From being a part time shop assistant to becoming an award-winning designer, working within the walls of some of London’s top addresses is the stuff of dreams for any budding interior designer. But a look at Kia Stanford’s work shows that hers is not a career path easy to follow; Kia’s work is interior design at its most elegant and considered, with attention paid to every detail and no expense spared. Kia makes sure that her designs have identity, while giving Londoners what they prize most in their homes: light and space.
Kia Stanford worked in a high-end interior design store while studying for a history degree. She fell in love with the products she sold, and with helping customers solve their design dilemmas. Kia learnt design skills on the shop floor – by shifting things around and creating displays after hours she learnt what worked and what didn’t. By the time her degree had finished Kia decided that a career in interior design was what she wanted.
Kia and the store’s owner (who commuted to work from New Zealand) launched a design studio within the store. Soon, Kia had the experience and pluck to go it alone, establishing Kia Designs in 2007.
Since then Kia’s portfolio has grown to encompass some of the most desirable London homes, from townhouses in Mayfair and Knightsbridge to apartments in Chelsea and Notting Hill. Her design studio employs three people, all up and coming designers who help Kia with her designs, or go it alone under her experienced eye.
Inside Notting Hill, London WII
This two bedroom apartment is contained within the top two floors of a Notting Hill townhouse. The design brief was to create a modern architectural feel. Although within a period property, all the original features had been removed in an eighties renovation.
To open up the space walls were taken down and reflective materials and paint finishes were used. The white paint palette provides flow throughout; interest and identity are added by splashes of colour and the owner’s prized art collection.
Clever lighting plays a key part in this apartment’s design too – feature lighting is something Kia is clearly a fan of and she professes to hate undimmable spotlights that make everyone ‘look like death’. In hectic (and often grey) London creating ambience at home is important, and a well-placed lamp or two can go a long way to achieving that.
The client wanted a lighter living space, and a kitchen ‘that didn’t look like a kitchen’ so a dark corridor between the kitchen and the living area was taken away, creating an open plan living space.
The light within the kitchen area is maximised by gloss units and light wood flooring. The asymmetric doors on the sideboard and the large cylindrical light cleverly prevent this area from being cuboid in feel. Impact is added to the space by the large piece of artwork to the right of the island – not a high priced gallery treasure but the homeowner’s own work, made up of straws after a session with a bottle of Jack Daniels!
The living room is a social space, where the TV has been ditched in favour of a projector (hidden in the ceiling). A modern fireplace provides a more soulful focal point for winter evenings.
The most arresting element of the Notting Hill design though, has to be the floating bed, a clever space age design that makes the small bedroom looks a lot larger than it is. The frame is built into the wall, which then bears the weight of the bed and sleepers, very sturdy, allegedly.
Throughout the Notting Hill apartment there are elements of playfulness: the colourful artwork, asymmetric angles, the futuristic bedroom, that give this home a fresh cool identity, far removed from its original one but perhaps more in keeping with the vibrant Notting Hill area.
Spreadsheets versus shopping
With its demolished walls and hidden projectors the Notting Hill property shows that interior design is as much about problem solving and building knowledge than shopping and furnishing.
Kia relies on complicated spreadsheets to get her through her projects and stresses that it is important to know and understand her clients, so that she delivers what they want.
No bargain hunter, Kia relies on dealers and suppliers to source items to her spec – but she does like to hunt out local artists, using their work to personalise property and add all important colour and interest.
And to add a really personal touch Kia designs each of her clients a bespoke rug, which are then hand knotted in Nepal.
Kia is currently working on a town house in Knightsbridge.
You can see more of Kia’s work online at her website. Designs start at £1,500 per room. Initial consultations are free. All images courtesy of Kia Stanford.