Meet Designer Jean Stoffer: An Exclusive Interview by Hudson Valley Lighting Group

IDS has partnered with Hudson Valley Lighting Group to deliver an exclusive Q&A with their friend and collaborator, Jean Stoffer.

Designer Jean Stoffer is quietly building an empire out of her eponymous design firm in Southwest Michigan. With a retail front in Grand Rapids, curated e-commerce site, stunning line of cabinetry, and impressive social media presence, Jean Stoffer is one to watch. Known for her brilliant kitchen design, JSD blends classic architecture and styles beautifully, putting the needs of her clients first. Read on as she shares her trade secrets and takeaways. 

Q: Where did your passion from design come from?

I think it happened gradually as I discovered how layered and interesting design is, and how good design could impact an environment so positively. I really got interested in design when I got deeper into kitchen design. The deeper I got, the more I learned, the more interested I became.

Hudson Valley Lighting Lynden Chandelier. Design: Jean Stoffer Design. Photo: Stoffer Photography Interiors.

Q: After growing your dynamic design business you eventually launched a retail store and bespoke cabinetry line. What is your advice to other designers who want to expand their businesses?

This is a huge question, and a good answer is very complicated. But here are a couple key things to keep in mind. If you are contemplating expanding your business into other areas, you will need people to come alongside you. You alone cannot possibly manage all the details by yourself. You will need to build a team of people who specialize in things you cannot take the time to do or even learn. Maybe other people are different, but I’m fiscally conservative, and would be very uncomfortable if I laid too much on the line to launch a new business. I have taken the advice of a mentor who once told me: “only invest in something where even if it were a complete failure, you would still be okay.” It relieves a lot of the potential stress.

Hudson Valley Lighting Oxford Lantern & Woodbury Picture Light. Design: Jean Stoffer Design. Photo: Stoffer Photography Interiors.

Q: Family is an essential part of your firm, with your daughter serving as a designer and other family members playing different roles in the business. How has this given you a unique edge?

It’s true, my husband and several of our kids are involved in the business - each in a different aspect. It’s all very interesting to us, it’s not just work, it’s also our hobby. I think it’s very special for us because there is already a very trusting understanding of each other, and a sense that we are all looking out for each other. We have the same values - that really helps. And since the majority of people using our services or purchasing our products are doing it with family in mind, I think it really helps those people to trust that we understand their needs, and we share their values.

Troy Lighting Ace Chandelier & Corbett Lighting Serenity Chandelier. Design: Jean Stoffer Design. Photo: Stoffer Photography Interiors.

Q: You're known for your spectacular kitchen designs. How do you approach putting together a lighting plan for the kitchen?

Kitchen lighting is such a fantastic opportunity to achieve something so useful and so aesthetically beautiful at the same time. Since several different types of lighting are required, it opens up all kinds of possibilities for design. We prefer a look with a minimum number of recessed can lights, so we are really excited about the introduction of tiny flush mounts into the lighting scene. We put them in the ceilings of range alcoves, and in the aisles of a kitchen instead of can lights. Over the island lighting is always a point of drama, and is a crucial source of light. There is so much to choose from now, and we are enjoying the variety. We always love to find a sconce moment in a kitchen, whether it’s task lighting by a sink, or an art light above a painting. It’s the mixture that is so interesting.

Mitzi Ellis Wall Sconce. Design: Jean Stoffer Design. Photo: Stoffer Photography Interiors.

Q: When it comes to lighting, how do powder rooms and bathrooms differ? Do you favor form over function? A little bit of both?

That’s a great question, because they really do differ. I think a powder room can be dim and moody. It makes guests look great when they see themselves in the mirror! But full bathrooms need more light, and especially targeted at the vanities. The wonderful thing about today’s lighting choices is that generally, you never have to choose between form and function. You can have them both! I always look for a place to put a great ceiling fixture in a bathroom, whether it’s a full bath or a powder room, and of course, terrific sconces either flanking or above a mirror are great!

Hudson Valley Lighting Lambert Pendant & Corbett Lighting Hopper Wall Sconce. Design: Jean Stoffer Design. Photo: Stoffer Photography Interiors.

Q: What’s your secret for finding a perfectly-sized chandelier for a living space?

My first consideration is the ceiling height. The second is if there will be a table or other type of furniture under the fixture. I generally like to have seven feet clear under a chandelier in a living room. Over a coffee table, I think it’s nice when the light is hung just a bit lower, where the bottom of the fixture is about 78” above the floor. This creates a bit of intimacy. Then I think about the overall size of a room. A large room needs to have a proportionately sized chandelier. If the fixture is too small, it is a visual disappointment. A light fixture allows for a beautiful design opportunity. In my opinion, that opportunity should always be taken!

Mitzi by Hudson Valley Lighting Leigh PendantDesign: Jean Stoffer Design. Photo: Stoffer Photography Interiors.

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