About James Howard
James Howard has been a kitchen and bath designer at Alspaugh Kitchen and Baths in St. Louis, MO since 1984. The company has been in business since 1951 and is considered the premier showroom in the area. James' earlier background includes several years in various construction and millwork positions. His work experience, along with his fine arts and architecture formal training, have given him the tools to succeed in a field that requires both creativity and the technical ability to coordinate complex projects. His work has been featured in local and national publications.
Regional Award Winner
Where do you find design inspiration?
I consider myself a student of the work of others. I find inspiration in art, architecture, millwork, and furniture, with millwork being my greatest resource. I still attend design seminars and also review the results of various design competitions both within and outside of my industry. I feel that culture is no more than accumulated knowledge that has been improved upon and added to our library of knowledge and skills.
How does your aesthetic stand out amongst other designers/architects?
I view my projects as artistic endeavors and draw upon my formal training in the Fine Arts. The principles I draw upon for my designs are:
- Create multiple focal points descending from major to minor importance Balance and symmetry (or asymmetry) Rhythmic or repetitive patterns Proportion.
- Back to the artist's analogy, I consider my medium to be the "box", i.e. the room box, work center boxes, appliance boxes, cabinet boxes. My task is to arrange, apply decorative elements, and assemble these boxes into a beautiful piece of functional art.
What is your biggest challenge as a designer/architect?
With the advent of the online photo albums I am being inundated with too many conflicting design ideas, some which are good, some not so good. Sorting through and finding some commonality of ideas appears to be a major challenge for me. Clients want to defer to the photo album and are less interested in original solutions that are more attuned to their situation.
What does the Sub-Zero and Wolf Kitchen Design Contest mean to you?
This is my second regional win, plus one of my projects was selected to be published in "Living Kitchen" in spite of not winning regionally. To even be included again as one of the best in my field amongst other entrants of this caliber is quite the honor. Being affiliated with the best of appliance manufacturers and the best of kitchen design competitions adds immeasurably to my credibility in the marketplace. A synergy occurs when so much talent and winning designs are on display in one place and it certainly rubs off. In this competitive industry, confidence in ones methods and abilities need constant reinforcement and validation. This competition does that and more.
What are some of the current design trends?
The rise of the contemporary/transitional decorative themes that appear to even influence the traditional genre is what is current. Less ornamentation and more emphasis on simplicity is what is being requested across the board. Specifically, the use of stainless steel front appliances in lieu of wood panels is stronger than ever. Recess frame and panel cabinet doors and increased use of quartz counter surfaces are also very strong. Shades of white and gray are the dominant cabinet finishes. It is a fashion business, thankfully.
Where do you see kitchen design going in the next 5 years?
Five years may be too far forward considering the pace of innovation. The kitchen of the future will likely be one of technological advancements, not visual enhancements. In the last year alone I have seen countertop sensor pads operating remote backsplash TV screens, connected appliances, remote controlled appliances, auto generated shopping lists, 3-D printed edibles, etc. I recently saw an oven with an internal camera so you can watch your bread bake. I do not know how we can place any more "stuff" in the kitchen, but someone will come up with an overall concept and make a fortune.