Sponsored content by Humanity Home & Cabinetry
When Kelly Silverstein was growing up in Santa Rosa, she often acted as her father’s building assistant.
Her parents owned properties, including rental properties, and her father, a true DIYer, was often doing repairs and upgrades to them himself. Kelly picked up an extra paintbrush, held the board steady for him while he hammered and fished out the exact tool he needed when he was up to his elbows in a project. When she was 15, while her contemporaries were reading Seventeen Magazine, she purchased her first subscription to Architectural Digest.
Today, she is the president of Humanity Home & Cabinetry, winner of the Best Interior Designer and Best Kitchen/Bath Remodeler in the Best of the North Bay 2023 contest for Sonoma County. She has a jaw-dropping full-service interior design showroom and now employs herself, four additional interior designers, a drafter, a showroom manager and a bookkeeper. “It has taken time and a true commitment to excellence to create a team of talented professionals who are truly the best at what they do. I couldn’t be more proud of my team.
“I came at this career backwards. I didn’t think it was something I could make a career of,” Kelly said.
Instead of taking design classes, Kelly went to law school and practiced law in Sonoma County for 10 years. During this time, she bought her first house and discovered she, too, had the fix-it gene, just like her father.
“Life happens,” she said.
Kelly had kids and a busy law career, but she continued to love renovating and interior design and satisfied those passions by designing for friends and family. And then more friends … their friends and their neighbors, etc.
Those gigs led to a part-time side business. But when the juggling of careers, two kids and her family got to be too much, she took a hard look at interior design and asked herself, “Why isn’t this what I do all the time?”
In 2008, she decided to make a full-time go of it, dedicating all of her “spare time” to studying design and becoming an expert in the industry. “Being a lawyer taught me how to research and how to competently seek solutions to a myriad of ‘problems.’ And a space in need of design is just a set of ‘problems’ to be solved,” Kelly said.
In 2012, she opened her first showroom in downtown Santa Rosa. By 2018 the growing business quadrupled and expanded into its current showroom location.
Kelly purposefully curated Humanity Home’s culture to place a high value on information and transparency. “Our job as designers isn’t only to create beautiful and functional spaces. If we lay the groundwork correctly and put it all down and make sure everyone is working from the same set of plans and assumptions, then we can avoid most, if not all, those construction nightmares people love to talk about,” she said.
Information is the key: “We’re educating our clients on the reality of what their project is going to entail, the reality of what it is going to cost, and we are letting them make decisions on how they want to invest in their project.
“We love to guide our clients, not just on the practical side of things, but also how to get the most out of their investment–what trends are on the horizon and what trends are at the end of their lifespan. That way our clients’ decisions can have more longevity.”
This methodical, technical and proactive approach to interior design is what sets Humanity Home & Cabinetry apart in the industry.
“We are constantly working to understand how things are built and how they’re made,” Kelly said, expressing deep admiration for the tradespeople who carry out the vision of the designer and must make all the elements of the project work. “We’re there to support our clients but also to work in collaboration with the trades. In order to do this competently, we need to understand the technical side of what we are designing.
“Partnership and collaboration are words we use a lot,” Kelly said about the personal approach she uses with clients and contractors.
“Some of our clients know what they want, and in that case, we take their ideas and create a finished product that is often better than expected,” she said. “Some clients don’t know what they want. In that case, we work closely with them to discover their true esthetic style and practical needs, which really starts with the question, ‘What makes you happy?’”
And the answer to that can drastically change from client to client. At HHC, Kelly and her team spend time really listening to their clients, their dreams, desires and even fears.
“Our end goal is to give our clients a unique space that meets their practical needs but also feeds their souls,” Kelly said.
When Kelly started HHC, she was mainly providing residential design work, but as she and her team gained experience, she widened the size and scale of the company, which now includes commercial projects, such as wineries, tasting rooms, hotels and restaurants. While HHC continues to work on smaller projects, the company also takes on larger projects such as whole house remodels, rebuilds, accessory dwelling units and new home builds. HHC recently added drafting services to make the permitting process go smoother as more entities are requiring detailed technical plans and drawings.
“We love turning our clients’ dreams into a reality,” Kelly said. “We often hear from clients that their project turned out better than they even expected and/or ‘I would have never thought of that!’”
Eleanor Butchart of Santa Rosa, the owner of On Fire!, a fireplace and outdoor kitchen and outdoor living space store, is one of HHC’s satisfied customers. The first task for Eleanor was redesigning a 1961 kitchen and opening it up to the family room. She was thoroughly impressed by the massive project binder Kelly presented; Kelly creates one for every project.
“Kelly and her team were extremely thorough with the project binder,” Eleanor said. “Everyone there was so professional and helpful. They did such a beautiful job.”
Eleanor was so pleased that she has a second project–a major master bedroom and bathroom redo–scheduled with HHC. “The planning got a little out of hand with my champagne tastes, and so now we are in the process of refining it to fit my boxed-wine budget.
“The designers are so clever that the ‘revised’ design looks and feels just as amazing as the original, more expensive version so that I don’t feel like I’m compromising anything!”
Donna Riley and Dave Hoppes, married for 36 years, hired HHC to revamp their cramped kitchen and expand it into a dining room and great room. They loved the results and credited HHC’s organization and thoroughness with stopping problems before they could start.
“Kelly worked closely with our architect and provided some valuable input to ensure that we were pleased with the end result,” Dave said.
“Everything worked out beautifully. She has been so wonderful and attentive,” Donna said. “I had never used someone like her to do something like this. It made all the difference in the world to have Kelly and her team working with us. We would completely recommend Humanity Home. They were truly a gift for us. It was an amazing experience.”
Kelly, for the record, is always up for a challenge and enjoys creating designs based on an aesthetic that differs from her own.
“My style is constantly changing and is very much dictated by the architecture of whatever home or building I am currently in. And because I do this for a living, I rely a lot on what my partner likes. If he likes something, I will take that idea and make it the best it can be. Of course, I don’t always go along with his ‘crazy’ ideas, but a lot of them I do. Right now, we live in a ranch-style house that we converted into a very modern home. Next time, who knows?”
Kelly said she finds great satisfaction in helping her clients get the most out of their homes. “I want our clients to feel as happy about where they live as I do.”
For an idea about what your home or commercial project might entail, visit the website at Humanity-Home.com, where Kelly has painstakingly outlined what to expect, from the process, a “needs and wants” list to a detailed design checklist. Or reach out to HHC for an in-person site consultation.
“Our goal is to ensure our clients are happy with their end result. I’m really proud of the team I’ve created. I know our clients are being taken care of by the best in their field,” Kelly said.
Humanity Home & Cabinetry, 799 Piner Road, Suite A, Santa Rosa, CA 95403, 707-595-5046, showroom hours 9-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday, Humanity-Home.com.