Chairma Design Group

Chairma Design Group

Chairma Design Group has built a reputation of success by connecting with clients and getting to the heart of what they want from their spaces’ designs. Cindy Aplanalp-Yates founded the firm nearly a decade ago and her passion for the work she does is as strong today as it was when she first started. She offers insight into her career and design philosophy below.

Chairma Design GroupHF: What inspired you to pursue a design career?
CAY: I didn’t even know that interior design was a career option when I was a college freshman in 1980! I pursued a business management degree and was in the business world until motherhood took over for several years (I raised a blended family of six kiddos).

During this time, I flipped several homes, remodeled several homes on my own–where I made many mistakes, so basically, I paid for my own learning curve! Through these experiences, I learned that I had a natural talent for really listening to people and the ability to help pull their interior together. I went to interior design school in my mid-40s and my passion became my profession.

HF: Is there any moment that stands out as a big break?
CAY: I’ve been blessed with a lot of publicity and press. I did a competition for HGTV called ‘Showhouse Showdown’ and luckily won. But the biggest break was getting involved with Southern Living via Morningstar Builders. I was invited to do the interior and furnishings for that showhouse. From that exposure, I gained several high-profile clients. It was a risk because I did the project gratis, it took countless hours and a lot of my own home furnishings (including my own personal master bedroom window treatments) to fully stage this home. But oh, so worth it! I’m still being blessed by that opportunity today.

HF: How would you define your design style?
CAY: Real, authentic, honest and full of heart and soul. It doesn’t matter the style- all those attributes are applied. I lean so much on the client’s intentions for their space. More of how they want to feel in their home, versus what style or color they prefer. Our ability to tap into the vein of a client’s intention is the secret behind our success.

Chairma Design Group

HF: What is your favorite part of the job?
CAY: The clients and the deep connections we foster over the years. We get to know people in a uniquely intimate way and that is something I treasure and feel so blessed to be part of. Equally, I love the wonderful collaborations that happen between us and our builders, architects, vendors and tradespeople. This is truly magical. When we are all in sync with each other, we create interiors that none can do on our own. It gives me chills just thinking about the spark of genius we get to be a part of every day.

HF: What was the most challenging project you’ve worked on and why?
CAY: The most challenging projects are not so much the project as it is the people. I tell clients when they are interviewing me that I’m also interviewing them. I say I’m pretty old and I don’t have that much time left. This usually garners a chuckle, but I’m secretly serious. Over the years, I’ve learned which clients we can be outrageously successful with and which it just doesn’t flow. As harsh as this may sound, there has to be a connection in the client/designer relationship. Creativity is an energy and it requires a lot of trust and willingness to explore beyond what feels familiar.

HF: Is there any trend you wish would go away?
CAY: Conspicuous consumerism in interiors. Meaning loaded rooms that have NOTHING to do with the clients who live there. Meaningless art and accessories so full that there is no breathing room and it feels suffocating. To me, the best spaces tell the story of the inhabitants who live there. They leave room to grow and offer a stillness which is lacking in our world today.

HF: Is there any trend you wish would return?
CAY: I hope everyone could have a big screened-in porch where they could sit and enjoy the moments with family and friends. I like spaces void of the tyranny of TVs, cellphones and other digital distractions. I think there’s a real hunger for people to have a space to savor what is most important. We always try to add such spaces to our interiors.

Chairma Design GroupPhoto Credits: Mike Kaskel

HF: How did you get involved with the Southern Living Showcase home?
CAY: Morningstar Builders invited me to do the design work for my first Southern Living Showcase home, gratis of course. We are now on our fourth Southern Living Showcase home at Blue Jack National. This has been a wonderful affiliation and a win-win for both our firms. Morningstar is a member of the Sothern Living Builder Network and Chairma is member of the Southern Living Designer Network.

HF: How did Hubbardton Forge come to be included?
I’ve long been a fan of Hubbardton Forge and have used HF lighting on many projects over the years. I love the craftsmanship and detail added to every one of your fixtures. To me, there are a few ‘splurges’ on an interior that elevate the entire project. Lighting is at the top of that list. It sets the tone and pace for the interior.

HF: What would be your dream project?
CAY: I’m a country music fan, so anything that takes me to Nashville is always a treat. (So Tim and Faith if you’re reading this call me! ) Other than that, I’d say every project we have the honor of participating in that helps a family live a happier, and more cherished life is a dream project. I love what a good interior can do for a family and I feel blessed beyond measure to be part of this.