don’t like. Sort of ‘I know it when I see it.’ It gives me a sense of their vision.

“Then we do a furniture layout on templates that will show different room setups. We then go through furniture and fabric collections. We’ll even ask the client to go to High Point (N.C.) and go through collections. We also have access to all major manufacturers in our resource library. It’s often a process of elimination. We are creating a color story.

“Then we start placing orders and coordinating, scheduling installation dates, etc. In a perfect world it all comes together.”


The Results

“Their daughter had her wedding there. I saw their family and friends in that house sharing a milestone for all of them. People are making memories in their homes, and I’m lucky to be a part of that.”


1486_300_20080624_0060_rgb_awKitchen No. 2: Bright and bold



The Designer

Hannah Fulton is a native of Hilton Head Island and studied interior design at Auburn University. She has been with J Banks for 10 years.



Fulton’s clients wanted to add a kitchen in the children’s wing of their Port Royal home, where there is also a playroom and craft room.

“The idea was that they would have their own area for snacks and a kitchenette, their own space near the playroom,” said Fulton. “The clients wanted this to be whimsical, playful and bright.

“You typically get clients who are afraid of color, so very often a primary presentation has some color, but not a lot. In this case, the clients wanted to go all out. They wanted a bright, cheery, fun space for their children. And they really enjoyed picking out the placemats, flatware and other items.

“It was a really fun project.”


The Process

Fulton said while every client is different, in general she starts with a sit-down interview and asks them about their goals.

“I want to find out how they want to use this space, especially with existing construction. We talk about the whys of it, what’s not working now. Then we start the design and often work with a remodeler or builder.

“After that we put together drawings for the client with the focus on the function of the space. We look at the client’s color palette, at fabrics, artwork, window treatments.”

Fulton said the involvement of the client varies. “Some are very involved every step of the way. Some say, ‘You tell me what you would do.’

“My goal is to help my client with their vision. Sometimes that takes some detective work, but when it all comes together it’s just the icing on the cake.”


The Results

“Our clients absolutely loved (the children’s kitchen),” said Fulton. “They saw their vision come true. It was perfect and functional for them. And the children love it, too!”