BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Things can fall into place -- and you can start living your dream -- just ask Christine Kohl, who recently opened The Tile Lady Designs by Christine located behind Berkeley Car Wash at 620 Springfield Ave. in Berkeley Heights.
Christine Kohl -- known as "Christine the Tile Lady” among anyone who has had the pleasure of working with her. Christine is the one to call for all your tile, vanity and countertop needs -- whether the job is a simple repair, or a complete house or commercial remodel, or you need help picking out a backsplash.
"From the smallest job to the largest job -- there is no limit ... Whether it's a repair or trying to help somebody with their whole house -- I treat them all the same," said Christine.
Tile design turned into a passion for Christine when she was working part-time for a local tile store while she was in school in Newark, going for her clinical to become a dental hygienist. Two years into this part-time gig, she knew she loved design. -- And, she was good at it.
Simply put, “I take ugly things and make them pretty -- what could be better than that,” said Christine. Without hesitating, she dropped her plan to be a dental hygienist and enrolled in Parsons School of Design in New York City.
Twenty-five years later, she is thrilled she is opening her own showroom and design center.
If you have a tile problem or a project in mind, Christine suggests making an appointment, "I will hold your hand. I will educate you. I will help you save money.”
You also will get her professional and practical opinion. "I will blast my opinion --- and then you personalize it. But if you're going to do something that's not going to look right, I'm going to say something." She also will keep costs low -- and will suggest low maintenance. "I will guide you through all of this."
And, very important to Christine -- you're going to have fun doing it. "I feel like my clients enjoy coming in,” she said.
As for practicality, she described a client's desire for a marble bathroom. -- “I said, 'You don't have any time to be maintaining that marble bathroom, you stop that right now and get over to the porcelain section … If you live like Martha Stewart, I'll sell it to you. If you don't, you ain't getting it.' You have to have time to maintain things -- these people don't. If you can get beautiful stuff that's less expensive -- why not.”
She also knows that people are "creatures of habit. They'll do the same thing," she said, so she tries to push them out of their comfort zone. "I'll say -- 'Wait a minute, we've just taken this out of your bathroom and you're putting it back in. Let's explore some options.' I like to go full circle with someone. They find something they like -- I want to show them 50 other things to confirm. 'Yeah, that's what they like.' I call this 'adult fun,'" she said. "I have never had a customer regret when I push them out of their comfort zone."
Christine calls out practicality. You have boys and boys bathrooms? "They pee everywhere," she laughed. "We talk about all that good stuff. Maintenance. Boys pee on walls. And little kids touch every little thing. You have to make your maintenance minimal. Everyone is too busy these days. There are other things you could be doing than cleaning your bathroom two times a week instead of once a week."
You could see her eyes light up as she talked about design options. "I love options too -- let's see what else they may like."
Christine's enthusiasm is contagious. She prides her "Girl Power" and she's rocking it. Bottom line for Christine is to make her clients happy -- and she honestly cares.
"All my business is repeat business -- which I think is such a compliment. And people come in and say my friend sent me -- and that's so nice," she said.
It wasn't easy finding commercial space in Berkeley Heights. After looking on her own for a year, she found a location that she thought could work -- but it wasn't quite perfect. When she called the number, she was connected with Carmen Torsiello of Torbilt Construction. She had done work for Torsiello and he connected her to his wife Denise, a realtor for Berkshire Hathaway in New Providence. It took another year to find the perfect commercial space -- but it was well worth the wait.
"I have never had anybody work for me as hard as Denise did," she said. "I cannot say enough good things about her."
The 6,500 square foot space was completely remediated and renovated. She knew it was going to be work -- but she could visualize the space. -- Her office and showroom furniture is all recycled, including her lighting. "I scrubbed everything down -- it's just weathered." And she is very pleased with the results.
The showroom is pet friendly and her chihuahua, Lucy-Lou, comes with the package. "She comes with me everywhere. People know that," she said.
Find The Tile Lady Designs by Christine at 620 Springfield Ave. in Berkeley Heights, behind The Berkeley Car Wash. Follow her on Instagram @thetileladydesignsbychristine. Call the showroom at 908.287.5199.