Sophie Lubin, interior designer for REDCOM Design & Construction LLC, located in Westfield, NJ, has worked with the company for the past five years. She has worked on projects that include: Acura of Denville in Denville, NJ; Crystal Auto Mall in Green Brook, NJ; Modway Furniture in Dayton, NJ; Davis Acura in Langhorne, PA.

CSTD magazine had the opportunity to talk to Sophie about how she got started in the business, projects she has worked on and trends she sees in the industry.

CSTD: How did you first develop an interest in interior design?

SL: My mother really was my inspiration, starting from when I was 10 years old. She just has a great eye for design. Also, when I was in fifth grade, the HGTV show “Trading Spaces” really took off so I would watch that with her. I think everyone watching that show wanted to do interior design at that point because it was so trendy, but for me that excitement and inspiration never ended. As I went forward with school, I always had the thought in the back of my head that I wanted to do this for a living.

My parents also moved when I was in fifth grade, so my mom used me as her “design assistant.” I had two different bedrooms in the house that I was allowed to design, including knocking down a wall in one of the rooms and the bathroom. So I really made my mark all over the house.

CSTD: What were some of your first design experiences as a professional or as a student?

SL: When I was in high school, I took three years of a  summer course at Parsons School of Design and the School of Visual Arts. That’s when I was really introduced to the architecture aspect of interior design and that it wasn’t just what I had watched on “Trading Spaces.”

When I was in college, I interned at Anthropology as their Visual Merchandising intern. That was a great experience because I got to broaden my horizons and see what design was like from a retail perspective.

When I graduated college, I worked for a residential architecture firm for a year. That entailed designing for high-end, but very traditional clients.

I’ve been at REDCOM ever since, doing interior design for several different commercial facilities, from auto dealerships to office spaces and everything in between.

CSTD: How often does your company use stone in its designs?

SL: We use stone pretty frequently. We mainly use quartz, an engineered stone, on almost every project. Quartz has become the new granite for commercial spaces. Sometimes we use marble on specific projects, but quartz would be used 90% of the time.

We’ve used cultured stones at times on some elegant fireplaces as well as exterior applications when we’re trying to stay on our clients’ budgets but still get that look of real stone.

CSTD: How would you describe your company’s design philosophy?

SL: To provide the best possible solutions to our clients, that are the most effective, efficient and aesthetically pleasing. Because we are a design-build firm, we start working with our clients at the very beginning of the process, allowing us to really understand their wants and needs.

CSTD: What’s a project that you have done with stone and/or tile that you’re proud of, talk about it a bit:

SL: A project I am proud of was an auto dealership called Crystal Automall in Green Brook, NJ. The owner wanted a modern clean approach to the design, so in the bathrooms we did the same floor tile and wall tile, but we mixed up the sizes. It came out looking very clean and serene, almost spa-like, and then we used a really nice mosaic around the room along with some nice toilet partitions that had a metallic finish with a texture and that turned out to be a really big wow-factor for the owner in the end.

CSTD: How do you go about choosing stone for a project?

SL: So first, you have to establish a tone or a mood for the space that drives your design. Stone can be bold and in your face, or subtle and calming. It can look old or look new. It can transport you to other countries or cultures. Depending on the space, it can be visually exciting to contrast materials to make a statement, while other times, it may not work.

I’ve recently starting using different honing methods that completely transform the look of the stone as well.

CSTD: What advice would you offer to a young interior designer?

SL: You have an eye for detail in all aspects of your life and always have your eyes open for inspiration. Design changes every day, but it’s easy to fall into a rut. What makes a designer excellent is when they constantly experiment to see what works. It’s very scientific in that aspect.

CSTD: Talk about the popularity of quartz that you have seen. Why do you think it has become so popular?

SL: Ever since I have been in the industry, quartz has been favored over granite for commercial applications; it is much more durable. But on top of that, when a project requires a large quantity of material, quartz is your best bet—availability and color/pattern consistency are practically never a concern, as the material has pigments and resins added to the natural quartz that ensure consistency from slab to slab. With granite or other natural stones, you must go to a stone yard to select your slab; and if you need a massive quantity you may have to purchase multiple slabs of the same material. This increases the chances that the slabs will have visible variation—which for some applications may be okay, but for others could be a big problem.

Aesthetically, I think quartz has become popular because of its lack of movement. The trend I’m seeing with counters is that people are going away from the speckled, busy stones with lots of veining and movement, and instead favoring the more subtle, clean and modern materials. You get a really crisp look with these types of quartzes. Then there are quartzes that mimic natural stone, like granite and marble—some of those are really stunning, too. It’s a very versatile material and can look like a lot of other materials that it is not.

CSTD: Is white marble still the “in” thing right now? How much have you used it?

SL: Yes, absolutely. Carrara marble is virtually everywhere: I’m seeing it in jewelry, fashion, home accessories, etc. It has trickled down to Target and Walmart! I think people are drawn to it because it has a luxurious, glamorous feel, but it’s not over-the-top. Gray is very on-trend right now, and Carrara marble really works well with other gray tones because of its gray veining. I see it installed successfully in all sorts of interiors: industrial, rustic, farmhouse, modern, traditional…it works well with contrasting materials and it’s just a classic.

Pretty much every quartz manufacturer out there is mimicking Carrara marble in their product line; it’s a more economical solution that is more durable, especially for kitchens, where marble is more high maintenance.

CSTD: Are there any other trends out there that maybe haven’t taken off yet, but you see picking up steam?

SL: I’m seeing lots of tile that mimics other materials. The wood-look tile has been around for years, and it’s getting more and more realistic with technology advances. But I’m beginning to see a couple of brick looks, fabric/woven looks and metal looks. I am excited to see what’s next!