N I K I T A   K A H N

Interview} John Russo

Photography by} John Russo

Location}  Montecito, California 

Makeup}  Diane Dusting

Hair}  Diane Dusting

Styling}  Jennifer Austin 

Digital Tech}  Tas Limur 

Produced by} Photohouse productions


JR: What led you to become an Interior Designer?

NK: Growing up in Europe, I was fascinated by the juxtaposition of old and modern architecture. I’ve always admired it and was drawn to its beauty no matter where I was. After moving to the US, I decided to study architectural engineering so that I could understand the construction of buildings. I chose to specialize in interior design later, as I felt it would bring the design to completion.
JR: You have traveled the world extensively, have your travels influenced your design aesthetic?
NK: Yes, definitely. Every trip is a novel experience that brings me fresh feelings. Whenever I visit a new city for the first time, I take a guided tour to explore its architecture, history, and art. After visiting the Greek islands, I got inspired by Cyclades architecture and tried incorporating it into my current designs.
JR: Is there any country in particular that has given you the most inspiration for the design?
NK: Japan and Finland. Japanese gardens are some of the most beautiful gardens I’ve seen. Its simplicity, stillness, and tranquility make it the perfect spot for rest and meditation. Gardens are the main element of Japanese architecture. There’s no house without a garden, even if it’s a tiny space in an atrium or next to a window.
I love the simplicity and serenity of Finnish architecture. The buildings have clean lines and an open feel, making the furniture timeless. For instance, take the “Rock” Church in Helsinki, designed by Suomalainen. I was in awe when I walked into that church. The church is carved in rock, so the only light comes from skylights, which give it a spiritual, divine feeling.
JR: You have stayed at some of the top hotels around the world; which hotels do you think to have the best interior design and why?
NK: My favorite hotels are the ones that make me feel at home. They have to be comfortable, warm, and inviting yet beautifully designed. Moreover, the quality of the service is also critical. Good design won’t save bad service.
It’s hard to pick a favorite hotel, but I love Baccarat in New York, Aman, and some boutique hotels in the Cyclades.
JR: When I look at your work, I see a minimalistic clean approach with a more neutral palette. Is this an alignment with your overall design philosophy?
NK: My signature is a neutral palette and minimalistic design. Then I add a splash of art and nature to spice it up. I’m trying to create an environment that draws you in and makes you want to stay. A place that you feel comfortable in. I want to draw your attention to the outside world and the art.
JR: Some designers like to take chances with bold colors and mixing patterns. Would you say your designs are more on the conservative side?
NK: Again, I’m trying to bring color with art and nature. No, I wouldn’t consider myself a conservative since I love playing with textures and interesting and creative designs. My goal is to create an interior that is timeless. Interior design isn’t something I treat as fashion. It’s easy to change your clothes every season, but it’s hard to replace your sofa or wall covering every few years. We get tired of bright colors and strong patterns.
As the eye gets used to the art after a while, it is common to change it every season in Japan. When you look at nature, you can see how gardens change color from fresh spring leaves to fully lush to yellowish-red to winter white in a four-season climate. We noticed these changes with excitement as if it was the first time. That’s exactly what I aim for – a timeless design with a changeable nature and rotating art.
JR: Are there any colors and materials you stay away from when creating an over palette for a client?
NK: In general, I stay away from colorful palettes and try not to create a contrast with black and white. In addition, I avoid carved woods and multicolored upholstery.
JR: What are your strongest points as an interior designer?
NK: As a designer, my strongest point is creating a welcoming environment with comfortable furniture and thoughtful designs.
JR: If you could redesign one well-known public space, what would it be and why?
NK: Sorry, I can’t answer that since I don’t want to offend anyone involved with those projects. However, I’ll tell you about my dream project. I’d love to design a boutique hotel somewhere on the Mediterranean coast. A hotel that blends into its surroundings and offers comfort, a serene atmosphere, and yoga, meditation, and relaxation areas. The hotel would be built with local materials and influenced by local style. My dream is to share my projects with the public, not just private clients.
JR: Bad art can ruin any home (and often does). How do you handle situations when clients want to incorporate blatantly bad art into your design?
NK: Taste in art is very personal. There are some people who like contemporary art, some love Asian art, and some love African art. Design can be built around the art pieces to reflect the collection’s character. In other words, it doesn’t have to be in that style, but it has to look like it belongs there. That’s the job of a designer.
JR: Outside of interior design, have you ever considered pursuing any other line of work?
NK: Before I got into interior design, I was an actor. I’m thinking about picking it back up, and I’m excited to see where it takes me.
Additionally, I’d love to do a fashion line for everyday clothes. It’s been on my mind for a few years now. I love fashion, and I’m always looking for just the right t-shirt. Maybe in the near future, my idea can come to life.
JR: Can you give our reader 5 tips (can be dos & don’ts) when redesigning a room?
NK: Sure! Start by thinking about what you want to achieve. Secondly, pick the style you’d like to use. Don’t worry about getting too much furniture; you can always add more later. Before you remodel, make sure you have a furniture layout to determine where any electrical wires are needed and where the art will go. And lastly, order your furniture at least three months before you finish your remodel, as some items might be on back order or have a long lead time. But don’t be too stressed, enjoy it!
To learn more about Nikita Kahn follow her at @bynikitakahn