Behind the Design: Kristen O’Malley of Kristen O’Malley Design
Design Spotlight: Kristen O’Malley of Kristen O’Malley Design – Los Angeles, CA
Kristen – how did you get where you are today?
I grew up in the beautiful Hudson Valley, about two hours north of New York City. My parents still live there and enjoy beautiful autumns, and shovel snow all winter. I enjoy our visits, but found my true home away from home when I moved to sunny Venice, California. I live about six blocks from the beach and it is my happy place.
I credit my dad for giving me my initial design inspiration. He was a self-taught electronics technician and programmer for IBM for most of his career. He can fix or build anything. He even built one of our televisions! When I was growing up, I designed projects with him in our wood shop and learned early on how to use a drill and table saw. My mom worked as a realtor and I also learned a lot from her about home staging.
When I went to college in Virginia, I studied International Affairs because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. After one brutal year working for a government consulting firm, I knew that wasn’t my path. My first production job was at PBS and I worked my way up to Production Designer at Discovery Channel and BBC America. During my free time, I studied interior design and took art classes at the Corcoran School of Design. I merged my design and production backgrounds when I was hired to work as the Behind-the- Scenes Designer on the shows Get It Sold, KidSpace, and Curb Appeal.
I took a leap of faith ten years ago, sold everything that wouldn’t fit in my car, and drove out to California to work on scripted television and movies. It was the scariest and best decision I ever made. I joined the Set Decorator union and have worked on everything from soap operas to big budget features. I also met my husband, who happens to be an amazing architect and can fix or build anything (just like my dad)! We collaborate on pretty much all of our design projects – most of them modern, residential homes. When he started his company, Guban Architecture (www.guban.com), I kept getting called in by his clients to work on their interiors. It’s been a long, winding path to get to where I am today!
You reside in sunny Los Angeles working as a set decorator and interior designer. For you personally, what are the differences in designing for a set vs. an interior?
Today I balance both Set Decorating and Interior Design projects. There are aspects that I love about both types of work. I have a three-year-old daughter, so I love having more flexibility with my schedule when I work on interiors. I also enjoy being able to source beautiful furnishings without limitations. Set Decorating projects are exciting and fast paced, but the hours can be grueling and unforgiving. The timelines are so fast that you are limited to rentals from prop houses or in-stock items from local vendors. However, with both, my favorite part is seeing the amazing transformations on the install days. It makes it worth all the hard work when it comes together!
What are some interesting sets you’re working on at the moment?
I sign non-disclosure agreements for all my set work, so, I unfortunately can’t tell you about my latest project until it airs. Some career highlights would be designing Gwen Stefani and Pharrell’s studios for The Voice, creating Julia Robert’s run-down house in The Secret in Their Eyes, and winning an Emmy for my sets on The Talk.
How do you stay current and source interesting, new-to-market products and materials to incorporate in your designs?
I’m always finding amazing new designers and products on Instagram. I’m afraid I have a bit of an addiction! Of course, getting outside and traveling to new places is always the biggest inspiration. This year we have a trip planned to visit our friends in Ecuador and see their latest architecture project, The Gaia (www.laarquitectos.com/GAIA) and then Spain in the summer. I search for cool, modern rentals and hotels for our stays, and we always come away with new ideas.
Who are some of your favorite LA vendors that you work with?
There are so many! Some of my favorites are Mirena Kim Ceramics, Atelier de Troupe, Stahl & Band, Lawson Fenning, and Garde.
How does designing make you feel?
Energized! I especially love the conceptual phases and the final installs.
You are a busy bee – how do you juggle multiple businesses and projects at once while staying organized?
I try to focus on only one or two projects at a time, but usually need to bring in help for all the administration. Once a project is finished, I’m usually full speed into the next one. I definitely need to find more time to take professional photographs and put together a website that highlights my interiors and not just my set work. There isn’t enough time in the day! Did I mention I also have a three year old?! She is usually out in the shop with us working on her own models. I try to spend as much time in with her as I can, so the marketing usually gets pushed to the back burner.
When you start a new interior design project, how do you get to know your client and the space?
I approach my client projects the same way I do sets. Every person is a unique character that you need to get to know in order to understand how they want to live in their space. Most of our contracts stipulate that the client cooks a meal for us at their home. This allows us to see how they use their space and determine their needs, while also getting to know them better. It helps determine counter heights, cabinet layouts, and overall feel and has become an invaluable part of our process.
Why did you join Ivy?
I signed up for Ivy to help streamline my invoices and bookkeeping. I found the interface to be more intuitive than QuickBooks. I also like all of the customizable features and new additions that are constantly being rolled out.
How has Ivy helped streamline your workflow?
It helps keep all of my projects organized. Clients also seem to love that they can see everything clearly on the invoices and have online payment options.
What’s an Ivy feature you can’t live without?
The incredible customer service! Whenever I have a question, regardless of the time or day, someone is available to help me within a of couple minutes.
Are you an interior designer in search of an easy interior design software and project management tool to run your business? Learn more about Ivy here.