At Studio Designer, our goal is to streamline the logistics of an interior design business so that more attention can be devoted to creative pursuits. Our Designer Spotlight series highlights the business success and design work of Studio Designer users who use our platform to advance their goals and thrive as creative professionals.

 

In this Designer Spotlight, we are thrilled to feature Larchmont, New York-based designer, Kim Mitchell of KAM Design! Kim developed her business aptitude and cultivated her creative skills with her previous career in corporate marketing and weekend work as a stylist. In this interview, Kim details the moments and experiences that led her to interior design, the influences and admired designers that shape her vision, plus sage advice on running a creatively fulfilling and successful design business.

Tell us a little bit about you. How and why did you decide to become a designer?

A few years ago, I spoke at a middle-school career day and surprised the students when I told them that the bird on the business card was an art project I painted in high school. I shared this because I believe you are most fulfilled when you stay true to who you are. I grew up painting and drawing. The arts always inspired me and are at the core of who I am. I started my career in the creative fields of advertising and marketing. I liked the right brain, left brain dynamic of the industry as ideas came to life. Having been exposed to many TV commercial sets, I began freelancing on the weekends as a stylist but then put it aside with the demands of my full-time account management job. It was when I bought my first home and started various design projects that I realized that I wanted to be even more involved in the creative process. Interior design fulfilled my design passion and artistic abilities while applying my client and project management experience. I decided to leave my marketing job to attend Parsons School of Design full time to gain an interior design degree. I now have come full circle and am Part-Time Faculty for Parsons Open Campus.

 

Like a bird’s nest that is assembled together and beautifully crafted piece by piece, each space should uniquely reflect where its owners have been, where they are going, and most importantly, always be a place where they feel perfectly at home whenever they return.

Describe your design aesthetic.

I strive to design client-inspired timeless interiors. Home design is an investment that should last more than the latest fads. While I have some design preferences, I do not subscribe to one style nor strive for a signature look. Being an artist at heart my goal is that each design is a new creation, an artful expression of the home and its homeowners interpreted through their lifestyle, experiences, interests, and aesthetic preferences. Like a bird’s nest that is assembled together and beautifully crafted piece by piece, each space should uniquely reflect where its owners have been, where they are going, and most importantly, always be a place where they feel perfectly at home whenever they return.

 


Share some design references to turn to frequently to spark your creativity.

Travel has been my biggest reference for interior design and is a passion. Ever since discovering Gaudi’s architecture during my junior year abroad, I was hooked on being influenced by different cultures. While my profession focuses on interiors, I am a lover of the outdoors. Nature has a profound influence on my creativity. There are colors, shapes, patterns, light, scale, and texture that only nature does best. I can find inspiration in a cobweb like I did today on my early morning trail walk with my dog! Finally, I can spend hours in any museum—the Met, the MOMA, the Frick Collection, and the Neue Galerie are a few of my favorites as the architecture is as inspiring as the art.

 

Who are the interior designers, architects, artists, or creative professionals you admire?

John Saladino was one of the first designers/architects I discovered before I was an interior designer. He has a beautiful way of melding architectural details and nuanced color with the perfect balance of old and new. I have also been following and admiring Madeline Stuart’s exquisite work for a long time. Their interiors are both so thoughtful, detailed, customized, unique, and timeless.

 

What design project of yours are you most proud of and why?

My Washington Square project. I worked with a couple who wanted to create their dream retirement apartment. The apartment was a full gut renovation including kitchen, two baths, three bedrooms, living and dining rooms, foyer, and terrace on a tight timeline given the co-op restrictions. Every inch was considered in terms of maximizing functional and flexible living spaces and elevating aesthetics. The couple moved back in February right before the pandemic hit. While the couple wanted to have spaces for their grown children to return to when they needed to, the apartment has become a full-time sanctuary for the entire family during the pandemic, each finding their own place to be in the various created designs. Hearing such positive feedback about how the apartment is working for all of them during this difficult time makes me feel proud of what I do and the importance of the home.

 


Share a story about how you acquired an unusual item for a project.

Two years ago, I was invited to participate in Westchester Home Magazine’s Art of the Table with Bilotta Kitchens. Each designer was to design a tabletop for one of the showroom’s kitchen displays. I let my most life-changing travel experience, a safari in Kenya, inspire me to transform the entire space, not just the tabletop, into a linen tented re-creation of my safari experience. Besides the tabletop selections, I knew there was one item that had to be included in the design.

This was the Benin bronze Head of Queen Idia, a powerful monarch during the early 16th century, which I brought back from my trip after finding it at a Kenyan arts and crafts shop. Finding it was the easy part while getting the 35-pound sculpture home was a journey of multiple metal detectors, many discussions and explanations, inspections, transferring of baggage, and a lot of luck!

 


Studio Designer allows me to execute on my vision without the worry that something will be missed. I can focus on design and be confident that everything that I’ve chosen has been processed and invoiced.

Share your advice on how to run a successful design business and maintain a creative edge at the same time.

Before my design career, I had over 10 years of corporate marketing experience working for both international advertising agencies like JWT and brands like Mastercard. I was first in account management then flipped to the client side. Having that background gave me an understanding of project and client management, as well as setting the bar high on how to run a business. My experience cemented a way of working that mandated a clear scope of work, a solid process, setting expectations, communicating consistently and proactively with clients, creating contracts that did not leave anything “fuzzy,” tracking time spent on projects, and strong customer service. Creating this groundwork was the first step in building a luxury experience for my clients. Every year I invest in stronger systems and people that help me deliver that goal. When the business side (processes, systems, and project management) of my business can move forward seamlessly, I can spend more thoughtful time on design.

 

I could never do the amount of business I’m doing without the right business systems in place, especially Studio Designer. Studio Designer was a game-changer for our business.

How do you use Studio Designer to successfully run your business?

KAM Design uses Studio Designer all through the design process.  Studio Designer provides me and my clients professional looking and easy to understand proposals, budgets, invoicing as well as easy access to all current and former jobs. Studio Designer allows me to execute my vision without the worry that something will be missed. I can focus on design and be confident that everything that I’ve chosen has been processed and invoiced. The reporting that the client receives is detailed and professional. The quality of invoicing (detail along with imagery) matches the quality that the client is expecting. You can’t send an invoice to a client for $50,000 on a Word document. When I first started, I created all my own excel spreadsheet back-up for every invoice. It was time-consuming, not to mention the worst part of my job. I could never do the amount of business I’m doing without the right business systems in place, especially Studio Designer. Studio Designer was a game-changer for our business.

 

What advice do you have for designers building their businesses?

I have a quote from author and playwright George Bernard Shaw on my desk that reads, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” Pay attention to how you are creating yourself and your business. Take time to invest in your business. As business owners, we need to keep every aspect of our businesses moving forward like networking, marketing, systems, staff, and keeping our project pipeline steady, all while we are doing the work of interior design. As you move from a beginner, be more selective about the projects you take and set real parameters and thresholds for taking each project. When you create the right environment for your business, your business will grow organically.

 

Studio Designer, an interior design software solution, allows you to run the accounting and project management of your design business in a cloud-based, integrated platform that can be accessed conveniently from computers, tablets, and phones. Email info@studiodesigner.com or visit this page to sign up for an online demo.

 

Photos 1, 4, 7, and 8 by Emily Sidoti Photography and Photos 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, and 11 by Susan Fisher Photography