Designer Profile – Gladys Schanstra, CMKBD, Allied ASID

Drury Design Team

How do you help clients zero in on a design style for a project?

My approach to understanding design style is evolving. Inspiration is everywhere and, like all designers, I know a thing or two about the process of looking for, clipping and assembling bits of inspiration from many sources… physical and digital. Many clients do this so it’s fun to see their idea collections. But I’m also aware that what we all see is sometimes reinforced by algorithms that, well, basically give us more of what we’ve already seen.

So, I’ll sometimes ask clients to pull out their travel photos. I’ll ask about their hobbies. What colors do they really like? Chances are, they’ve been curating their own collection of design-worthy starting points in places and ways they’re unaware of. That can lead us to palettes of colors, fabrics and different things that lead us to other things and so on. Little design elements appear and we’ll start building a true picture of what they like. It’s often quite different from their Kitchen Ideas board on Pinterest.

You are now the owner of Drury Design, as well a Senior Designer and the Creative Director. What should people know about the different hats you wear?

I treasure the creative director hat and take that seriously. The role involves the act of inspiring designers and inspiring myself. Inspiration in this business means new ideas, new products and innovative ways of doing things.

We have incredibly creative designers here. I curate their ideas and contribute some of my own. We collaborate on other ideas together. Having a little bit of a touch in every Drury project is very rewarding. Human beings are made up of so many different facets – emotions, backgrounds and experiences, to name a few. Personalities are fascinating assets for a company, you know. I value that and enjoy learning what makes people tick. Helping everyone achieve is my own personal mission.

You’ve designed many kitchens, baths and other rooms in many styles, but is there is an overarching kind of ‘Gladys Schanstra design vibe’ that emerges from your work?

I think I gravitate towards clean lines. I feel a strong pull toward symmetry and balance. Some might say I lean toward more contemporary designs or what they call ‘modern classic.’ If you look closely, my engineering background is always there – you’ll see elements where a project’s engineering and construction solutions are a part of the beauty of the design. I like the interplay of beautiful interior design and mindful architecture. To ignore form or function would be a disservice to the space you’re designing!

What’s notable about your most recent kitchen project?

We’re close to finishing a contemporary whole-house project for a repeat client. The remodel before this one made the kitchen cohesive with the rest of the existing house. The request was oak back then and it fit the home’s traditional style at that time. So, here we are 13 years later and the same clients are going contemporary.

 The new kitchen is very modern, although toned down just a bit to dial in that sweet spot where their comfort level is. We went with hickory. We also went with an acrylic door style – not even wood – and it’s shiny! It’s been a fun transformation!

Any design-related obsessions?

I enjoy what the old timers will call scrapbooking. It’s changed and morphed quite a bit but it’s essentially a fusion of design and history. I love history and memories and documenting everything in a creative way. There are so many artistic design choices when you’re scrapbooking!

Any non-design-related obsessions?

I like cross-stitching and right now I’m into diamond painting, which is like a mashup of cross-stitching and paint-by-numbers. My kids and I are obsessed – it’s so much fun. It’s cathartic, too!

Take us through a favorite bath project… any particular design features or accomplished goals that stand out?

Okay, I had a project that involved a mindful, detail-oriented client who really thought long and hard about every aspect of what we were doing and we found ourselves in somewhat of a different process and that lead to unique results.

She loved certain modern things but she also loved certain traditional things. She wanted much more traditional-looking cabinetry and it was hard to lift that into the cleaner lines that she also wanted. It was interesting because when you looked at her inspirational photos, some were uber contemporary and some were uber traditional. I told her we could explore a jumbled kind of mashup, but as we worked on it, I just didn’t think it was flowing the way she wanted it to. It was a puzzle to figure out. There were like two or three months of us gathering photos.

She ended up with this idea of the design elements challenging each other in a harmonious kind of way because she couldn’t settle on one style dominating the other. So, it was interesting to see what we came up with and I must say – I love it. We found the right uber ends of things that work together with a complementing elegance and beauty.

The shower functionality is on another level – we’re talking seven body sprays, chromatherapy (colored lights that interact with water), a rain head, a handheld, several body sprays, a steam shower, speakers… it’s amazing. She says her husband gets in there and won’t leave. They planned for that, too – we added an extra water heater and widened the drain so that it can handle it when all the fixtures are on!

Any notable trends in what your current customers are asking for?

Engineered stone and quartzite, which is the natural stone.  Metal hoods are still being requested. Matte black and brushed gold finishes, too. Also – more and more people are paying attention to appliances. They’re looking at the new functionalities and features.

White is still popular and white kitchens are still popular – a popular ask, yes, but that doesn’t mean that’s where clients end up.

What’s a movie, TV show or place to visit that features fantastic design?

The Tony Stark mansion in the Ironman movie. The house is CGI and not real, but it’s still amazing! 

What’s your favorite “other room” (non-kitchen, non-bath) project and why?

A craft room – because I love doing crafts and scrapbooking. Oh, and I did a wrapping room once. Think about the ultimate space for wrapping gifts – that’s what it was. It was awesome.

On the commercial side, I’m working on a cigar room right now. The research process has been fun. It’s next to a barber shop space I designed.

 What’s something you bring to the table?

Making things come alive. I had a chance to learn here under Gail Drury. Designers learn how to dream and draw with technical specificity in school, yes, but this is where I cut my teeth. I was a receptionist here 22 years ago while I was in school. I worked my way up to assistant designer, then senior designer and then left to start my own firm. It’s so great to come full circle and be back here to carry on a tradition of excellence in design that was so well-established by Gail.

Any tips, tricks or advice for customers as they head into a project?

Pull out your travel photos. Go through ’em. Look at what caught your eye in those places. I’ll bet you saw colors you love. Don’t be afraid of color. Look at your favorite art – are there any paintings or other kinds of artwork that speak to you?

Think of designing a space like you think of fashion. We’re all influenceable, yes, but don’t we eventually end up wearing who we really are? I mean, look at the many unflattering fashion things that come and go. The resurgance of high-waisted jeans are a good example. If you think they’re unflattering, you’re right – so don’t wear them! Just as you don’t wear things that don’t fit you properly, you can say ‘no’ to what you personally don’t like, and ‘yes’ to what you know you like. This applies to white kitchens or mixed metals or whatever is trending that you truly like or don’t like. Does it look good? Do you feel pressured to impress people or do you really truly like it? As long as you know for sure that you’re choosing what you truly like, you can’t go wrong!

About Drury Design Kitchen and Bath Studio

Founded by Gail Drury, CMKBD in 1987, Drury Design’s Client-Focused Design™ approach integrates design recommendations, materials selection, and construction management into one seamless customer design, project management, and build experience. For kitchen, bath, and home remodeling ideas view Drury Design’s design portfolio or stop by the studio at 512 N. Main Street in downtown Glen Ellyn, Illinois.