Today in The Lounge, Nick talks with Christopher Kennedy LIVE from the Las Vegas Market in the Zuo Decor Showroom. Christopher and Nick discuss Christopher’s interior design past, how he runs his business with a team of four and advice for aspiring interior designers.
Getting to know Christopher
Christopher’s dream car is a Range Rover but right now he drives a Mini Cooper. His favorite color is green and his favorite fashion accessory is shoes. He also loves pocket squares. When he’s asked “Beer, wine, or cocktail?” Christopher responds with “a vodka soda.” Some of his favorite vacation spots are Jamaica, Aspen, Breckenridge, Hawaii and Puerto Vallarta. His favorite book he’s read in the last year is, The Magic and The Secret. Christopher’s dad gave him a lot of books before he passed away which he enjoys very much because it makes him feel like his dad is still with him. Christopher has recently launched a new art collection with Wendover Art Group which includes photography, paintings, collages and mixed media.
How Christopher Got His Start
Christopher wanted to be an Architect ever since he was about six or seven years old. His dad gave him his first book on Frank Lloyd Wright when he was about eight or nine. He was always drawing floor plans and elevations. Christopher went to school for a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture but about three years in, he realized it wasn’t exactly what he wanted to do. So he became a Disney Imagineer but, that didn’t work out either… After Christopher graduated, he was a stockbroker. He did that for a few years but wasn’t passionate about it either. So finally, in 2005 he moved to Palm Springs and reinvented himself. He went back to his roots in design and architecture.
Christopher grew up in San Francisco with his dad but later moved in with his mom who married a rocket scientist. They were transferred to Littleton, Colorado. Christopher still spent summers with his dad. Christopher received his first interior design job as an assistant to a project manager for Steve Chase Associates. While working for them he also worked a few side jobs and after nine months he believed he knew everything he needed to know to run his own business (at 28 years old). Thus, Christopher Kennedy Inc. was born. Although Christopher thought he knew everything back then, he says he’s still learning as he runs his business today.
The Business Today
Christopher Kennedy Inc only has four associates: himself, his husband David, his office coordinator Rosemary, and Joann who runs the retail division. He does have some part-time workers too. His retail location was added to the business three years ago. With it came added stress and extra expenses to Christopher’s life. On the other hand, the store attracted clients and made him more approachable. When the store first opened he stocked it with more of a couture collection, but now, he now focuses on design styles and affordable pieces. The store focuses all the little things people don’t realize that they need until they own a home. Christopher also has his own furniture line. He does about 80% of his projects in Palm Springs but also recently completed a job in Jamaica. His design aesthetic focuses more on a contemporary style with a twist of mid-century modern.
Christopher’s second book, Making Midcentury Modern was released in February 2017. It has 100 tips on how to bring style and ethos into your life. He was approached by a publisher who wanted a book on Midcentury Design. Writing a book did take time away from his clients, as well as money away from him that he could have been earning, but he’s proud to have his book published.
As far as marketing goes, Christopher receives clients mainly through referrals. Contrary to what you might think, his fame may have has cost him clients because people have told him they thought he was too busy or too expensive to do their home. One of his greatest marketing efforts is designing showhouses. Each year his firm renovates a classic Palm Springs property which is then displayed in Modernism Week in mid-February. It’s a fundraising event and all the money goes to the preservation of architecture. He’s done four showhomes so far since 2014.
Some advice Christopher has for interior design students is to take accounting classes, construction classes, and drafting classes. Being a working interior designer and serving your clients is a valid career path. There’s nothing wrong with being a designer and getting published every once in a while. The hardest part of running an interior design business is knowing how much to charge a client. There’s no standardized price and it can make both clients and designers confused. Christopher thinks that all designers should get together and create price points so everyone is on the same page. Some advice Christopher would give his younger self is not to give things away, “you are worth it.”
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