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Sisler Johnston's most recent project was the newly opened Palms at Ponte Vedra, which features a dining area fireplace that stretches to the ceiling.
Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Sep. 9, 201512:00 PM EST

Workspace: Judith Sisler Johnston

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Interior designer understands the psychology behind colors
by: Kevin Hogencamp  Contributing Writer

Having a psychology degree has been a huge advantage through the years for Jacksonville interior designer Judith Sisler Johnston.

Take colors, for example. They matter much more than people realize, Sisler Johnston says.

“People don’t necessarily take the time to think about it, but on a cloudy day, you experience different emotions than you do on a sunny day,” she said.

That’s where interior designers come in. They get paid to think about such things.

Introducing “greige,” a cross between gray and brown that is among this year’s hottest design trends in living spaces, according to Sisler Johnston.

Rather than cool grays, Sisler Johnston is increasingly using “greige” paint and fabrics, which she says helps the room’s accents to stand out.

She says her customers are responding positively.

“We have had a beige trend for the last 30 years and, lately, it’s trending back toward gray,” she says. “Millennials were just coming along in the ‘80s, so gray is new to them — and they like it.”

Colors that Sisler Johnston describes as “grounded” –– particularly “greige” — are chiefly appealing to people because they are warm, she says.

The president of her design company, Sisler Johnston has worked with clients throughout Florida for 30 years.

Her design work has been featured on television and in books, newspapers and magazines.

In an interview at Palms at Ponte Vedra, a newly opened assisted living and memory care facility with Sisler Johnston’s interior designs, she described the difference between trends and fads.

“Trends are something that you’re not seeing for the first time and you’re certainly not seeing for the last time,” she said. “Unlike fads, trends have some degree of staying power.

“I don’t do fads.”

Here are some trends that Sisler Johnston says are as hot as ever this year.

Chef kitchens

More and more, Sisler Johnston-embellished homes have commercial-quality appliance packages with names like Thermador, Viking and Sub-Zero, and feature French-door refrigerators, and six-burner or convection cook tops.

“Instead of jutting out from the cabinetry, appliances are now being manufactured to sit flush with the cabinets for a sleek, streamlined modern appeal,” she says.

Double upper cabinetry is the preferred choice for 10-foot-plus ceiling heights. The top cabinets can either be functional storage for holiday, dishware, for example, or they can be decorative.

“Lighting and glass fronts on the upper height allows for a display of collectibles or colorful dining plates and adds interest to the cabinetry,” she said.

Kitchen islands and family dining

It’s as much for efficiency as it is for style. Families are choosing counter-height kitchen islands and family dining areas over breakfast areas and formal dining rooms.

“The preparation island now becomes the breakfast bar,” she says.

The islands typically serve up to four people; the family dining spots sit six to eight.

“The broader trend is that since the recession, families are making practical use of every area of their home,” Sisler Johnston said.

Outdoor living spaces

There’s one particular trend that Sisler Johnston describes as important: creating outdoor living spaces.

Whether it’s under the sky in a patio area or within screened quarters, families are increasingly preparing meals, cooking and eating — in style — outside.

In more and more of the homes she designs, Sisler Johnston aims to create a useful, elegant place for backyard entertaining.

“I think we just discovered the fact that we lived in Florida and we want to spend time outside,” Sisler Johnston said.

Not your mother’s ceiling fan

Ceiling fans have always had function. But they aren’t boring, anymore.

“The contemporary art elements in ceiling fans this year are adding a lot to rooms. Maybe more than that, the lighting has been improved and is now an integral part of the fixture, instead of something just sticking down below,” she said.

Fusing Old World and contemporary

This year, almost as a rule, Sisler Johnston is mixing authentic natural elements with modern materials like salvaged and wormy woods with mirror glass and metals in furniture pieces.

“Instead of getting all the pieces in one place,” she says, “you can buy one piece here and another piece there.”

Bedrooms and common areas are particularly benefiting from this vision in decorating.

Couches in the lobby area of Palms at Ponte Vedra are joined by a fashionable table and a rustic end table, for example, and chests that once might be used in a foyer are being more practically as end tables.

“I’m putting modern textures — contemporary pieces — in the same room as Old World or classical pieces. There was a time recently that this was never done,” Sisler Johnston said.

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