The greatest fear for anyone embarking on a major kitchen remodel is that after all the effort, decisions and careful planning, it won’t be what they had hoped for. Old-fashioned conceptual drawings and two-dimensional floor plan designs simply don’t allow them to “feel” what their new space will be like. Chris Ely has changed that paradigm. His designs are three-dimensional animations that utilize representative colors, appliances, flooring materials, existing artwork in the home and more so they can “walk through” their new space in any direction. South Charlotte Lifestyle talked with Chris about his approach.

What caused you to begin doing designs in such detail?

I’ve been designing spaces for clients for more than 25 years. We didn’t have the tools then that are available now. In order for clients to get a good feel for the size of and clearances around their kitchen island, I would buy large sheets of white cardboard and cut them to the exact size, so they could walk around the “island” in their own kitchen. I did anything that could help them really internalize what it was going to be like. For all of my clients, how the space feels to them—and how they feel when they are in it—is the step that goes beyond the traditional considerations of the function and appearance. I had a client tell me that I should have included a trundle bed in her kitchen because she loved being there so much, she wanted to sleep there.

What do you do to make sure you understand what they want?

I do a little talking and a lot of listening. I spend time in their home talking about the things they love in particular and more importantly why they love them. What is the feeling they are trying to achieve? I try to understand how they are going to use the space. Do they like to entertain? Do they like family or friends to gather in the kitchen while they are working? Today, the kitchen is not only for cooking; it is the gathering place in the home, and even if people don’t cook much, it still has a strong role to play in bringing people together.

Isn’t it a lot of extra work?

Not always. More effort increases the chance that it will be exactly what my client expects—success from my standpoint. The software takes time to learn, but it just keeps getting better and better, and my customers are delighted when they see a “video” of their new space. And it is worth it.

Are you also a contractor?

No. Years ago, I was a high-end custom home builder and remodeler, and that construction experience allows me to design to a budget and advise my clients on the remodel process. Now I focus on getting the design perfect and providing contractors the drawings they need to accomplish the remodel. I work with a good set of trusted contractors that I can bring to any project.

What is the best part of what you do?

No question about it—transforming each space in a very personalized way and watching my clients’ newfound joy and satisfaction. I discovered years ago that the living space is a means to this end rather than an end in itself.