MH+D Inside Out: Jeanne Rapone and Kate Kyle Talk Trust With Clients and Each Other

Jeanne Rapone grew up as a New Yorker; Kate Kyle, as a Mainer. In New York, Rapone designed kitchens and bath for multiple showrooms on the North Shore of Long Island, and after moving to southern Maine, she started her own design business. As her workload grew, Rapone brought on her friend, Kyle, first as bookkeeper and then as project manager. Rapone and Kyle recently formed their own company, Centerline Design, and have perfected an easy rapport and a dynamic approach to design that cements the success of their business.

Q. Why did you end up going into kitchen and bathroom design?

Rapone: Kitchens are the center of the home, and because they’re the most technical, that’s where most people need help. I like this side of design because function, traffic flow, and space planning allow people to move comfortably throughout their space. I initially brought on Kate to do bookkeeping, and I quickly saw that she had a good eye and great style. At this point in my business, my clients wanted hand-holding. They wanted someone to help them pick out everything from cabinetry and countertop stone to tile, plumbing fixtures, and paint colors, and that’s not my favorite part of design. I prefer to focus on the details and mechanics of the design process. It worked out that Kate loves that part of it.

Kyle: It was a natural progression. When I started bookkeeping, I was already going to the meetings to get a feel for the projects. Our clients wanted help navigating the shopping experience because they were overwhelmed by their choices. I started meeting the people and looking at how they lived, and to create their visions I helped to establish their style, set them up with vendors, make selections, manage the pricing, and see it through to installation.

Q. How has design changed in the past few decades?

Rapone: In the past it was mostly men that used to plan and construct homes, and often they created a home without consulting women or understanding how families functioned. I think the materials changed once women got involved, and more focus went toward the flow and function of the space. It’s been a little bit of an evolution. Now male and female designers know how to create spaces that work for families.

Q. How would you define your different roles in the business?

Kyle: Jeanne wants whatever we design to work for our clients. I want it to look like them. I’m looking at what you’re wearing; I’m looking at your couches and the fabrics you use. I want it to reflect who the clients are and how they live. But we collaborate on everything, and it’s really the combination of our approaches that makes us successful.

Q. Who’s your ideal client?

Rapone: Someone who respects the process and trusts us. And we want them to be happy with the end result, too.