When a client anointed interior designer Kim Elliott-Peterson “Queen of the Potty,” she leaned into the moniker. As the owner of KEP Interior Designs, Inc, she has lost count of how many bathrooms she’s designed over the years. “Hundreds,” she says laughing, in shock herself at the number.
“I love my work in general and love creating all sorts of interiors. But designing bathrooms is always particularly rewarding,” she says. “They’re a high ticket room to renovate, and people don’t go into it willy-nilly. Most often, the bathrooms are pretty outdated by the time the clients are ready to remake them.” That makes the before/after transformation fun, not to mention dramatic.
Kim first meets with the client to make sure that the teaming is the right fit. “Feeling comfortable with your designer is key,” she says, noting that she’s stepping into some truly intimate spaces when renovating something like a master bedroom or bath. “Conversations can get pretty detailed, down to ‘do you shave in the shower?’ If so, ‘do we need to install a mirror for the face, or a toe-hold for the legs?’
“It’s a very customized space,” she continues. “That’s what makes it fun. You get exactly what you want.”
After the initial meeting, she tours the entire home to ensure the new design is cohesive with the design elements that already exist throughout. “Some homes have a more natural design, while others can be more blingy,” she says. “It’s important to play to the style of the house. I don’t want to design a bathroom that doesn’t match.”
This is also when she goes over the client’s wish list, noting that sometimes the space will dictate some elements. “We might not be able to check all the boxes,” she says since things like room size and existing plumbing lines can influence what she can do. But, she strives to give her clients as much as possible.
A good designer is a little like a therapist, and at times, Kim asks her clients to dig deep when making a big change. “Say a client wants to remove a tub, for example. This will impact the resale value of your home. I have to tell them that, and point out that perhaps a tub is no use to you now, but what about later, maybe when there are grandchildren. It’s my job to say these things.”
Once these details are sorted, the fun really begins. Kim starts with the hardscape, bringing three palates of tile for the client to choose from. Kim is a self-professed color addict, so this means her choices are far from bland. “Selecting colors is one of my favorite aspects of the design process,” she says, pointing out that she is sensitive to hue, value, and saturation. After picking the tile palate, she and the client run through the tones and colors of the vanity. “From there, we can add in the fixtures, paint, and even fabric.”
Kim graduated from URI with a degree in textiles and design, and she often incorporates textured elements into her work, even in a space that leans heavily on porcelain. “For a powder room, it’s more of a jewel box,” she says, noting that a space like that — used less often and mostly for guests — can be fussier, so she might add something like grass cloth wallpaper as a design element. A master bath or a children’s bath, however, needs more function. But items like window treatments, shower curtains, or even a whimsical bathmat can help soften the space. “It’s often those extras that add a touch of class and style to make the space truly one of a kind.”
After the tile and vanity are decided, Kim adds her trademark design flourishes, such as working with lighting that enhances the space. “I love sconce lighting and often mount lights into a piece of mirrored glass,” she says. This serves a dual purpose: it gives the space additional light without additional fixtures, and the sparkling reflection from the mirror is stunning.”
Kim also leans into decorative tile in showers, creating horizontal or vertical patterns to give the utilitarian space more visual interest. She brings in artwork and accessories that stand up to the rigors of the space while enhancing the ambiance of the other design elements. “Like adding jewelry to an outfit,” she explains. “It adds to the aesthetic value without distracting from the whole.”
“I try not to be trendy,” she continues, pointing out that the design will outlive anything too of-the-moment since bathrooms get renovated so infrequently. “There is a way to be fun and in-vogue without being trendy.”
While Kim may be the “Queen of the Potty,” she also sees her work as an opportunity to change people’s perceptions of interior designers. “Over the years, designers got a bad rap and are often seen as pushy. That’s not how I work,” she says. “Working with a designer can be lots of fun and can save you time and stress that comes with a renovation. I might not always personally love what the clients pick, but I love it for them.”
Whether you are updating an aging bathroom into a sanctuary or planning a full-scale home renovation, Kim can help you realize your dream project. “The most gratifying part of my job is helping people to create the home they have longed for,” she says. “The thing that makes me the happiest at the end of a project is when I leave the client with a hug. I know they’re thrilled with the space I’ve created for them, and that I’ve made a friend!”
KEP Interior Designs, Inc • 401-451-8922
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