Finding her niche in interior design

From left: Pamela H. Newton, Debra Hupman and Jennifer Barnes look on=ver design plans for a client of Crative Kitchens & Bath. Photo by Brad Wilson
From left: Pamela H. Newton, Debra Hupman and Jennifer Barnes look on=ver design plans for a client of Crative Kitchens & Bath. Photo by Brad Wilson

Debra Hupman actually began her interior design career as a child in Lebanon, Ky.

“I was always giving my mom advice on designing and picking out fabrics,” she said. “I re-arranged my room all the time.”

At the University of Kentucky, Debra originally planned to major in art.

“I had a smidge of talent, but at UK I was out of my element,” she said. “Then I discovered interior design, where I still get to draw.”

After graduating from UK in 1978, Debra worked in general interior design until finding her niche in kitchen and bath design. An Allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers, she has earned the Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD) and Certified Bath Designer (CBD) designations from the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

In 2016, Debra will celebrate her 30-year anniversary at Creative Kitchen & Bath, an employee-owned entity that is a subsidiary of Masters’ Supply, a wholesale distributor of plumbing products. On April 23, Creative Kitchen & Bath will stage a grand opening of its new showroom at 1141 Industry Road.

Debra’s team includes designer Pam Newton, CKD, and Jennifer Barnes, a designer/plumbing specialist. Depending on the products selected by their clients, an average kitchen renovation can cost between $30,000 and $90,000.

“My motto is to make a space fun, functional and fabulous,” Debra said. “Most days, it’s a great way to spend the day.”

Updated spaces

Each project begins with Debra visiting a client’s home, discussing their wish list and measuring the space. Back in her office, she works on designs, giving her client several different ideas. Next, the team works on pricing and ordering the custom cabinetry, countertops, plumbing and lighting fixtures.

Meanwhile, a contractor prepares the kitchen and/or bath space for the designers. Many of their renovations include tearing down walls to open a kitchen to a living and dining area or removing a closet to enlarge a bath.

“Kitchens and baths are the hardest working parts of the house,” Debra said. “A kitchen can get outdated so fast. Every 20 years, they need remodeling. You may be taking out the builder cabinets, the electronics and the appliances.”

The Creative Kitchen & Bath designers work with Pieratt’s to help their customers choose new appliances. They recommend local interior designers to work on other issues such as fabric choices for window treatments and upholstery.

“There are so many choices,” Debra said. “When some clients come in, they say it’s too much for them, so I’m here to guide them along the way, working with their budget and their timeline.”

Today’s homeowners are much more knowledgeable about interior design than when Debra began her career. She thinks the Pinterest and Houzz websites are great tools where clients can collect design ideas.

“If they save things in an idea book, pretty soon you will find a pattern,” she said. “If they’re saving all white kitchens, that means they want a white kitchen.”

Debra’s own home has become an empty nest in recent years. She and husband Steve, a commercial real estate broker, have three children.

Daughter Ashton, 26, attends Columbia School of Law at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Son Benton, 22, is a senior communications major at UK. Daughter Ann Merrick, 20, is a film major at Western Kentucky University.

Much to Debra’s amusement, Ann Merrick has also chosen a minor in interior design.