A Backstage Design Pro Takes To The Stage

Designing the main stage for the Minneapolis Home and Garden Show is an honor—and a huge responsibility. Not only is the stage used for celebrity appearances and presentations throughout the show, but local TV stations film live segments from the space. Enter Kelli Kaufer.

Kaufer is no stranger to design. Having spent twelve years as lead behind-the-scenes designer for HGTV and Design Network, she has completed 300 remodels. Most of those were completed within extremely condensed timelines—usually just five weeks from the first meeting to the last TV shot.

For the Home and Garden Show, Kaufer designed a fully functioning kitchen as well as a living room area. Her goal was to create a unique, eye-catching space using the latest products and her own clever design tricks.

Kaufer teamed up with Chris Schmitz, Member Services Manager for the Bloomington, Plymouth, and St. Paul ProSource Showrooms. Together they gave a live presentation each day, teaching attendees how to incorporate the latest trends in design and think outside the conventional design box. Here, Kaufer shares her top seven design tips for creating a unique space on a budget.

Design Tip 1: Use Products In Unique Ways

Kaufer used Karndean vinyl plank flooring on the walls of the kitchen and living areas of the stage, as well as using it as a border around the flooring. “Vinyl plank flooring is easier to manage and install than real wood, plus it’s less expensive,” explains Kaufer. “Which makes the installation go faster, too.”

Using products in different ways gives a room a unique look. And vinyl can also be easily cut into custom designs for those who want a unique space. Kaufer used vinyl sheet flooring on the stage, cutting it into an Aztec design. On the 14’ long kitchen island she used decorative tiles to give the space interest and texture.

“Think about how you might be able to use a product differently,” she recommends. “Then consider what else you can do to make it your own.” For example, in the stage’s kitchen, Kaufer chose long, rectangular marble-look, ceramic tiles, which she then laid in a herringbone pattern. “It’s a nod to trendy subway tile,” she explains, “but with a classic twist.”

Design Tip 2: Think Before You Ditch

Many homeowners will rip up old carpeting in order to show the original hardwood. But when they see imperfections, they immediately cover it back up—or spend thousands replacing it. “Imperfections add character,” Kaufer says.

And before you rip up carpeting, consider why. If it’s neutral, and you simply want a new look, try custom rugs. Kaufer recommends even layering rugs for impact. Many carpets, like those found at ProSource Showrooms, can be bound to create custom rugs that are perfectly suited for your unique space.

Design Tip 3: Mix Patterns & Colors

The trend of mixing colors, patterns and metals is still going strong. Consider a different countertop and cabinets for your kitchen island. And try repurposing old cabinets with paint or even vinyl coverings.

Mixing metals is a great way to update a space,” Kaufer says. For example, brushed gold hardware can mix beautifully with a stainless steel sink. Try mixing patterns in rugs for added depth. “If you have an area rug and a runner in one space, let them work together without being identical,” she adds.

Design Tip 4: Be Economical

Marble is gorgeous, and very of-the-moment,” says Kaufer. “But using it as a backsplash might be outside of your budget.” Save money by using tile instead—it’s about 50 percent less expensive. In the stage kitchen, Kelli used Blanco 3x12 inch flooring tiles laid in a herringbone pattern for the backsplash.

Countertops also come in so many different materials today. If you love the look of granite, consider Cambria, which has the look of granite, at a much more cost-effective price point. On the face of the kitchen island, Kaufer installed 12x4 inch marble-look ceramic tiles. “No one but you has to know,” she says.

Design Tip 5: Start With A Neutral Palate

“A neutral palate grounds a space,” Kaufer advises. Light colored walls let you add interesting elements, such as a colorful backsplash, or a kitchen island covered in wood flooring planks, without going over the top. “Consumers want their own unique space,” she says. And with a neutral palate, resale is not as big a worry. “Cookie-cutter design is no longer in style,” Kaufer adds. “No one wants the house down the street.”

Design Tip 6: Wood Is Always In Style

“Wood is still so popular,” Kaufer says. But now, designers look for new ways to incorporate it. Backsplashes, countertops, and even walls are covered in wood.

Kaufer chose Weathered Heart Pine loose-lay long boards by Karndean for the kitchen’s floor. In the living area, she used 15x17 foot vinyl sheet graphic print flooring from her own collection. Wood-look vinyl flooring, like the Kelli Kaufer line, offers homeowners the appearance of real wood without the expense or hassles. “It’s so easy to care for,” she says. “This new vinyl sheet flooring is not the same flooring from your grandmother’s house!”

Design Tip 7: Open It Up

Open shelving has become more popular in modern kitchens. Kaufer recommends starting with just a small area. “Take down two cabinets and put in open shelving,” she says.

Stacked plates, glassware, or even thick-weaved baskets can be a great look. She recommends sticking with a single color whether you display plates, bowls or spice containers. “You can go very modern or very relaxed, depending on your lifestyle,” Kaufer says.

The trick is to add a touch of your own unique personality.

Once she’d finished the main stage, a series of designer celebrities took to it throughout the show, including Hillary Farr with HGTV’s Love it or List It, Jeff Lewis at Bravo, Tyler Wisler of Design Star fame, and Matt Muenster of Bath Crashers.

The stage also hosted local morning news’ shows and Twin Cities’ local “What’s Going On” one-hour live program. Each one of them commented on the stage’s fantastic design.

Creating your own unique space is as easy as following Kaufer’s design tips! Get started by visiting your local ProSource Showroom and sharing your unique ideas with one of their kitchen and bath designers.

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