Kelly Cleveland is two key things: 1. She is a consummate professional, able to manage highly complex situations (and personalities!) with grace and calm under pressure. Kelly has an incredible ability to negotiate her way through even the most difficult of scenarios and I found her to be a rock of certainty and calm under the most torturous of situations – both highly useful skills in an industry filled with details and personal choices being constantly made (and changed).
…and 2. Kelly is a unique individual – a master of great and distinct personal style. She delivers the unexpected, yet perfect finishing touch to every project she has worked on, and provides a unique vision to each client she works with. There is no doubt that she has left her clients thrilled, and her published projects serve as a testament to the timeless quality of her work. By developing a thorough understanding of her client’s personalities she has the uncanny ability to deliver the color you didn’t see coming, the furniture you never thought would work (but did!) and the home you always hoped for. With all this she continually brings a ‘lasting quality’ to her projects which allow her to stand proudly beside her body of work as an enduring design legacy.
Finally I simply adore her as a person (can you tell?). She is the MOST delightful soul you will ever have the privilege to work with. You may even find yourself inventing reasons to call her up for a project. I know I have!
Landis Smithers, New York, NY
Not only is Kelly an absolute pleasure to work with, but she guided me ever so graciously and gracefully through the design process. She helped me to find things I absolutely love, but couldn’t have and wouldn’t have picked out on my own. I still pinch myself at how beautiful the rugs are, how gorgeous the sofa is and how smashing the chairs are. That is a talent! And it doesn’t hurt that she has impeccable taste.
Maggie Testore, Oak Park, IL
Before our recent move to Houston we hired Kelly based on a recommendation from a dear friend. And I am SO glad we did! Even though Houston was not her home city you would’ve thought it was. The way Kelly did her research, even before she got here, was unbelievable. She identified and contracted some of the top-rated vendors in town – the most sought-after painters, paper hangers, fabricators, art dealers and installers. These are resources everyone in Houston dreams of using. I was amazed at how well she orchestrated everything. I never had to deal with a thing. It was totally stress-free.
What distinguished Kelly from other designers I’ve worked with is that she took the time to get to know my family and what we were hoping for in our new home. She asked us seemingly obscure questions about our childhood and about areas in our home that were ‘comfort zones’, etc. No one else asked us these questions and now I know why they are integral to her process. She never once forgot the things I told her at our first meeting and she made our house look, feel and function as a HOME.
Our last designer was more concerned with making our house look the way she thought it should look like – based on the architecture of the structure. She wasn’t necessarily concerned with how we wanted our home to ‘feel’. It didn’t seem to be a big deal then because I was so busy – but I always felt so out of touch with the process and where the design of MY home was going.
I knew that with this project I wanted to be more involved, but I also knew I didn’t know a lot either. I knew what I wanted my new home to kind of feel like, but I didn’t know how to get there. Kelly took the time to teach me. She would translate for me. She taught me a lot. It was like getting a design education every time we got together. I felt like I was shopping with a friend who only wanted to pick out things I truly loved. I never felt self-conscious. She was respectful with her thoughts and opinions about what I liked. Imagine that.
When we began the design of our home, my kids (who are all away at college and only visit on break) were in awe of her. Kelly kept asking questions about my children and she’d listen to stories I’d tell. Who else does that? They loved how Kelly put personal pieces together. When they visit, they always notice how she weaved their stories and things into our house. And even though they never lived here, to this day they say it feels like home.
Kelly’s patience to continue searching for items that were truly special was so incredible – and she left space for me. She would say “we haven’t found the right thing and we don’t have to fill up that space today”. Kelly was also able to take the ‘things’ that we had from our last house and reuse or re-purpose so many of them. And those pieces she kept? Well, they looked like they were commissioned for our home. Kelly never looked at anything I owned and said “yuk” (well, except for my dried flower arrangements!).
Claudia Bitonte, Houston, TX
Right from our initial meeting I felt that Kelly achieved some big insights about what I was looking for in a new home. I have two young children (three if you include my husband) who are extremely active and have so many diverse interests. The questions Kelly initially asked us proved to me that she wanted to understand ‘us’ (not just what we ‘wanted’) and that gave me a lot of confidence. She wanted to understand the objects and aesthetics that were part of our DNA – the things that light us up.
Kelly included me in the process and explained the whys of the design decisions we were making, so each choice we made was not imposed but rather empowered. She really wanted to know who we were and how we live, as well as how the ‘future us’ wanted to live. This understanding lead to the design of ‘our’ home – and it was 100% ‘our’ family. Even after five years I still love our place. I still love the colors and the fabrics and the flow. A designer can’t achieve that if they don’t understand what their client’s day-to-day is like. Kelly spent the right amount of time to understand my family and our needs.
Kelly’s follow-up and follow-through was also first rate – she brought calm to what, with other designers, could be described as an inherently stressful process. The magic is that she really does know and understand you. But, you do have to be self-aware and be willing to go through some self-discovery. Kelly’s ideas become even more appropriate, and powerful, when you are willing to let go and let her take the lead. You don’t have to necessarily know what you want, but you do have to know who you are – and Kelly can get you there.
One of my biggest concerns with hiring a designer was having an assurance that we could get the job done within our time-table. I didn’t want to spend years designing my home. Working with Kelly, we found that she was organized, efficient and smart – and the way she approached other projects told me that she was somebody that would execute what she set out to do.
Designing or redesigning a space is always more expensive and time-consuming than what we think it should be. A very special quality Kelly has, is that she can walk the line between being empathetic to that frustration from the client side while creating an oasis of calm. For instance, she knows the fridge will arrive when it’s supposed to arrive and not to get stressed out about it. I’m a Type A personality, extremely busy, and I want everything done now on my time-frame! Kelly had the ability to talk me through my stress and she proved she could get things done and done right. When the project didn’t go exactly as planned she was a lovely emotional partner and made me feel like everything would work out…and it did.
Liz Vaccariello, New Jersey
Kelly did nothing short of an amazing job with the design of my retail store Sugarcup Trading. She has created a warm and inviting shopping experience where kids feels welcome and adults love to visit. Kelly successfully merged commercial utility with residential posh. I searched all over for the right design firm and am so excited that I did not have to look very far afield. Not only is she a fantastic local business, she’s a darned gorgeous mom as well! Kel, thank you for a job well done!
Michelle Vanderlaan, Owner, Sugarcup Trading, Oak Park, IL
Everyone (let me repeat ‘everyone!) raves about our home and it’s all because of Kelly. The design ideas she delivered for our home are sophisticated, calming and eye-catching all at once – much more than we ever could have done on our own. Kelly has great relationships with quality furniture makers, drapery makers, etc., that help make her process go smoothly – without angst or stress. She’s a pleasure to work with and we recommend her highly!
Stephen Reidy – San Francisco, CA
Kelly found us on Houzz.com and contacted us for a project she had in our neck of the woods – two custom vanities. She flew in from Chicago to New Jersey to collaborate on the project with the owner and her subs, I being her millworker. The experience was wonderful and Kelly is truly a master at her craft. Sometimes distance matters and the exchange of information and ideas suffer – but not in this case. I would highly recommend Kelly for any projects you might have.
Rolf Hoppe, R J Hoppe, Inc., Newark, New Jersey