Kia Designs is an award winning residential interior design company, started 7 years ago by Kia Stanford. The company has successfully completed over 100 projects to date, and now comprises of Kia, the head designer, and a studio team based at their offices in Spitalfields, London. Alongside offering a range of design services, from spatial planning consultations right up to full turn-key projects, they are currently in the process of opening an international office as well as setting up an online and short course “Intern School”. Kia Designs have acquired a solid reputation for honest design and a uniquely transparent process. Working all over London on a variety of homes, from sleek modern flats, to listed and conservation area townhouses, to new builds they have amassed an impressive portfolio of beautiful results. They share one of their favourite projects with us below…
Project Name: Notting Hill Penthouse
Project Time Taken: 6 months
Completion of Project: September 2010
The BriefThe Notting Hill Penthouse was designed for a client with a stressful and mentally taxing job. A key requirement of the design was the ability to come home and be able to relax in a space with no ‘visual’ noise. Attention was then directed onto art pieces which brought the client a real sense of joy. A monochrome palette was devised, with white being the central, unifying focus that connects the walls, ceilings, floors with the more functional furniture. We were going for calm and clinical, with some heart.
Creation / planning process
As the penthouse suffered from dark and dingy rooms with low ceiling height, it was imperative we created a visual illusion of space and light. The client loves the vibrancy and arty nature of Notting Hill, but knew that she wanted a sleek, modern and minimalist look to her interior, so chose not to buy a listed or conservation area apartment. This gave us great flexibility when it came to the space, and altering the layout to better suit our client’s lifestyle and design. It also meant we were able to create the desired sharp edges and clean lines, whilst still having some of the character features of the older property.
How it went?
We knocked through and combined the kitchen and lounge, flooding the space with light and providing a more streamlined living space. We then created a kitchen that didn’t look too much like a kitchen, more like a piece of sculpture that added interest to the room. Imposing double doors into the room from the hallway formed a mental barrier for the client, so that she could feel like she was properly entering her own lair.
Another particular requirement was that each leisure or functional activity was to be hidden and had to be considered before use. The client wanted to avoid the ‘couch syndrome’ of just plopping down and channel surfing and watching anything that was on. The TV consists of a hidden projector screen, tucked away in the ceiling recess. In order to watch TV the client has to decide to actively engage with the surrounds and consciously chose to watch a film or pick a program. Part of her desire to relax included removing mindless options.
With this element of the design, the brief was also extended to incorporate a real ‘sense of fun’ so we created a James Bond pad for the modern working woman. Not only does the TV projector screen descend at the touch of a button, but all the kitchen units are electric and open and close at the lightest of touches. The bed floats as if by magic, and there are secret wardrobes and storage hubs throughout. The Bisazza mosaic tiles in the bathroom contain real white gold, and give off an impossibly beautiful shimmer. This all compliments her quirky sense of humour and whimsical art collection perfectly.
Favourite room / part of the project and why?
Our favourite room is probably the bedroom. We love the super cool floating bed and the sense of serenity. Plus the odd pop of vibrant colour really lifts the design and the mood. We love designing around cherished art pieces, it’s a real challenge – to create surroundings that have to complement and enhance but not take centrer stage, but will still work if the painting is ever removed. For this room, the client was adamant that the piece above the bed be the focus, but as you can probably see, it is actually quite small and out of proportion with the space above the bed. So we reframed it, floating between 2 pieces of glass. Now, not only is it hovering, like the bed, but it far better occupies and commands the space.
Any issues / problems you had to overcome during the project?
The main problems were matching whites. The client was insistent on having the same white tone throughout, but as light is reflected differently off various surfaces, this blurring effect was very hard at achieve, and items kept looking like they were a shade darker or lighter, colder or warmer. The client was also keen for a painted wood floor, rather than opting for something like porcelain that would hold a pure colour for longer, so the floor will need to be stripped and repainted every few years to keep the look crisp.
We also had trouble sourcing a handless kitchen, as at that time it was a look that was only really available from Italy in the very high end of the market and had yet to trickle down and appeal to the more accessible manufacturers. Now of course, that wouldn’t have been a problem.
This particular build was also a lesson for us in managing a client’s expectations. Being an art lover, the owner was drawn to specialist pieces, often from Italy, which were slightly beyond the limits of her budget, and was frustrated to find that the common market didn’t contain any similar pieces. The kitchen island has been sculpted out of corian, as a compromise for the original design the client was very keen on, which was a worktop entirely made out of glass that would have require reinforcing the entire floor and removing a large portion of the front of the house in order to crane it in (something Kensington and Chelsea council were unlikely to grant).