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Meet Kim Harley of KHI interior architecture + design

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kim Harley.

Kim, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve always loved art my favorite high school class was art- the more the better! – I still remember my high school art teacher- Mr. Sheppard-I took 2 of his classes back to back my senior year- I couldn’t get enough. I was one of those people who knew exactly what I wanted to do after high school- study something involving art- I went back and forth- fine art, fashion design, interior design, architecture? I decided interior design was a good combination of them all- My dad was a draftsman and would often work at home- I was intrigued by watching him draw with the T-square and triangle- he had the most perfect printing and his drawings were so precise – I am pretty sure that helped lead me to my decision to study interior architecture + design.

I was lucky to have a top-notch interior design program in my home state so I was thrilled when I got accepted to the University of Cincinnati College on Design and Architecture. This 5-year program led me to CA because of its co-op program which was a combination of real-life work experience and classroom. After my experience in a real design office I thought- yes- this is for me! I ventured out to San Fransisco my senior year to work with my dream design firm- after graduation, they offered me a job and I jumped on it. I was getting paid enough to get by and that was about it- but I was working at an amazing firm in a city that I loved and soaking it all in.

After several years in San Fransisco, I was laid off from work due to the recession, I could not find work in San Francisco and end up in Redondo Beach for a work opportunity. I’ve lived in Redondo Beach ever since- over 25 years now. I met my husband shortly after moving to LA and we’ve been married 21 years now and have 3 teenage boys now. After working for a few hospitality design firms I realized that hotel design was what I wanted to focus on. I liked all the different opportunities for a design that came with designing hotels- not only guestrooms but restaurants, spas, outdoor areas– lots of variety. I had been thinking for several years about going out on my own.

When I became pregnant with twins (major surprise!) and already had a toddler at home I knew that I could not go back to being in an office 10 hours a day and commute in LA traffic 2 hours plus as well. I wanted to have more flexibility with my schedule- to be able to pick up my kids from school, volunteer in their classroom, all the things I could not do if I was working full time in an office in downtown LA. After I had my twins I decided now was the time to take the plunge and go out on my own. It was intimidating at first, however, I was fortunate to have clients right away – that was 12 years ago.

In addition to the interior design business I’ve also taken on a new passion which is my photography- I love seeing the world through my camera lens! – I photograph whenever I can —which is not nearly as much as I would like- I photograph when I can- my boy’s sports (baseball is the best!), architecture of course and those awesome southern ca beach sunsets

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think anyone in this business will tell you it can be a feast or famine type of business- that was true for me as well- there was a period of time many years ago when I could not find work in the design field and worked in medical sales of all things for a while- I hated it! but it paid the bills- I couldn’t wait to get back into the design- that is when I realized just how much I loved my design work. Fortunately, within a year or two I was able to find my way back into the design field landing a job at a major hospitality design firm.

Having my own company is a blessing but definitely has its challenges. For me, it is finding the right balance between work and family. I never want to turn away potential projects- in this business you never know when the next opportunity will arise so its hard to turn away work even when I am already swamped with projects- but at the same time its tough to fit in all the work-I’d say my challenge is learning how to delegate and realizing that I don’t need to do everything myself- I tend to take on way too much – so finding the right balance between too many projects and not enough projects is a struggle sometimes.

My family takes priority though so I end up working a lot late at night – that’s ok- it has become my routine so for me it is just part of my day- work time…….. family time……….. work time again. It’s funny to say “work” because I really love what I do! – so for me, it is not “work” but my passion. I tell my boys to find something that they love to do in life and they will be successful – no matter what it is.

Please tell us about KHI interior architecture + design.
KHI interior architecture + design specializes in hospitality design. We implement projects from the initial design concept to the supervision of construction. What I am most proud of is the personal and responsive attention I give to each client- creating trust with your clients is vital and I strive to do that on every project.

KHI has been in business for over 12 years – we have had our ups and downs with the economy but have managed to keep going. Most of our clients have been retained from recommendations and word of mouth- the best marketing is the work itself and of course when clients return for the next project.

My favorite part of this job is watching the design go from a piece of paper to the actual construction. I spent a year working on a construction site in Las Vegas early in my career which gave me invaluable experience- if a designer does not understand how something is constructed then it’s tough to design realistically so that your creation can come to fruition while maintaining the design intent.

I love being on the job site and working out all those details with the contractors- it definitely a team effort.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I grew up in Ohio in a small community- my favorite childhood memories are Sundays at my Noni’s (grandmother) with all of my cousins- playing checkers on the stair landing and eating Noni’s homemade soup. Every Sunday all the family would gather- lots of aunts, uncles and cousins- it was a great tradition that I will always treasure.

My other favorite childhood memory is summertime and playing outside all day till dark- and once it was dark catching lightning bugs in a jar- those were great summer days! I long for those types of days for my 3 kids- it seems that technology and devices have stolen some of those childhood memories for them which saddens me.

Contact Info:

  • Website: www. khidesign.com
  • Phone: 310-753-8430
  • Email: kimh@khidesign.com
  • Other: KHI interior architecture + design

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