Interior Designer Spotlight: Melissa Sakell of Kenwood Kitchens


Congrats on being recognized as one of the Thirty Under 30, Class of 2019, by the NKBA! What other awards or recognitions are you proud to have received?
Thank you so much! It was a huge honor and accomplishment for me. Being recognized as part of the program and getting to meet all of the current and past honorees at KBIS 2019 was an experience I will never forget. I have met so many amazing designers and industry professionals and have had a lot of opportunities because of it so I am very grateful for that. I also won first place in Regional Design contest with Wood Mode cabinetry in September of 2018 for a large kitchen remodel project. That was my first big award so that one will always mean a lot to me as well.


What do you love most about your job?
I love working with different people every day and being able to take the ideas in their heads or from their idea books and apply them to their spaces and make it real for them. Working with them and helping them make it all come together to be exactly what they wanted is my absolute favorite part of my job. Making my clients happy with their renovations for years to come makes all the hard work that goes into it completely worth it.

Have you always wanted to be a designer? What inspired you to become an interior designer?
I’ve always loved interiors and the way being in a certain space can completely affect your mood and how you do things. At one point I considered being a veterinarian because I have a great love for animals, but my right brain won that argument. And I am glad it did because I truly love what I do. I mainly focus on kitchen and bathroom designing and help a little with interiors when requested, but my true love is kitchens and bathrooms. They really are the perfect marriage of form and function in my eyes. Both spaces can be truly beautiful, but if they don’t work for the user every day, then all the beauty is lost, so you have to think about both equally when designing them.

Why did you choose the Virginia Tech Housing Design Program?
I actually started at Virginia Tech with hopes of pursuing their Interior Design program but found it to be too commercial focused for my liking and that’s when I found the Housing Design Program. It focuses on residential interiors with a kitchen and bath design-focused program accredited by the NKBA. So it couldn’t have been more perfect for me, and it really helped me to develop my skills for kitchen and bath design because it is much more technical than other design focuses.


What’s trending in kitchen design in your region?
White... Although I am sure that is a very widespread trend, it has been very popular for the last 5 years that I have been working in the Annapolis area. Whites with blues and some greys mixed-in for a little color. But overall a neutral coastal pallet. Depending on the client, adding in a brighter backsplash or some brass hardware has also been something I have noticed trending lately, as well as open shelving instead of cabinetry on the walls.

Are there any design considerations/ challenges that are unique to your region?
Being by the water humidity is sometimes something that needs to be taken into consideration depending on the location of the home especially in an outdoor kitchen setting, where you need to be aware of materials that will work and not work with the big humidity swings we have with the seasons. There are also a lot of older historic homes in the area that can be quite tight and, because of their historical status, will require you to work within what is there. Altering exteriors and adding on can be a challenge, so you have to get creative and make use of every inch of space.


Describe your dream kitchen!
This is a tough one for me because I have found that the styles I like change a lot but the color palette does seem to stay the same. So, right now, I would say nothing too big; white perimeter cabinetry with a blue/green big island, marble-like quartz countertops, some rustic reclaimed wood open shelving, and probably a simpler backsplash because I like to bring in pops of color with accessories and change them as my mood/tastes change. A good wood hood is a must. I have never had a kitchen with great ventilation so that is at the top of my list along with a big farm sink (I have one now and could never go back). I would probably do brushed brass hardware even though it is trending right now I think it is such a classic look and would pop beautifully with that color palate.

Quick Fire Questions:
*Cat or dog? Dogs all the way.
*Coffee or tea? Coffee. I do usually to tea in the afternoon though so this one’s a little split
*Favorite season? Spring. I love watching everything come back to life after winter
*Favorite movie? I don’t know that I can pick just one, but About Time with Rachel McAdams is one I come back to a lot, lately.

How important is technology in your work? What app/ tech tool do you use for work that you absolutely love?
I have noticed it becoming more important recently and love collaborating with clients on Houzz through idea books. That is probably what I use the most. I also use an iPad during meetings for quick access to images and ideas.


What is the most important trait a designer must have?
I think it is more important to be a good listener. If you don’t listen to what your clients are telling you, there is no way you can translate that to create their dream space.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
When I am not working, you can find me outside, probably with my dog and husband. We really enjoy walking him by the water in our neighborhood and going on runs together when we can. I find doing things outside or working out, in general, helps me unplug and reconnect with myself, so I try to fit it in whenever I can.

If you were stuck on an island, what 3 items do you absolutely need to survive (aside from food, water, clothing, and shelter)?
My husband for sure. He can get us through anything. My dog because I can’t imagine life without him, and, maybe, a good supply of sunscreen. LOL, I am fair skinned so I burn pretty easy.

How can interested clients learn more about you and your services?
They can stop by the Kenwood Kitchens in Annapolis if they are in the area. You can also find me on Houzz by searching my name in the Pro section, and I am on Instagram and Facebook, my handle is Designs by Sakell. Just reach out to me on any of those platforms. I would love to help you create your new dream space!