5 Questions With… Jillian Pritchard Cooke – NKBA


5 Questions With… Jillian Pritchard Cooke

The Founder and CEO of Wellness Within Your Walls discusses her top picks from KBIS 2024.

By Nicholas Tamarin

Image courtesy of Jillian Pritchard Cooke.

Jillian Pritchard Cooke is the Founder and CEO of Wellness Within Your Walls, an internationally recognized and award-winning informational resource group created to provide education and certification for health and wellness in living environments. She now lectures a dozen times a year to manufacturers, corporations, show house teams housing inspectors and organizations including NKBA | KBIS, ASID, HBA and AIA.

We sat down with Cooke following her VFTI session at the Las Vegas Convention Center during KBIS 2024, “Taking a Holistic Approach to Designing Healthier and Innovative Kitchens and Baths,” to discuss her journey in the industry, teaching, time at the trade show and trends she expects to see in K&B.

NKBA | KBIS: Why did you become a designer?

Jillian Pritchard Cooke: It was an accident. I was in the fine arts world. I was painting, sculpting and I went to work for an art gallery. And at the gallery, I met an interior designer who asked if I would work specifically selecting artwork for all of her clients.

I did it for about six months, and I also was painting and exhibiting. I was selling my work. Life was just going on. And then I went to work for this designer, started pretty much as an intern, and I worked my way up to a project designer.

After the internship, I went back to school at Orange Coast College at night specifically for interior design. 

I moved very quickly up the ladder because of the fact that I did the work and had a fabulous mentor. The work ethic was everything. And I was involved in the sustainable and green side of it because I was in California. Nowhere else in the country in the ’80s were they thinking about the things that we now think about every day. 

My cancer diagnosis tied into the sustainable and green approach pretty neatly. You go to get treatment and they’re pumping chemicals into your body as part of the chemotherapy. And it’s just such a raw moment in terms of, “Why is this happening?” And it was like this transformation during the therapies that I was going through, through the medications that I was receiving to kill the cancer.

It was totally a paradigm shift for me as a human being because I was able to dig really deep into what’s important. What am I learning from this experience and how can I give back in some way? And it has been a passion project that’s actually turned into a nice business.

NKBA | KBIS: I know you’re here to teach, but what other goals did you have for your time at KBIS 2024? 

Jillian Pritchard Cooke: I came to learn. I’m literally looking to partner with like-minded people and find people who don’t realize they have something to offer when it comes to healthier housing and healthier communities. And I believe that there’s no one way to do this work; it’s a collaboration. There’s no one company that has the answers.

But as we come together and unite on the conversation and pathways forward, we can learn and grow from each other. I think there’s a tremendous amount going on in the building industry right now that relates to electrification, the pros and cons, how it is important to a builder from an energy perspective, but also how it is important from a health and wellness perspective.

And that’s just one topic of many that I feel the expertise in health and wellness is warranted. We’re not just designers anymore. We’re way more than that. Sitting with an architect or a mechanical engineer and getting that respect level, I think we’re going to get there quicker.

NKBA | KBIS: How does that affect what you teach?

Jillian Pritchard Cooke: Something I also remind people when I meet them or when I teach is, “Don’t sit in the audience and be a manufacturer. Don’t sit in the audience and be a developer. I want you to sit here as a consumer. And if I touch you in any way, shape or form as a consumer, then why are you not putting that into your branding and business platform to give the consumer exactly what you yourself would want?”

But at the same time, you know we have to be careful. We have a social responsibility when it comes to conducting our business in a way that’s good for humankind. 

NKBA | KBIS: What products and brands are you most excited for at KBIS 2024? 

Jillian Pritchard Cooke Kohler has a great new showerhead, the SpaViva, with an array of attachments And then Toto and their bidets. I love LG’s Styler Steam Closet. And I liked their washers and dryers that were Allergy Standards Ltd approved. Aquaria’s Hydropixel – it extracts ambient water from the air and then filters it. HempWood and its United Soybean Board, which has no VOCs, it’s a very sustainable product. Rockwool fire and soundproofing insulation. Kraus, they have a complete kitchen solution and composting. Finally, Panasonic and AprilAire’s whole home ventilation systems.

NKBA | KBIS: What trends do you expect to see in 2024?

Jillian Pritchard Cooke: I think the connection between the interior and the exterior is going to continue to grow. I think that we’re going to see the expansion of the concept of at-home spas to include saunas and infrared technology. I would say that dry saunas are a solution to humidity and mold. So we may see an uptick in that. But I also think cold plunge is going to be added to the list. I think we’ll be learning from the spa companies and the resort world.

Kohler’s really at the forefront of that. They’ve got a commercial department that speaks to hospitality. And then I think all the lessons learned with Kohler’s hospitality are trickling down to the residential marketplace. 

Finally, I think we’re going to see a lot more products that subscribe to the circular economy, so we can use our product waste to reinvent products that are similar, that is, taking the waste from a product and reintroducing the same or similar product in the same category, but just made from the waste.