Behind the Design: Kia Designs

Behind the Design: Kia Stanford of Kia Designs

Behind the Design: Kia Stanford, owner of Kia Designs, London, UK

Photography by Anna Stathaki

Could you share some background about how you got into interior design and what led you to launch your own business?

I got into interior design through working at a design store. I had done a history degree actually, but I realized while on the job that interior design was something that I really wanted to do with my life. My time there had started as just a job to pay the bills, but I ended up being there for over six years. The last 18 months of that time was spent running part of the business as a manager, which is when I decided to start working for myself. That was in 2008. I decided to move away from the store to set up an interior design studio of my own on the last day of December, and it’s the only New Years resolution I’ve ever kept. 

What types of design does Kia Designs specialize in, and is there something in particular your company has become best known for? 

We specialize in residential design (though we are branching out into commercial work), and our work is extremely client specific. We don’t have a set design style or color palette that we default to. Everything we do is tailored to our clients and how they live, not to creating a portfolio in a specific design style. What we do specialize in isn’t a specific sort of design but rather a way in which we communicate with our clients. We pride ourselves in our transparency. We keep up with the latest online portals and digital tools available in order to make ourselves as open and available to our clients as possible. What we want is for our clients to feel not only informed but involved in the design of their new home. We want them to feel comfortable with the process and with the end result. That end result is their home, it’s important. It’s essential for us that our clients feel that they are able to communicate effectively with us and know what’s going on at any time. 

How would you describe your design aesthetic? 

We don’t really have an overarching design aesthetic, it’s very individual to each client. At the moment we’re working on a country manor that has all the fixings of a manor estate, the whole swags and tails effect, but we’re also working on a new build modern apartment in Kennington. The breadth of what we do is really wide. Design aesthetics aren’t our style. 

Are there any trends in interior design that you’re loving right now? 

We don’t do trends. For the most part, home interiors trends are actually quite far behind trends in, say, fashion, which clients are actually paying attention to. Clients tend to lean towards the trends they have more access to. Aside from that, clients usually aren’t actually looking for trends, even when they might think that they are. Our clients, and most residential clients, are looking for something that’s more timeless than the latest design trend for coral. They’re not looking for something that’s disposable. They’re looking for something that is sustainable in the long term, and won’t go out of fashion or look dated in a few years. 

Which markets do you attend and how have these helped you evolve your business? 

We attend Decorex every year, and we were at Maison & Objet in Paris this January. We were also at House & Garden. For us, going to these shows is about meeting new suppliers and building better relationships with the ones that we currently have. We have gone to smaller design shows like Oslo Design Fair and come back with great suppliers we wouldn’t have found otherwise.

What’s the most challenging part of running your interior design business?

It’s definitely the people element of running a business. When you run a design studio as opposed to just working by yourself or for someone else, you need to make sure that everyone on your staff knows what they need to be doing and is doing it efficiently. There are hundreds of moving pieces, and wasted time builds up. You need to make sure that everyone is on task. Creating a good team is essential: Getting the right people for the job—and people who work together well—makes it possible to be able to do the work that you do. It’s all about the team. 

What’s the most rewarding part of your job? 

The most rewarding part is seeing the projects at the end.  Seeing all of your hard work finished, seeing your vision realized and seeing people living in it. What’s especially rewarding is seeing your clients instinctively using elements of the design that they wouldn’t have imagined for themselves to begin with, like a Quooker tap, and seeing that it really does work. That’s the most fun bit. 

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