Kristen McGinnis has a wonderful way of fusing fun and funky with a formal, artistic edge. Originally from North Carolina, Kristen attended the prestigious visual arts program at the North Carolina School of the Arts. Acting on her passion for design, and advice from Bill Blass, she moved to New York to study fashion at Parsons School of Design.
As fate would have it, she focused her attention on interior design and landed a coveted senior position with Sills Huniford Associates. Using her acquired skills, innate talents and heightened sensitivity to fabrics and textiles, Kristen went out on her own in 2005 and founded the New York-based firm, Kristen McGinnis Design, Inc.
Kristen affirms that having a background in fine arts and fashion design has been an invaluable component of her career. With each new project she goes “back to her roots” for guidance and inspiration. The couture level of detailing that she brings to her projects is clearly anchored in many disciplines, including architecture, and of course, fashion.
In 2009 Traditional Home Magazine selected Kristen as one of the Top 20 Young Interior Designers to Watch and most recently she was honored by Jamie Drake and the International Furnishings and Design Association as a Rising Star of Interior Design.
How would you describe your personal style?
As I grow as a designer my style has become more confident and much more eclectic. I love twentieth century and contemporary design. I find that when integrated confidently with art and antiques a stronger vision can be achieved creating a look that appears to have evolved over time.
What is your most prized possession?
This is a tie between my vast library where I become inspired every time I open a book; and my collection of artist designed jewelry, specifically a necklace by Louise Nevelson.
What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Happiness is waking up to the purring of my two Himalayans. They love the mornings, and I cherish spending time with them before starting my day.
What is the one thing in life you cannot live without?
I love nothing more than art. For me no room is complete without it. Through the years I have acquired work by artists that are dear lifelong friends, work by college friends, as well as pieces made by artists whose work that I have long admired. Seeing these pieces woven together is like looking at the story of my life. It simply feeds my soul.
What inspires your creativity and designs?
Architecture is a continued source of inspiration. At present, I have a fascination with the strict lines of 1920’s Berlin, and find the restraint and purity of the form refreshing. In fact, a simple walk down the street to spend an afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art can be just as motivating as a trip to Amsterdam or to Paris. What matters is what you cull from the experience and how you apply it to what you are working on.
I enjoy the scholarship that can be involved in doing research for a project. As I have been working on the color palette for a modern downtown apartment, I have been inspired by Picasso’s Rose period, a Matisse painting, and Marni’s fall collection. It never ceases to amaze me how inspiration can come at any place at any time.
Who are your style icons?
Yves Saint Laurent, Joel Arthur Rosenthal, Tina Chow
Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
To have the opportunity to collaborate on a project with Joris Laarman would be the experience of a lifetime. I believe we are in the middle of a design revolution and are only just beginning to grasp its direction. Luckily, we are living in a time where experimental innovation in design is being celebrated. Joris is reaching a new plateau with his work utilizing cutting edge technology and positioning himself as a standard bearer for the new evolution of design.
What books are currently on your bedside table?
Alongside my stacks of fashion and shelter magazines, I have my stash of summer reading. I just finished The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser; and am now starting Mistress of Modernism: The Life of Peggy Guggenheim by Mary V. Dearborn.
What is your favorite luxury in life?
The ability to be able to carve out time from my hectic schedule to be with the people that I love is my life’s biggest luxury.
Past or present who has most influenced your direction in life?
As a child I wanted nothing more than to be a fashion designer. When I was in the 9th grade Bill Blass came to my hometown for a trunk show. The night before there was black tie pre-show event which I attended. Somehow I mustered up enough courage to ask Mr. Blass his advice as to where I should go to school. He was incredibly lovely to spend 10 minutes speaking with me, and told me in that distinctly raspy smoker’s voice, “My dear, if you want to work on Seventh Avenue you MUST go to Parsons School of Design.”
Advice coming from someone so influential was all I needed to hear to put my head down and focus on my journey to Parsons where I discovered my true passion, interior design. Inside my sketch book, I keep a photo of Mr. Blass and myself from that memorable evening. It serves as a constant reminder to continue to pursue my dreams.