We came across interior designer Kimberly Hall’s work in a New York Times’ story on an office makeover. I contacted her and asked if she’d share her own home office. Our timing was fortuitous as Hall and her husband had recently bought an apartment and turned the kitchen into a workspace. Here it is!
How long have you worked from home? Since February 1. And where is home? The Meatpacking district (14th between 8th and 9th.) What do you do? I am an interior designer. We work on predominantly residential work at the moment but we have also done contract work such as restaurants, retail, and office spaces. I was an associate at the Rockwell Group for 7 years so I have a strong background in hospitality.
Six years ago I opened a store called Kimberly Hall Kids, specializing in children’s’ furnishings and interior design. I had a small storefront and office on 21st Street and tried to pull off running the store (which did a lot of custom and one-off work) as well as my interior design business. It quickly became too much and I tried to expand accordingly.
In the end, one was diluting the other so I decided to close the store and focus exclusively on interior design work. My office remained in the same space until this year when my husband and I bought a new apartment. We had been living in an 800 square foot rental with 2 dogs, 2 young children, and the 2 of us. It was time for a change. The market was right to purchase and we found a 1500 square foot apartment.It had a 300 square foot wing at the back that was perfect for my office. It had high ceilings and I knew I could get most of what I needed in if I went vertical (a favorite trick of mine.) It was a great solution for us as it gave us a way to afford the apartment, reduce my “rent” and I now have more time at home to spend with my family.
I gutted the space, which had been the apartments kitchen (I still do not have a kitchen, for the record) including all of the walls and ceiling. I really wanted a classic loft feeling and by exposing the brick and all of the thick, old rafters, I have really achieved the feeling I was looking for. It was also, thankfully, the most economical solution.
Describe your style? My style is definitely eclectic, although I’d love to come up with a new word for that. I love almost all “styles” but get most excited by mixing styles and periods. We have done quite a few traditional homes with very contemporary interiors. I look at each job as a challenge to give the client what they are looking for and to personally challenge myself to come up with ideas and solutions that I have not come up with before. I tend to use a lot of color and incorporate art and other objects of personal significance in my interiors. Sometimes I have gotten the most exciting results using items that I could never have imagined fitting into a project.
As an interior designer with multiple clients how do you keep your office organized? I’m thinking here of the physical space but also your computer. Are there any particular programs you find really useful? We organize our projects into binders and I LOVE plastic page protectors! I should buy some stock. We also have a fantastic program that synthesizes all aspects of the design process from a business standpoint. It is called Studio Designer and interfaces accounting, purchasing, contacts, etc. into a single program.
I currently use a Mac but when I used a PC, I loved Outlook. I wish the MAc version was up-to-snuff, but so far I can’t seem to get it to do everything I want it to.
Regarding the physical space, we have it lined, stacked and otherwise filled, floor-to-ceiling with reference materials. It is clearly much easier to find information since the advent of the internet but I still like to keep hard copies of many of my favorites. We also have a fantastic materials library that we keep in bins that we load onto Ikea Expedit bookshelves. These are my favorites as I am a big fan of cubbies as opposed to shelves. I just find that it keeps things neater. We have literally thousand of fabric samples that arranged by color and sometimes type which makes it much easier to put schemes together than going shopping every time.
When you are designing a home office what do you keep in mind? I think it is imperative to have good “cord management”, especially in a home office. Having a jumble of cords is not only unsightly, it is extremely frustrating to problem solve if you don’t know what you are looking at. We make sure that we always place outlets in an appropriate location in relation to the work surface. I also find it very important to have a “place for everything” (as my mother used to say.) I especially like mail sorters which have a variety of slots. I label each slot with a project name or other type of category and anytime I have something related to that particular subject, I just slide it in there. It’s sort of an interim holding zone for paper that have not yet been filed into binders or files.
Obviously lighting is extremely important in a home office and I make sure to include adjustable task lighting in every project as well as a sliding keyboard tray which alleviates back and posture problems.
File cabinets are also a necessary evil but I try to make them attractive by choosing all white or even sometimes colored. Bisley offers the best colors.
Is there any piece of home office furniture you covet? I have always coveted a glass-topped desk on horses. Unfortunately, the nature of my work (or perhaps the way I work!) will never allow this but I keep dreaming that someday I will have an impeccable, clean and clear workspace with nothing on it but a computer and a phone. Also, like in all of the magazine photo shoots, there will be no cords attached to the computer or the phone.
I already have the item that I most covet and that is an Aeron chair. Several years ago I herniated a disc and this was the only place I felt comfortable. I slept many a night in that chair!
What is a desk accessory you can’t do without? I love low, acrylic trays for organizing small objects on my desk. I put my stapler, tape dispenser, paperclip cup, electric pencil sharpener as well as post-it notes clustered into these trays so that I always know where something is when I need it and things don’t get scattered all over the work surface. I also have a tiny stack of plastic drawers that house my binder clips, push pins, extra post-its, and digital photo paraphernalia such as card readers and memory cards.
What would you change about your own workspace? If I had the space, I would like a “return” on both sides of my desk. This would allow me to keep the center surface clear while allowing me to keep my “piles” organized to either side. I also wish there was a way to input USB devices into the computer in a neat way besides those “hubs” you get from Staples. I can’t tell you how many of those things I have velcro’d to the shelves above my desk in an effort to alleviate the jumble.
What do you love most about your space? I love the contrast between the rough shell with the brick and wood and the bright, white, minimal, desk surfaces and bookshelves. I also especially love my FLOR cow-print carpet tiles (below). It adds the playful touch that I needed in the space and is extremely practical for spills, stains, and possible expansion!
What inspires you? I love to solve problems. For me, being an interior designer is a blessing and a curse. I am able to create wonderful looking, functional spaces but it is very difficult to turn it off. Everywhere I look, I am evaluating what I like, what I don’t like and how I would improve something.
I also love to read and to look at design magazines and books. I am constantly clipping images and creating image files on my computer. By having this comprehensive visual library, I am able to communicate to my client (and to myself) a vision for each particular project. I create concept image boards that are an impression of the vibe of the project. I find that if these are carefully edited, they become a very accurate “visual blueprint” of the project. I may keep a page from a magazine of a room that I hate but it has a fabulous button detail that I will want to remember for a future project. I can sometimes build an entire project out of a detail like that.
As a visual artist (I studied painting and photography) I am especially aware of proportion and composition. Since so may of my projects incorporate disparate items, I use this knowledge to make them look cohesive and balanced. This is, for me, the inspiration and the challenge. How do you make something successful from nothing?