Redesigning Hospitality: An Interview With Kirk Nix

Redesigning Hospitality: An Interview With Kirk Nix
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Having worked with the likes of Ritz Carlton, MGM and Caesars Palace, Kirk Nix is a household name in the interior design industry.

In Kirk’s own words, his rise to the top has been the result of “a lifetime of study, observation, and… exhaustive trial and error.” It’s a process that has culminated in a number of acclaimed designs.

Caesar's Palace Titus VillaNow, the founder and head of KNA Design, Kirk commands a staff of forty-five, which includes architects, designers and interior designers.

Taking time out of his busy schedule, Luxurious Magazine was able to catch up with him for an exclusive interview.

We pried into how Kirk came to be such a renowned designer, his most difficult projects, his main influences and inspirations and what the future holds for KNA Design.

LM: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. 
Kirk: I was drawn to beauty at an early age as were many young impressionable folks. I taught myself to draw so I could communicate ideas and transform interior spaces. Experience has taught me that creativity isn’t just an aesthetic, it’s a way of doing business. It took me until my mid-twenties to realize I could earn a living in a field I so enjoy.

I started my career in Atlanta and relocated to California at the behest of Walt Disney Imagineering for whom I had previously created 2 hotels. Once I landed out west I have now, 25 years later, completed over 24 properties in total for that one client in addition to Fairmont, Ritz-Carlton, MGM , Caesars Palace, Venetian and many more.

The Leela Palace Entry VestibuleExperience isn’t how long you’ve been doing something, but how creatively you’ve been doing it.

LM: Why interior design?
Kirk: Natural selection. I originally developed a thirst for great architecture but soon grew bored of spending hours on how the foundation would be built. I wanted to integrate great interior experiences much like a small touch of theatre. I wanted to enable a lasting memory that would endure the test of time. A bit grand for sure, but true.

LM: How and why did you start KNA Design?
Kirk: I had the good fortune to garner years of valuable experience working for some of the finest design firms in the industry. I had always thought that when the opportunity presented itself, I would indeed start my own firm and play in the sandbox by my own set of rules.

It was an important edict that we at KNA create a collaborative design environment where we have an open dialogue with many designers and creative types, and internally everyone is encouraged to bring something to the table. It’s also extremely critical that we have some FUN.

LM: You’ve said you create what you would want to see in a room, what does this generally involve?
Kirk: Every project, no matter how minor or major presents us with an abundance of influences that charge us with an extraordinary opportunity to design interior experiences of great distinction.

I strive for timelessness. Scale. Proportion. Form. Function. Nothing new here- the old rules apply to all of us. And as worn as this adage might sound, absolutely nothing replaces hard work.

When program, context, precedent and people are your palette, Masterpieces can emerge.

Bel-Air Liongate Estate
Bel-Air Liongate Estate

LM: You’ve completed projects for a number of illustrious clients, which did you find most fulfilling?
Kirk: We’ve just had the pleasure of recreating a spectacular estate in Bel-Air California that had lost its’ lustre over many years of neglect. It was a joy to do the forensic work to discover the design intent that the great architect Paul Williams had strived to create so many years before in 1939 and to gently push the interiors into the twenty-first century.

Bel-Air Liongate Estate

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I do hope that the images speak for themselves.

LM: What is your process?
Kirk: My portfolio is as diverse as our client base. I do not subscribe to a prevailing ‘style’.

I believe in developing concepts that are unique to their program, inhabitants and owner. From authenticated old world European interiors to pure and progressively contemporary environments and also wildly themed entertainment experiences, I am constantly developing a universe of solutions.

Options are good.

LM: What’s the most difficult project you’ve ever faced?
Kirk: Too many to mention, but suffice it to say any difficulties are usually rooted in the lack of time or the lack of money. Some clients are just impossible to please and once we discover this anomaly they are typically dismissed forthwith to make someone else miserable.
Life is short.

Caesar's Palace Titus VillaSuccess is defined for me by how much I am enjoying the process and the journey for lack of a better word. Endurance is key in surviving this business for over 30 years. Although the faces may change, many of the daily issues remain the same. As I have said to many, ”I like to tell myself I have seen the movie and know how it ends!”

LM: What inspires you?
Kirk: Travel has broadened the horizons of this man from Alabama.

I encourage all the designers in my office to get out there and see what’s new, it’s an exciting time to be part of the design community!

I am constantly delighted by the bright new talent pool that populates our office at this juncture, it gives me great joy to teach and yet learn at the same time.

Our only limits are our imagination. This has never been more true.

LM: What are the strongest influences on your work?
Kirk: History.

It is highly likely that whatever endeavour that sits on the desk before you has indeed been done before. It’s how you learn from the precedent and reinterpret it for the here and now AND how you make it your own.

LM: Do you have any advice for aspiring luxury interior designers?
Kirk: True luxury has many definitions for each of us. The meaning of luxury in our business is simply quality.

When I draw upon the influence of a building’s architecture and the unique attributes of a place and time- I sincerely believe that interiors must reveal themselves to inhabitants as a series of seamless experiences.

Well-placed humor should prevail as well. It sure can’t hurt.

LM: What does the future hold for KNA Design?
Kirk: Our primary objective is servicing our discriminating clientele and relishing the great rewards from a job well done. I do believe if we haven’t conceived of something yet, it is only because we are waiting to work with you.

Kirk Nix and KNA Design – Where and how

Web: www.knadesign.com
Address: 8255 Beverly Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90048
Tel: 323.944.0100

About Henry McIntosh

Kirk Nix

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