Design Your Way
KP Designs/Decorating Den Interiors Owner Talks Changing Landscape of Design Industry
The landscape of the interior design industry has experienced a dramatic shift over the last decade or so with the rise of e-commerce and HGTV, spawning a widespread DIY-movement that threatens to drastically change the way professional interior designers currently operate.
Local designer Kristen Pawlak of KP Designs/Decorating Den Interiors is up for the challenge.
“The industry is changing a lot, and e-commerce has done a lot of good and bad,” says Pawlak, who has more than 20 years of professional experience as a designer. “Over the next few years, I’ll have a better sense of what is manageable and what I want to do with my business. That may mean changing my approach a little.”
Pawlak, who notes that interior design has been around since almost the beginning of time in some form or fashion, is excited to see how everything will come full cycle in an industry that is no stranger to change.
“People have gotten so used to e-commerce where they can pick out all kinds of items, but half the time they aren’t paying attention to or are not aware of important specific details,” Pawlak says.
At least with some, cheap has started to win out over quality, as consumers look for the instant gratification of whatever item they can get for the lowest cost in the quickest turnaround time. This approach can quickly lead to problems, and ultimately skyrocketing freight costs as popular incentives like free shipping come into play.
And while some DIY projects may turn out beautifully and just as pictured, there’s a strong chance an amateur is not considering all the pieces necessary to plan a completely put-together space.
“Even as professionals, we are still learning, running into problems and making mistakes,” Pawlak says. “There’s really a lot more to design than people think and that’s why it’s a profession.”
Pawlak entered the design business from marketing after she noticed that she was far more interested in the way a client’s lobby space was decorated than the marketing research she was about to present to them.
A graduate of Kalamazoo College, a small, liberal arts school in Michigan, Pawlak’s educational experience instilled her with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Her rigorous academic plan, that culminated with a degree in psychology and a concentration in management studies, included career development internships, study abroad in Germany, and senior thesis work that molded her into the hard-working professional she is today.
After a layoff, Pawlak was taking the time to fully decide what her next step would be when she came across Decorating Den Interiors through a simple Internet search. She decided to open a franchise of the robust boutique design firm, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and has been beautifying residential and commercial spaces in Louisville ever since.
“As I reflect back, it’s become more apparent to me in the last 10 years that since I’ve become an entrepreneur, I just can’t look back,” Pawlak says. “It’s so ingrained in me, I can’t imagine going back to a corporate job.”
The core team at KP Designs/Decorating Den Interiors is rounded out by Office Manager Nancy Reilly Bamforth and Junior Designer Nancy Gillespie, EPS, as well as several design interns throughout the year.
The company also offers full-service design with an in-studio contractor who happens to be Pawlak’s husband Ralph, owner of RK Renovations.
“Having a contractor really allows us to be turnkey for our clients to do any kind of construction projects that are needed to truly transform a space,” Pawlak says.
Pawlak left her native Michigan years ago to move to Louisville to be with Ralph, and the couple recently celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary. They have three sons, ranging in age from twelve to 23, as well as two awesome dogs.
KP Designs/Decorating Den Interiors also has an extended team of installers, trade professionals, craftsmen and delivery staff who they see week after week and who also feel like family.
“My team keeps me going,” Pawlak says. “As with one of my favorite movie quotes: ‘We’re small, but we’re powerful!’”
Pawlak and her team also have access to the corporate staff and resources of Decorating Den Interiors to help fuel their success.
“Our franchisor’s role in the industry is amazing and one of the things that truly sets us apart from our competitors,” she says. “Our supplier network is unrivaled. For a firm our size to have as many options as we have for our clients is unheard of.”
When working with clients, Pawlak and her team provide a highly personalized experience so the outcome is truly reflective of the client’s needs and personality. Even after years of being a designer, she said she still gets excited to see new installations. Her work is often professionally photographed and featured in local, as well as national, publications.
She especially loves the creative aspects of her job and takes ownership of her designs. Working with a client to dream up their perfect design, and then making it happen for them, is one of her favorite parts.
“Seeing everything come together is just so satisfying and enjoyable,” Pawlak says. “Especially seeing the client delighted in the work we’ve done.”
Working with a professional interior designer may seem intimidating at first, but Pawlak is quick to share the benefits.
Designers can help keep track of the big picture, as well as the small details of any project. Pawlak recalled a recent project where the customers were nervous leading into the big unveiling. Although they had been included in the design process (choosing fabrics and giving input on layout decisions, among other details), they were having a hard time picturing the final product. Yet, their outcome was thrilling to them.
“We offer a real value to people in that we can save them a whole lot of time, headaches and often money for making costly mistakes,” Pawlak says.
She and her team use a design approach that ensures clients will end up with a space they are comfortable in and will love for years to come.
Design can be hard work and present many challenges, but the KP Designs/Decorating Den Interiors team makes it enjoyable. They realize that relationships are key and not a day goes by where they do not enjoy what they are doing.
“I think what keeps me going after 10-plus years in the business is people’s appreciation and the relationships I’ve built with my clients and team,” Pawlak says. “Those things keep me working through all of the little and less than pleasant issues.”
As for the future, Pawlak plans to continue building on what she has and intends to run her business at least another 10 years. She does plan to add one or two more employees, but overall her goal is to continue to build her business leading into her eventual retirement.
Louisville has become a wonderful home for her, raising her family here and operating her business out of Lyndon. She enjoys taking advantage of all Kentucky has to offer, including the traditions and heritage like Derby, and appreciates the slightly longer periods of warmth compared to Michigan. Pawlak has also taken great joy in the way so many Louisvillians seem to be connected by just a few degrees of separation, at most.
“In my different careers in Louisville, it’s been great how people come into our lives again and again and our paths keep crossing,” she says.
For more information, or to schedule an appointment with Pawlak and her team, visit kpdesigns.decoratingden.com or call 502-245-0052.