Meet the faces behind three of Coronado’s successful interior design practices and the trends they see coming.
Jessica Tompane, owner and principal designer; Amy McKnight, senior designer
J Hill Interiors
“I feel like there’s nothing more rewarding,” said Jessica Tompane, owner and principal designer at J Hill Interiors, “than when you come to the end of a project and you’ve done that final installation — the furniture and accessories and artwork — and the client walks in and you see their reaction. They are over and beyond thrilled.”
For each client, J Hill Interiors begins the design process with a meeting and questionnaire. And while every client will see and approve beforehand all the fabrics and furniture pieces that are going to go into the home (via actual pieces or on vision boards with product samples), Tompane finds that most clients aren’t able to fully visualize the end result. “So when they come there after the installation, they are genuinely surprised and delighted at the amount of thought and detail that goes into it.”
“And that’s why they hire us,” she said. “We have the training, the ability to understand scale, proportion, color.”
Sometimes clients contact her office first and if they need a general contractor, Tompane will suggest they secure three bids, and will make referrals if requested. “Every general contractor approaches a job differently,” she advised. “You want to feel good about the person you work with.”
Jessica Tompane hails from a small town in Texas and that same small-town ambiance is what drew her and her Navy husband to Coronado last year. The couple had met at the University of Colorado, where Jessica graduated with a double major in business and Spanish. They first moved to San Diego and after Jessica worked for a while in advertising, she realized she was blessed with a passion for interior design (which she had since childhood) and entrepreneurship. After working with other designers to hone her craft, she established J Hill Interiors in 2010 (Hill is her maiden name).
Tompane also moved her company to the island last November. J Hill Interiors’ offices are at 1307 Ynez Place, and Tompane plans to host a series of community design seminars in the remodeled space over the coming year. She and her team of designers are all members of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). McKnight holds a B.A. in interior design from Westwood College of Design and is pursuing certification for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification.
Tompane serves on the board of The Design League of San Diego and is excited about the group’s fundraiser set for February 2017. “It’s a series of room vignettes that will be staged on the Broadway Pier,” she said. “All the proceeds will go to the San Diego Center for Children.”
J Hill Interiors specializes in residential construction, including new construction, where they collaborate with architects and general contractors, as well as renovation work. The firm’s portfolio includes projects throughout country from Mission Beach to Mount Helix and Rancho Santa Fe. In Coronado, current project work includes new construction on F and H avenues and a full house remodel.
Tompane said she is often asked what kind of style the company does, to which she explains, “We do the style that fits within our clients’ visions. We’ve done everything from Spanish Revival to very modern. I think that speaks to our talent as well. We have the ability to challenge ourselves to do several looks and designs.”
“We work with a lot of families,” added McKnight, who has five children and whose real world experiences often come into play when advising young families. (The Tompanes welcomed their first child, daughter Paisley Sue, this summer.)
“Our company values are about relationships and results,” Tompane said. “Yes, we often are dealing with luxury design, but we are down-to-earth. We want our clients to use us now and come back to us in years to come.
“And as for results, we strive for quality — we use quality vendors and quality materials so that the design holds up over time.”
Whether their work for a client is a single room or an entire home, Tompane says that the over-arching goal is to improve their clients’ lifestyle — “The way their family lives in a space. Or when they have company over, they’ll have a sense of pride in the home.”
Trends that J Hill Interiors sees happening now and on the horizon include:
Tile detail. The use of the same material but in unique patterns, such as a subway tile in a basket-weave pattern.
Natural stone countertops and also “waterfall counters” in which the stone (or other material) carries over to the side of the counter (or kitchen island) and extends to the floor for a modern, sleek look.
Outdoor fabrics used on indoor furniture. “They are getting so soft,” said Tompane. “There are so many options that offer durability and sheen.”
Black and white “Sharp contrasts are popular,” said McKnight. “Black accents in a white kitchen is trending now.”
Gold and rose metals “We use them in lighting, sconces, lamps and accent tables,” said Tompane. “We’ll sometimes do a mix of metal finishes; oil-rubbed bronze cabinet hardware with a chrome kitchen faucet and a gold chandelier, for instance.”
Eclectic design with the use of “busier” patterns. “Jacquard florals are popular and so is toile, which we might use as an accent, such as a pillow, an ottoman or an accent chair,” Tompane said. “Toile could adapt to an Asian design or be decidedly East Coast. We might use a jacquard pattern as a starter to pull colors from to make a concept for a room.”
Folding interior/exterior doors. “It’s a lasting trend, because it’s so functional for living in Southern California and makes a huge difference with lighting and the overall “wow” factor in a home,” says Tompane.
Jessica Nicolls and Karyn Frazier
Designers Jessica Nicolls and Karyn Frazier have worked together since 1996, beginning their collaboration at a fashion boutique in their native Truckee, Calif. Frazier moved to Coronado shortly after Nicolls married local builder Kraig Nicolls.
After taking classes in interior design at San Diego’s Design Institute, Jessica Nicolls established Bungalow 56 with Frazier four years ago; the company moved into offices at 1022 C Ave. two-and-a-half years ago, “which dovetailed with when I had Hadley,” said Jessica, referring to the birth of the Nicolls’ daughter. Kraig Nicolls operates his contracting business, Nicolls Design Build, from the rear office and the two companies often work on joint projects.
The Bungalow 56 office also doubles as a showroom and is open on weekends and by appointment. The partners’ background in retail is evident in the large range of accessories that potential clients can spy through their large picture window. Case in point: “This cute couple who had just purchased a home in the Coronado Cays peeked in our windows and then called us up,” said Frazier. “The wife said, “We love your style and we’ve ordered our large furniture pieces. Can you finish off the design in your look?’ So when the couple was gone for a weekend, we loaded up a U-haul and got to work. When they came home, their house was completely furnished.”
Nicolls added that “We get excited when we have assignments like that! A lot of our clients live out of town and they want to be able to enjoy themselves when they’re here. So they have us do the work while they’re away. We can easily communicate via email, sending photos back and forth.”
At the end of each project, Bungalow 56 will often stage the home for photographs for their portfolios. “We style the countertops and shelves and once it has pillows and throws it has a homey feel,” Nicolls said. “We let the client see what we’ve done, and they can purchase whatever they’d like to keep.”
As far as price goes, Nicolls said “Most people aren’t sure what their budget is.” Frazier added, “Or they’re afraid to say what their budget is.”
To start the process off, Nicolls will often point to a couple of key design pieces in their showroom, like a sofa that comes in a number of fabrics and textures. “It’s always good to spend a bit more on a sofa and rug and then find alternatives for accessories,” she advised.
“People can get overwhelmed by the process,” Frazier said. “The good news is I feel we are pretty affordable.”
Among the design trends that Bungalow 56 sees are:
Mediterranean influences. “Like white walls with exposed wood beams,” said Frazier.
Graphic tiles “They are made out of cement and sealed,” Nicolls said.
Matte black fixtures, “even appliances,” said Frazier.
Brass fixtures with black or oil-rubbed bronze finishes
Family-friendly fabrics. “We work with a lot of families,” said Nicolls. “I can relate to their need for rugs that aren’t going to fall apart and furniture fabrics that are durable and washable. Clients who want to rent their homes out have these same concerns.”
Dominique Tharp is the lead interior designer at Qualcraft Construction, owned by Mike Jacobs-Bonnett, who moved his company to Coronado earlier this year. The company’s offices at 1003 Isabella Ave. also serve as a design center with several built-in vignettes of kitchen cabinetry, office and bathroom spaces. “A number of our clients are walk-ins,” said Tharp. “And we also get a number of referrals from architect Kevin Rugee, just across the street who Mike has worked with for several years.”
Tharp graduated in 1996 with a degree in interior design from San Diego State University and earlier had been a general design major at UCLA. “Interior design is something I’ve done since I was a kid,” she said. “I always wanted to pick out my own wallpaper, bedspread and paints — everything.”
After raising her family and designing her home in Alpine, where she still resides, Tharp established her interior design firm in 2003 and became an allied member of ASID in 2004.
She began working on several projects with Jacobs-Bonnett a decade ago and in 2013, partnered with his company to help streamline its interior design process.
“For me, interior design is a dream job,” Tharp said. “You know what they say, ‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.’”
Among the design trends Tharp sees now and into the near future:
Manufactured marble. “Everyone wants marble right now, but a lot of marble is not user-friendly; it stains easily, so there is a huge trend toward manufactured marble like Dektron and Neolith. These are popular with the whites and grays that people often like in Coronado kitchens, which work well with cottage design.”
Porcelain planks. “This flooring, which we have throughout our design center, is actually porcelain tile, but it looks like wood, complete with saw marks and knotholes. It’s super durable and a perfect flooring solution for a seaside community where wood is not user friendly for coming and going to the beach.”
Soft and serene bedrooms. “In the bedrooms and also family rooms, colors are starting to shift to taupe, away from grays, to warm things up a bit. We’ve also moved away from an ‘accent wall’ in the bedroom with one strong color, to a more serene, calm overall feel.”
Area rugs instead of carpeting. “People are moving away from wall-to-wall carpeting. It’s harder to keep clean and holds allergens. Area rugs are more versatile and you can change them out for color.”