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Designer Spotlight: Jean Stoffer

Designer Jean Stoffer is quietly building an empire out of her eponymous design firm in Southwest Michigan.

September 12, 2022

Designer Spotlight: Jean Stoffer

Designer Jean Stoffer is quietly building an empire out of her eponymous design firm in Southwest Michigan.

September 12, 2022

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 breakout series “The Established Home” on the Magnolia Network, Jean Stoffer is one to watch. Known for her captivating kitchen designs, JSD blends classic architecture and styles beautifully, creating spaces that shine. Like any design visionary, Jean pays special attention to lighting, layering pendants, wall sconces, flush mounts, and more to create a beautifully balanced space. Read on as she shares her trade secrets and takeaways.

Q: Where did your passion for 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.

All Photos: Design, Jean Stoffer Design | Photo, Stoffer Photography Interiors

Built in 1905, The Madison is a sprawling estate in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Stoffer lovingly restored the property, infusing new life into the 10,000 sq ft home. The Serenity Chandelier serves as a focal point, bringing ethereal beauty to this formal sitting room. A pair of Blixen Wall Sconces flank the fireplace, lending contemporary accents to the traditional millwork.

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.

The Madison is full of treasured secondary spaces like this dramatic Butler’s Pantry. A pair of Lynden Pendants highlight the painted ceiling, their aged brass details glistening against the sutton blue hue.

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.

Wall lights favor form and function. This single Barton Wall Sconce is perfectly placed, offering a soft glow for this stylish vestibule separating the front door and the front hall.

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.

A trio of Painted No. 3 Pendants from our collaboration with Mark D. Sikes take center stage on this stunning kitchen renovation. Stoffer shares our passion for lighting, taking a ‘more is more’ approach to adding layers of light.  Heirloom Wall Sconces shine light on the double sink, adding plenty of light for late night dishes.

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!

A pair of Colton Wall Sconces pay homage to this powder room’s traditionalist heart while bringing the design forward. Tall and smoothly curved, Colton’s wispy arms rise from a clean rectilinear backplate. Simple drum shades round-out the design’s yin and yang balance.

The Owner’s Suite at The Madison is full of decadent details. Stoffer and team took over an entire bedroom to make it happen! Dueling vanities flank the garden tub with Hopper Wall Sconces providing ample light for getting ready. The Lambert Pendant frames the vanity vignette, offering a playful yet polished moment in this dream bathroom.

Designed in collaboration with Martyn Lawrence Bullard, the Hopper Wall Sconce is powerful and unique. This piece has a beautiful synergy between the two sides of its brass leaves. The side supporting the white glass diffusers like peas in a pod has a handsome, dark vintage brass finish, while the reverse has been soaked until a beautiful, smooth natural black.

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 proportionally 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!

For Jean Stoffer, working with and for family is second nature. When her son embarked on a renovation project, Stoffer dived in, pulling the Austen Chandelier for this welcoming living room. The highlight? A “bold is better” dry bar. The opal shade on the Sphere No.1 Semi Flush Mount is the perfect milky hue to pop against the glazed tile.