Sharon Sherman, Owner of Thyme and Place Design shares with Grace her passion for timeless Kitchen and Bath design that updates easily through the decades. She touches on sustainable sourcing, the care she puts into each project, and the importance of a great team who can rely on each other.
Full Podcast Transcript
Sharon Sherman Revivify Podcast S02 E04 v2
Grace Mase: 00:09
Hello, and welcome to the Revivify podcast. I'm your host, Grace Mase. Today, I'm here with Sharon Sherman of the Thyme & Place Design. Sharon is an interior designer by training but she owns her own interior design firm which specializes in kitchen and bath. It is called Thyme and Place Design, in New Jersey. I'm very excited to speak with Sharon today here on Revivify. Welcome, Sharon.
Sharon Sherman: 00:34
Thank you, Grace, I'm really happy to be here. I'm excited to talk to you too.
Grace Mase: 00:38
Well, you clearly have accomplished a lot over the years. So if you wouldn’t mind share with us your journey on how you got here.
Sharon Sherman: 00:45
So, when I graduated from design school, you know was at the time before indeed and all these other kinds of cool and easy ways to find a job. I needed a job. And I'm somebody who actually has an interior design degree from original college days. And I graduated and I opened up the Yellow Pages, which many people who are listening to this are going to have no idea what the yellow pages are, 20 places that I thought I would like to apply to they were commercial design firms, they were lighting design firms and there was a kitchen and bath firm. I sent out 20 resumes, I got five job interviews and I got three offers. And the one that I chose was with this kitchen and bathroom where I stayed for 20 years.
And I developed for them a commercial division where I ran multifamily housing units. So, it was at the time and I'll tell you it was in the 80s when townhouse developments were first starting and high rises were happening and I'm on the east coast.
So, there was this great town called Hoboken, New Jersey which was the birthplace of Frank Sinatra, right. And it was kind of fallen on sad times. People decided to move in there and start re-gentrifying
it and redeveloping it. I did blocks and blocks and blocks of homes in Hoboken. And I did all the kitchens and bathrooms. So that was how I got started in the construction end of the business and then
as time went by a little bit longer, I actually was able to get married and have children and realize that working 60 hours a week was tough when you had kids. So, I backed away from that and became more of a residential focus designer. But all of those clients that I worked with for all of those years really became my client portfolio. And then after 20 years of being in that business, it came to a point where
I understood that the premise of the company that I worked for was changing and it was really moving to a larger big picture, how many kitchens can you sell? What are your sales volumes, what are your totals and that was not what I wanted to do. So, I had the aha moment and it was time for me to get my own place. And so, Thyme & Place Design was born. That's how my company was created and we started our 19th year this year.
Grace Mase: 02:58
Oh my goodness, that's wonderful. What a beautiful story.
Sharon Sherman: 03:02
Every path is crooked. We say the fastest way to get from one point to another is a straight line and
I think life is a series of hairpin turns. So I took many of them but I'm really happy and it's probably
the place to meet people like you. I mean we had such a kind of cool way that we met and I've met
so many other people this way. It absolutely all unfolds the way it's supposed to.
Grace Mase: 03:27
I love it. Well, I understand, I'm very intrigued by your approach; the way you cooperating with your contractor, the way you collaborate with your clients and the design. You really tailor to each individual client, creating the space for them based on their lifestyles and creating the focus on health, wellness, and functionality and beauty. If you might tell me a little bit more about why you started thinking about that this approach?
Sharon Sherman: 03:54
Because I think those are all the most important things that need to go into someone's home especially
a kitchen and a bathroom. And I said to a client this morning I said, “Look, this bathroom that we're working on, that is the first thing that you're going to use in the morning and it is the last thing you're going to use at night. So that's going to be setting your entire day what that space is like.” And if you are walking into a space that doesn't have good lighting that doesn't have natural light that's not laid out in a way that's going to be conducive to you being able to get up and get ready and get out. If it's not a place for you to be able to be relaxed, you're going to start your day off on the wrong foot and all you've done is gotten out of bed and gone into the bathroom.
So those details are so important whether it's the materials, whether it's the look, whether it's the color,
I think those things are paramount when you're at least starting to design things like a bathroom. And the same thing for the kitchen. Kitchens are the heart of the home. I mean, everybody's coming and going in and out of your kitchen. And especially now that we're working at home, there are so many people are most of my clients are all working at home. It's turned into a multipurpose room. They were the oldest multipurpose rooms in the ’70s. I even remember reading about those things right when you're in school, you went to the multipurpose room. And one day it was the lunchroom, the next day, it was a sports center and then you were having the school play. So, kitchens have become the same thing. And I think it's important to understand people's lifestyles, it's important to understand how their lifestyles evolve because I'm sure you are not the same person you were when you were 20. You weren't the same person that you were even when you were 30 right? But now that you're 35, it's a little bit different. So I think that's true for everyone, and we all go through stages of life. And all of those things are important considerations that go into creating a space that people are really going to inhabit, you know, they're not just going to use they're going to inhabit. And your home really is a reflection of you and it should be a reflection of how you want to live. Not just a bunch of cabinets thrown up on the wall, not just let's put in a sink in the toilet and shower. Even if it's furnishings, it really has to hold you in an embrace. That's what your home does for you, because it's your sanctuary. It's your shelter, I mean, it's everything. It's what has your whole family or sometimes your extended family together. So that's really how I approach the design process a little bit different than other people maybe but maybe not.
Grace Mase: 06:18
I never thought about it, you're right. The bathroom was the first sight and it’s the last place I use before I go to bed and really the bookend of the day. I never put in the perspective that way. I was like, it is what it is, but that's beautiful. Then also you think about the kitchen as a multipurpose room, truly these days it’s no longer just a place where you prepare meals and that is quite unique, the way how you balance things. But I'm kind of curious, was there an event in the past where it makes you feel like aha, I need to do this. I know you talk about your career one but was it this particular career? I want you to do a little bit because it is really unique. I'm kind of curious, was there something that triggered this interest in pursuing this path?
Sharon Sherman: 07:05
So, I actually talked about this yesterday. I said every day in life, we are given opportunities to have what I like to call the aha moment. I know Oprah uses that as well. I didn't even realize that she uses that term. And I have a friend of mine who for 20 years has been saying to me, “you've been using kind of your intuition, you've been using your feelings, you've been using things all through your career.” And I said oh “no, I haven't.” He said, “oh yeah, you have.” He said, “you might not realize it but that's what you've been doing.” And for me, it's a feeling that I get when I meet people, right and you probably know it as well. I mean, you've probably met people that you wanted to work with and you thought, this is going to be the most amazing project we've ever done. This client and I are just going to be so unbelievable. The project, the process, the whole thing is right on, right? And then you meet some people and you're like, this isn't going to go very well. Or like the famous Star Wars thing, right, “I got a bad feeling about this.” And what I started to realize is that I needed to listen to those feelings. People would say to me, “How did you know that's what I wanted? I didn't even know that's what I wanted. You've changed the feeling in my home. You've changed the balance of what's going on in here.” What I started to realize was, the universe opened a door for me to be able to really do for people what I really wanted to do, which is create these environments. It's all about the client experience.
Remodeling, as you know, is not a lot of fun. Your life is disrupted, your house is full of dust, you know, you're eating meals out, if we're doing your bathroom you've moved to another room of the home, you can't go through your regular routine, everything is turned upside down. I think what's really important is that we work with all of that stuff to try to make the invasion of the renovation be a little less traumatic. That was for me that was my aha moment that this is what I really need to be able to do for people. It's a one on one experience. We are a concierge level; we hold your hand through the entire process. We do not handle four or five projects at a time. We do one project at a time, so we don't take that many but we're there with you. We don't show up today and then all of a sudden, for three weeks, nobody comes back to the job.
That is the experience that I realized I needed to be able to have my clients have. And if you look at my clients, what they say. I always say look at my client’s testimony. I can tell you anything that you want to hear but if you really want to know what it's like to work with us, you need to read what my clients have said. That's the best way of understanding. I have one client who said, “how do you create kitchen nirvana?” And I thought kitchen nirvana, I've never had anybody say that right? She just went on to say how wonderful the experience was, how professional we were, how I tuned into her wants and needs and desires and that's what we all want. We want someone to listen to us. We want someone to have an understanding about what we think we need and want and help us discern what we truly need and want and that was my turning point in my career.
Grace Mase: 10:27
That's brilliant. And I think is it is that moment where you realize this is what you can deliver the value. Clearly, design building is stressful and you touched on that very clearly at the end, I agree with you. So I love it, because that's our philosophy too.
Sharon Sherman: 10:43
I'm not for everybody. I talk to clients, I've had people say, why do you cost what you cost? I said, (a) because we're really good at what we do. We're incredibly professional, the products that we carry, the way that we run our jobs, all of those things, and in the years of knowledge that go into it, that I'm going to help you spend your money wisely. I'm not going to help you spend it foolishly. But I'm also not going to provide products that five years from now you're going to call me and say this kitchen roughly doesn't look very good anymore, what happened? That's where the craftsmanship aspect of it comes in. That's where the experience comes in and that's where the knowledge that we bring.
If you read about my company, I do not personally coordinate the construction anymore because it's just not what my love is. So, I have a partner in crime, I like to call him. He is somebody that I've been with now for 18 years. I met him at a client's home. He was doing work on a client's house and at the time I said, you know, I was really struggling to find the right construction crew because I have really high expectations. I mean, my bar is really high on what I expect from you. We have a contractor’s agreement for any subcontractor that works on our job. We, amongst my contractor and I, we call it the Play Nice in the Sandbox agreement. But it's our code of conduct from our construction team. And we are a team, we're a family but we're also a team, and everybody understands that the success of each and every person that's involved in the project is absolutely intertwined with each and every other person involved in the project. And it took me a long time to curate that. It has been a careful curation of this team that has stayed together and we've allowed each other to be successful. We allow each other to do the things that we are each individually very good at but also that we are each very good collectively at and I think those are two really important details when you are working with somebody in your home.
Grace Mase: 12:40
That's awesome. Because the key is what you describe the partnership, the bonding is almost like you mentioned family, have the trust and high expectation to deliver. And I think that's the reason why you're so successful. You understand the whole entire project and engage at that level of detail and make sure that the crew that executes it also appreciates and delivers at that level.
Sharon Sherman: 13:06
If you're not all on the same page, it's not going to come together because somebody's going to say, “Well, I don't really care. I'll frame that was a little out of square, let the cabinet guy figure it out or let the tile guy figure it out.” And you absolutely can't do that because, again, they're all stepping stones and each piece builds on the next and that's what's really important to remember. I think many times that is sacrificed in an attempt to find a cheaper price or to whatever you're saving. Benjamin Franklin has this famous quote about how you know, the sweetness of a good price is quickly forgotten with the pain of a cheap product or something, I'm paraphrasing. But I think about that all the time. I've had people say to me well, you're ridiculously expensive and I said well, I'm just not the right budget for you. We're different. We have different products and we run our project in a different way.
The really fun part is I just finished a project for a client. So we did a kitchen and it was this old house and the project turned out amazing plus her dog loved us. So we had this great project and then she decides she's going to do bathrooms, right? And I had looked at that first doing the kitchen. I said, “Look, I've got great ideas for upstairs, we should do this, blah, blah, blah.” and she eventually did it. She said when I first met her, she goes okay, I'm going to trust you, I have a really good feeling about you. And it comes down to where she said, I love everybody on your team. Everybody was just so respectful of my home. Everybody was so respectful of my dog, everybody, every step of the way, took such care with us, with our home, with what you were doing. She said and I tried to tell my friends they should work with you. And my friends were like no, we can do all this ourselves. We could do it so much cheaper. And she said all she has heard is these nightmares of how the job's not going well. The job site is a mess. Nobody's showing up. And she said, I can't say anything because I tried really hard to get them to work with you guys and I'm like no, I know better.
So, it's understanding what it is to wear an incredible pair of Italian loafers that you slide your feet into. And they are just like, you can be on your feet all day, you can be walking all over the place and it was comfortable thing you've ever seen versus finding these kind of like oh, yeah, those are kind of cute shoes, maybe not the same quality materials, not the same quality manufacturing, right and you wear them and your feet hurt. So, you sacrifice that comfort for a better price and then you're regretting it because now your feet hurt, you have bunions and you have foot surgery. That's a different way of looking at it but I think that's a layman's way of explaining what we bring to a project.
Grace Mase: 15:55
I love it, the Italian loafer versus just some cheap pair of shoes and you're right, our profession is very much like that. There's a design aspect of things and there's also the quality aspect of things that most people don't realize the impact that you can spend a million dollar for furnishing and you can also spend 1000s of dollars exact pieces that the components are the same but like sofa and curtains and whatnot or even chandelier but the results will be different and the longevity will also be different. That will ultimately impact who we are and how we feel in that space.
Sharon Sherman: 16:33
Absolutely! So I'm working on a kitchen for a client who's now building a home out on Long Island and it's a beautiful area of the North Shore. I did her home here 25 years ago. She called me she said, “we've sold our house.” I'm like, that's great. She said, “Your kitchen sold that house.” She said, “It is so spot on. It is so timeless. People walked into our house, there was a bidding war. We sold our house five times in four hours.” She said I couldn't believe it and the kitchen was the selling point and there were some other things that I tweaked to the house. She said what's amazing is that it is still a timely design. And I always say that we're creating timeless luxury for kitchen, bath and home and that's what it's all about.
Each client is different. Each lifestyle is different. Kitchens have cabinets, so okay, those nuts and bolts and things are the same. But the general design feeling has to be reflective of the person, right? And you don't want anything so trendy and you know it because you've done this where you walk it up, pink and gray bathroom, that was the 50s. Orange and brown bathroom, that was the 70s. Oh, pink and gray came back but now they're calling it I think it was raspberry puree. Do you remember that crazy color raspberry puree, right? So you know, right? And you're like oh, that was the 90s. None of my work looks that way and none of my clients that work with me really look that way. We've got some edgy things. I mean, you look at some of my portfolio spaces, I've got some crazy things in there. But they're all things that are not so outlandish that you'll say no one would ever like this and I think that's what classic is, that's what Coco Chanel is. That's what I aspire to that it's beautiful materials, impeccable workmanship that's got definite design details. But it's not something that you're going to throw in the recycling bin a couple years down the line. And I think that's so important especially if we're going to be good stewards.
We're going to put in low-level products that are not going to stand up that people are going to have to be taking out or put in a low-level product that you're going to find is off-gassing in your home that's not a sustainable product, that's not sustainable sourcing. Those things are important. All of that comes back just like my aha moments, all of those things that we do, everything that we put out, it comes back to us. Karma is a good friend of mine. She hangs around with me a lot and I really do believe that what you put out comes back just like thoughts have power, words have power, what you do and what comes from your heart has power. It may take a really long time to show up but it really is impactful and we need to be careful how we impact everything that's around us as well.
Grace Mase: 19:17
That's so awesome. You're so intentional about every detail. And when you describe 25 years ago, most of kitchens kind of go in and out the styles within maybe 10 years, most homeowners would do some massive remodeling every 10 years or so. But yours actually went through over two decades. Two decades and a half is still retained the timelessness and the level of detail was what helped them to sell their property. But clearly, with the last 25 years, they were able to enjoy the space the way they want to enjoy, how the space needs to serve them.
Sharon Sherman: 19:51
First of all, I become friends with almost every single client that I do work for, it's really interesting. So a client that I did a house for a really long time ago. She said to me, “They want to put my house on a tour.” And I said, “Really, that's great.” She has an amazing, old home. I love old homes. I love antiques. I love all of the stories that come with the antiques, right? You never know who's coming along with it. So, she had this great old Historic Register house in a local town here. And the town society picked six houses to put on this house tour. So she's like, “I'm going to put my house in the tour, you have to be there.” I’m like okay. It was really funny because we did this a really long time ago. We did a farmhouse kitchen before farmhouse was the catchword of the day and there's no black windows.
So I’m standing in her house and people are coming through and I'm greeting everybody and she happened to be there. And her friends were like, “I didn’t know you just redid your kitchen.” We're looking at each other and she's like, “No, I didn’t just redo it.” We did a little while ago and people thought it was a brand new, spanking brand-new kitchen and it was not. It won a National Design Award in 2014.
So, it's a while back but it's so timely that it's great. We just changed the hardware. She said, “You know I think I want to change up the hardware on the cabinet doors.” I'm like okay and that's such an easy thing to do. Change out the hardware, change the paint colors, maybe change the accessories, put up a new window treatment if you want. You get a totally new look but the balance has to be there. That's why the classic black dress has never gone out of style. There is a reason everybody loves that little black dress. So, if you have red accessories with it one day, you have silver with it the next and you have gold with it the next, it's always in style.
Grace Mase: 21:45
Wow, I love the way you think about this. I never thought about it. You are right. When you think about timeless, there's even just how we present ourselves, our home is another extension of ourselves and how we satirize it. It completely transforms the space but the base is always the timeless piece that ties everything together.
Sharon Sherman: 22:03
Grace Mase: 22:05
Earlier you mentioned about sustainable sourcing. I like to dig a little bit deeper on that but that is really interesting because a lot of time people just looking at the aesthetics and so forth. I understand now people are more conscious about things and about making it sustainable or sustainable solutions to put into their homes mainly for their health and so forth. So, let's talk about that a little bit. What's the trend and what are things that you look into in terms of sustainable sourcing.
Sharon Sherman: 22:33
So there's a couple of things. So we're on the East Coast obviously. I'm 30 miles outside of Manhattan. So we have access to a lot of things that maybe other parts of the country might not have. Where you are, I'm sure it's even more things are available to you. But we try really hard to have products that are not being shipped hundreds and 1000s of miles. That's important to us. When we do renovations, there's a local company that it's not even an additional cost. They recycle almost every single bit of construction material that you take out of somebody's house. They recycle the lumber, they recycle the sheetrock, they recycle the tile, my contractor actually pulls every single piece of pipe out and all of that is recycled all separately, whether it's old galvanized pipe, whether it's old copper pipe, all of that's redone. There's another company that takes all of the plastics so we have the ability here to have all of that stuff for not much more money. I think it's $25 a dumpster that they separate everything. It's a totally green system of recycling building materials. So that's number one. I use a lot of Oceanside Glass Tile. So, here's a plug for Oceanside Glass Tile. They're a California company and they have a huge amount of recycled product that goes into the making of their glass tile and it is gorgeous, really gorgeous.
I use primarily American-made cabinets. I have one vanity line that I call ready-to-wear rather than saying it's stock so it's a ready-to-wear line. And that is not made here but it is an American company that owns a factory. But that is something that is shipped in and they actually come in through Dallas and through Savannah Georgia which is an interesting place to have things come and go from. But my cabinets are made here. It's American wood, it's American products. I have one kitchen on my website that we just completed that has a really cool old barn beam on the hood. And I call my cabinet guy and this is like the best cabinet shop in the world because it is a custom manufacturer so it's really a small cabinet shop housed inside a larger manufacturing company in Indiana. I said you know, I need a beam and he's like well, what kind of a beam. I said I want to incorporate an old wood beam into a kitchen hood. And he goes, let me go look in the shed and he comes back and he goes, we have like seven of them. So, there was a barn or something that was being torn down near there and the owner of the company said, I cannot let this stuff go to waste. They kept all the barn wood, they kept all the beams. So, I actually incorporated it into a custom design and hood.
So, that's the sort of stuff that we use that we try to make a little bit more sustainable. With lighting, all LED and low voltage lighting that's a really important thing. We build in all kinds of recycling centers for people so that it becomes convenient. So must feel like, I don't really recycle, I don't want to take this stuff out, I want to separate, I want to do this. So we try to make those things important as well. And we use as many domestic products as we possibly can. A lot of local makers, most of my furniture comes from smaller companies down in North Carolina where they're actually still building furniture in North Carolina. So that's an important feature so those things.
Beyond that, you go into the health and wellness aspect of it, we use all no VOC paints, all of our solvents are non-toxic, all of our finishes are non-toxic. Unfortunately, I do use stone countertops. So those do need to be taken out of the ground but we're very careful about what we use. I have not fully embraced the quartz material countertops because I'm not really sure how healthy they are for you, especially when putting food on things that are not completely natural material. But we try really hard with those things and I'm trying to educate my clients as well. I haven't put in a toilet that's not a low volume, dual flush toilet in probably 10 years because we do luxury level design. So even our bathtubs that we use, like the air tubs, we have systems that we add a heated system into the air pump so that you're not constantly adding hot water to the tub. So, as the air bubbles go in through the air jets to create the massage, it's pumping hot air in so you're not wasting the water that goes into it. All low flow fittings and fixtures and things like that, I think those are important. I try not to use too many crazy metals or something that's the manufacturing process is going to have issues with. So finishing, fabrics, all of that stuff, we really do try to be good stewards and to use ecofriendly products.
Grace Mase: 27:29
That's wonderful. I love how you talk about everything is so intentional and even the beam has a story. Now guess what our home is a collection of stories. I can imagine the owner every time you look at the home you are like, I remember that story and it is just so heartwarming and what is also beautiful is that you bring them along with the journey and helping them to understand why decisions were made to choose the kind of sustainable options and help them to have that peace of mind to know that I did the right thing for the environment, for my health and for the community to make it sustainable for them, to supporting the local communities who are manufacturing these pieces to deliver their life in a better place.
Sharon Sherman: 28:11
And I think it is important. And you know, if that's not something that's important to you, you're probably not going to find me. I really do believe that whoever finds me, this is the experience that they want to have. And I'm not as good at it as I should be. There's another designer here in the state who's really good at it. She is such a great designer and she is so totally immersed in this whole sustainability. She's miles ahead of me, although I think I'm a better designer but she's really good. I'm just teasing. But you know, I think it's important to try. I think we all have a level of responsibility and it's just a matter of whether we accept it or not. I even make my own clothes like I started knitting. So, I’m like, let me try some of this stuff and see this down-home stuff. I still like to go shopping but I just haven't in the last year because obviously, we're not getting out much these days.
Grace Mase: 29:05
And talk about that. Let's switch the gear a little bit. I'm really interested to get your perspective, the challenges that you see in the industry. Obviously, we're not meeting with clients in person as frequently. And definitely being truly challenging to this article based on how we collaborate, how we manage our business and so forth and all these delays due to manufacturer backlogs. So, I like to get your thoughts about how you manage those relationships with your clients, with your contractors while going through their home improvement journeys and remodeling. What are some challenges you have experienced?
Sharon Sherman: 29:41
Things happen. So last March, we had just ripped off the side of somebody's house. She had a side entry like little porch and she wanted to add a powder room. So, we're like okay, so we had literally ripped off part of the side porch. It's an old stone house. Let me just say it's an old stone house and part of the exterior of the house was stone which I decided we were keeping to which my contractor went, “We're what?” So I said, “We're keeping it.” I said, “Look at this stone, this is this has been around like 200 years, we have to keep this.” He is like okay. So we ripped off all the other parts of it that were wood. The next day we had just pulled the permit so we could just start the next day with COVID, the governor shut down everything in our state. Now the whole side of my client’s house is ripped out. We've got it all covered with plastic and everything else waiting to find out what's going to go on. And then, fortunately, the governor allowed construction for any permits that are already been pulled to continue. We just had to really be careful about how we worked. It completely changed the way we do business right with one person at a time. We always make access to people's homes from the outside so we're not going through their home. But I said to my client, I'm sorry but we've been shut down and she totally understood. She said, I know, everybody has shut down. So, she was understanding but it changed the way we did business.
So, one of the things that we were doing. So in this porch, we kind of created like a little mudroom and then the powder room and there was a window. We didn't want to go in and out of her house right. So, we closed off the doorway that normally came through and everybody went in and out through the window. That was how we got everything out and in the house. We did not have to go into her house. So, we didn't have to worry about interacting with anybody. Everybody wore masks, everybody wore gloves, everything was wiped down every day. We normally broom sweep our projects anyway so there's never any hazardous materials or anything left around. We have a magnet. We go through the driveways with a magnet to make sure there's no nails that may get dropped from dumpsters and things. So that was one of the things that we learned to do a little bit differently.
We also had to explain to people it's going to take a little bit longer because I can't have three subs in your kitchen at the same time. I can have the three plumbers who are brothers who work together but I can't have the plumber and the electrician and somebody else so it's just going to take a little bit longer. We didn't really run into too much trouble until I started to have faucets that weren't getting delivered because my cabinets are custom, they take 10 weeks to fabricate. For the most part, we will put appliance orders in, the appliances that I use tend to all be made here in the US so we didn't have too many supply chain issues but I had trouble getting faucets. So faucets and garbage disposals, how's that for an interesting combination of things that you can't get. I got some extra faucets and there was a kitchen that we were able to complete and the one thing we didn't have was the faucet. We provided a faucet and I paid for the plumber to go back and change the faucet out later on so that we didn't have a supply chain issue with that.
So those were some of the ways that we fix things. As I said in one case, I needed a garbage disposal to complete an installation and I said to my client, “There's no garbage disposals anywhere. So I'm not going to be able to hook up your sink.” And he looked at me and said, “Do you want me to find a disposal?” I said, “Yep.” and he goes “I'm on it.” He literally got his computer and I knew he was going to find the garbage disposal. He found it like in Chicago or something and had it shipped in. He goes,
“I got the disposal.” So we involve the client in the process of helping find the product but that's the relationship we have with our clients. I think that's the important thing. We're telling everybody what's going on. That particular job was supposed to be done before Christmas but we ended up finishing it the second week of January because of the delays that started to happen where we couldn't schedule inspections. Used to be you could call one week and schedule three inspections and now you call for an inspection and you can't schedule the next inspection until the first inspection happens and then so on. So, a week long process turned into three weeks. But again, the client understood, they were involved. We're very honest with them, we're upfront. If there's a design dilemma that occurs in the middle of the job, I said take off your half shoes, put on a good sturdy pair of shoes and come in here and we're going to talk about what we're doing and they're involved in the process. I think that mitigates a lot of things that could potentially go wrong.
There are some things I have no control over. There are certain materials that you might not be able
to get. But since so much of our stuff is an American based product, we're able to get the majority of things. Shipping becomes a little bit of a problem like I have furniture coming in for a client from Italy and because of the way they're unloading things on the docks right now, the container is there but they just can't offload it. So it's going to be another couple of weeks until their furniture comes. But again, we're explaining this is with what's going on. I'm lucky and that my clients are generally understanding.
Grace Mase: 34:46
Thank you. So starting with you being empathetic to understand what they're going through and being very conscious about how you prepare that and educating them and enlisting them to work through the problems with you. So they become the solution versus the mean blocker to work with you understanding alright well, just like the garbage disposal. They'll realize, you know what, I can do my due diligence and find something and get shipped from Chicago and that's brilliant.
Sharon Sherman: 35:16
For him, it was fun. It was kind of like it was a challenge. And he's the kind of guy that likes to challenge. He goes, I'm going to do this. I said I know you will. Okay, I'm all in. And it was great because he was really part and parcel of it. But we've had other times and we're having this storm now. So, I've had two inspections canceled for today. And I've said to my client, obviously at 5:30 last night
I said, it's not going to happen. But they also understand. They do understand. For the most part, they understand. I don't think I've had anybody that's really gone off the deep end that I can remember but maybe I blocked it from my memory, that's a possibility too.
Grace Mase: 35:55
You definitely do everything you can to educate your client, to keep them informed so they can have the information they need to make the right decision with you.
Sharon Sherman: 36:05
For me, to be honest with you, the biggest problem I have is with furniture. I have much less problems with what I'm doing in the remodeling aspect. I have many more problems with furniture which is really why I have to really like you a lot to take on interior design project.
Grace Mase: 36:26
Understood. So now let's go on the flip side. We talked about the challenges. What gets you excited about home remodeling industry, kitchen and bath especially.
Sharon Sherman: 36:33
Oh my gosh, there are so many fabulous projects out there. There are so many fun things coming out every day. There are new materials, there are new ways of doing things. I'm learning how to do things new every day. I always said I would never ever have a client meeting that's not in person and then I started doing projects out of state. So, FaceTime became my new best friend because I could not in a heartbeat. I had one client that I was doing a project for in Florida and I had one client I was doing a project for at the Cape. Now there's no way I could be in both projects at the same time but I was really able to be on calls with people. So, I think the technology aspect has been really good.
I think zoom meetings are the only way I ever want to have another client meeting and that's not really true. But I've just found that I can bring up plans and elevations, I can go through an entire design presentation and I can in real time make changes to those drawings. And I can bring things in on the computer, I can share the screen, I can show all these things. So, it's an interactive design process much different from when I am meeting with somebody in their home, going through things, making changes and then having to come back later and they will say well, what does it look like if. Well, I can do that right in front of them now. I mean, this is really fun right. But also it's good because then like I know that there's a finite time otherwise I can be in somebody's house for five hours and I’ll say I really have to go when we have limited time. So, I think we're both client and design are much more productive because there's no distractions and you can just move through things. So that's been really fun.
Shower systems make me really excited. Air tubs, I love air tubs. Get rid of all those pipes and everything that I think these air massage tubs, they're like my favorite thing ever. I'm still not quite sure that I like the freestanding tubs because I always kind of explain to my clients how you're climbing over them. And sometimes that's not a pretty picture. But I think that's some of the fun things. Tile; I just did tile today. The tile options are amazing. The porcelain options and the things that they're doing, the things to do with glass is great. Lighting just makes me jump up and down because there's so many cool things that you can do with lighting and there's so many options with those things and the finishes that are nontoxic to us. I think that's something that was never available before.
I remember when I was a young designer, I just started working for the former company I told you about and they shipped in this is an awful story. They shipped in a set of cabinet right and you could smell the lacquer and everything else that was in. So, we used to send the carpenters with loaves of white bread. There's an old bread that used to come in a white container with like red and blue balloons on them. I remember what that is and we would put those loaves of bread in the cabinets and they would absorb all of the smells and things that were burning off gas from it. It's terrible but that's a true story. I remember once that we put in when this Mexican tile used to order unfinished Mexican tile, I don't know if you remember that and then you would have to seal it in place. So whatever the sealer was that one of these guys used on the floor turned a whole set of white kitchen cabinets orange because of the chemical reaction that came from it. So, I just think that the healthier options for finishes and things like that have been amazing. Mixing metals, we said if it's good enough for cardia then it's good enough for everybody. But just the ability for people to mix metals and mix materials. Copper has always been a favorite material of mine. It's making a big comeback. I think that's really cool. I'm kind of excited to see what hoods again in kitchens because everyone's using metal hoods and wood hoods are absolutely rolling back in again. So those are the things that I think I probably get the most excited about.
Grace Mase: 40:24
I just listened to you. I get excited about it too. It has that fresh-baked smell, right?
Sharon Sherman: 40:32
Oh, my gosh, it was really bad. Your eyes would tear. That's how bad it was from the lacquers and things that were going into cabinets back then.
Grace Mase: 40:42
I remember. Now let's talk about what's your secret recipe for success?
Sharon Sherman: 40:49
My secret recipe, I work really hard for my clients, I give 100% and I surround myself with people who share my business attitude. I don't want to be around people that are going to take shortcuts. I don't want to be around people who are not going to give their all and who don't love what they do. You have to love this business to be in this business. You can't dip your toe into this business, you can't say, “I'm just going to try it, I'm going to dabble.” You can't dabble. You really need to be fully invested. When I hire an assistant, that assistant for the first two weeks spends two weeks on a construction site because they need to understand what goes on in the field, they need to be fully immersed in it, they need to and I love being on construction sites, don't get me wrong. I would be on a construction site instead of being in a clothing store any day of the week because there's no tiptoeing around anything. And you know, you're a woman in business. I spend my day with men. I've got a nine-man construction team and it's an experience that you'll never really be able to appreciate until you experience it.
So I think those are important reasons so you can see what goes wrong. If you're not going to be on top of your game and you make a mistake, this is how it's going to affect everybody else. And if you make a mistake, you need to own it. I'm not going to say to my clients oh, somebody else did it. I say you know what, I screwed up, something went wrong. I miss measured; it could be anything. We try really hard to make sure that doesn't happen. But I think I'm who I am. I just say to people if I'm not who you want to work with, it's alright. I'm not going to take it personally, you shouldn't feel bad about it. We're just not right for each other.
So, I think that honesty and integrity and professionalism, if I had to sum it up, those would be the three. Honesty, integrity, professionalism and I really care about what I do and that's part of integrity. I don't do the same design 14 times. There's similar basics. I mean, there's an L-shaped kitchen with an island, there's a U-shaped kitchen and there's a galley. That you can't get away from but you're not going to see the exact same thing. I knew a designer once who did that. She did three kitchens for three different clients, they lived on the same street and they're all the exact same kitchen. Same cabinet, same tile, same layout and it was just really funny. She used to get away with stuff like that. I don't know how I can do that. I could just imagine what you're thinking, what? Yes, it was for the good old days but that's the key to success.
Grace Mase: 43:30
I appreciate honesty, integrity, professionalism. I think that that's all we thrive for so thank you. We just need to continue to remind ourselves why these three things are so important in our profession.
Sharon Sherman: 43:41
Grace Mase: 43:43
So what would you tell a young graduate who's considering going to into their home remodeling, kitchen, bath redesign space?
Sharon Sherman: 43:52
Oh, I just said that to somebody because I have people call me all the time. I think I'm going to put a course together. It's going be called The Nuts and Bolts of Launching Your Own Design Career or your design business. It's coming, you'll see. It's going to be there. You need to be adaptable right. You need to not be afraid to let people know that you're really good at what you do. It took me 25 years to be able to say I'm really good at what I do so that's important. You need to learn everything. Don't go into any of this thinking you know better than anybody else because two weeks ago, I learned something that I added a new clause to my contract and I thought I had covered all of them. So, you're always learning something.
Be open, be willing to learn, roll with the punches especially in the construction business and you as
a woman in construction can relate to that. You may have to work a little harder to prove yourself sometimes although I think that's changed a little bit and have fun with it. I don't think you can have
a preconceived notion. I would not want to do anything else. This has been an amazing career for me.
I've had amazing opportunities because of it. I've worked with celebrities; I've worked with pro athletes. I've worked with an amazing number of people. I've done TV shows. I actually had a client of mine called me and said, “I just got off a cross country flight. I just watched your show on the flight. I'm like wow because I didn't know I was working with a celebrity.” I'm not really a celebrity. “I don't care. I told everybody in first-class that you were my designer!” So, I think it's having fun with that and really respecting people and respecting the business and respecting the trades that you work with and then help you be successful.
Grace Mase: 45:35
That’s beautiful. So, what's the TV show that you are responsible for?
Sharon Sherman: 45:38
I did an episode of My Big Amazing Renovation. I've been on some House Smarts with Lou Manfredini. I've done a couple of different things like that. I've been publishing a couple of books. I've had some really good press.
Grace Mase: 45:54
I'm impressed. First of all, thank you for sharing all these great insights and if you'd like to learn more about Sharon Sherman and Time and Place Design, you can visit her website at https://www.thymeandplacedesign.com
Grace Mase: 46:11
Perfect. Well, thanks for joining us in this episode of Revivify podcast. I hope you enjoy hearing from Sharon Sherman of Thyme and Place Design. Thanks again for listening and we'll see you next time.
Sharon Sherman: 46:23