Inspired not only by one another’s work but by the lack of design and spirit in the typical real estate experience, Kirsten Jones, an established architect, and Suzanne Smiley, a celebrated artist, hatched an idea. Beyond their commitment to the PTA and the South Pasadena Educational Foundation, the busy moms knew they collectively had something special to offer their community; so they pooled their talents and set out on a new venture: K+S Studio.
The pair are both creatives at the core. Kirsten, who finds herself inspired by art and clean lines, and Suzanne, who seeks to make everything a marvel through an eclectic, bohemian approach, have been instrumental in creating spaces that serve their owners and that sell—from Echo Park to Laguna Beach to their hometown of South Pasadena. K+S Studio is committed to creating a more beautiful life for others. But who better to describe this passion than the design duo themselves?
PT: K+S Studio has two arms: design and staging. Does one of you specialize in one aspect, or do you both collaborate 100% through the process?
Often Kirsten will lead a project that involves architecture, but wherever possible we like to collaborate on projects together—both design and staging— and working together is what we do best. We constantly inspire, challenge and bounce ideas off of each other, and solving problems and creating amazing solutions is always our end goal. We treat each project individually and are realistic to clients’ needs throughout the process.
PT: What fueled your desire to begin a creative business?
K+S Studio was a natural progression after years of being inspired by each other. We previously would spend hours reviewing each other’s projects as well as dabbling in projects for friends. Over the years and many projects later, our similar design aesthetic and mutual work ethic merged to create K+S Studio. One of our first supporters was Emilia Aldana, a fellow mother, friend and Partners Trust realtor. What makes K+S Studio unique is the merging of Kirsten’s architectural background and love of the arts with Suzanne’s art training and incredible eye for detail.
PT: Would you say that you live a life centered around your artistic trade?
Absolutely. Art and design is definitely a part of both of our daily lives. We are constantly evolving and learning no matter what type of project we’re working on. Between jobs and in our free time, we are always exploring new shops, thrift stores and flea markets, always looking for inspiration and keeping our eyes peeled for the perfect piece.
After a day of work watching one of our projects come to life, we can be found at our children’s school teaching Art and Architecture classes. We’re happiest surrounded by children, paint and a lot of mess, and we love teaching and involving family and friends in our work.
PT: What kind of projects do you most often take on?
Everything fun and exciting. What makes our job so fulfilling is helping people create their dream, fix a problem or allow their home to be the best it can be for their family and lifestyle. We put a huge amount of detail and thought into every project we take on and never take a “cookie cutter”approach to anything we do.
K+S Studio stages homes of all sizes and styles. Often our clients just need a little help reinventing some of the rooms in their home or need to add a few new fresh pieces of art and furniture. We like to see a project through from beginning to end, so we can help unpack, pack, and make what is often a stressful time in our clients’ lives enjoyable and easy.
We also take on interior design, landscaping projects and remodels of all scales. We do it all — from giving a facelift to a kitchen, to a complete home remodel or incorporating beautiful art into a home. K+S Studio also brings a fantastic team of contractors and resources to every job.
PT: How much time do you need to stage a home? And do you work with any vendors?
We recognize that our industry isn’t often a 9am to 5pm business. While we do enjoy having a few days or weeks to prepare the collection to be incorporated into a staging project, we understand that isn’t always possible and can stage a home with a day’s notice if needed. We currently are pursuing relationships with several vendors and hope to announce some exciting partnerships soon!
PT: Do you focus on any niche neighborhoods?
We consider our neighborhood to be Los Angeles and we enjoy working anywhere within it. Los Angeles provides a myriad of art and architectural influences. Our car often becomes our office as we juggle projects in Sherman Oaks, Glendale, Altadena, Laguna Beach and Pasadena. As designers, we love working in different neighborhoods as it feeds our creative desires and provides an ever changing palate. The cultural diversity in areas like Highland Park, Echo Park, Silverlake, El Sereno are some of our favorites. And our immediate neighborhood of South Pasadena is home to a lot of our jobs through references from our community.
PT: Do you juggle projects or stick to one at a time?
Our philosophy is to help our clients and enjoy the process with them. We juggle a selection of different scale projects, but never allow ourselves to be stretched to a point where we cannot provide our best service.
PT: What is your creative process when designing? What is your creative process when staging?
The most important thing for us as designers is to get to know our clients and understand their wants and needs. Before we start any project, we spend time with them, look into the research they have done and the inspiration they often have to show us. We also ask them a lot of questions. We want to understand know how the family uses the spaces in the home and how they want the rooms to function. Do they entertain a lot? Are there kids running around all the time? We like to start by delving into the conceptual idea boards, plans and sketches.
The staging process is very similar. We create individualized, staged spaces to maximize the sale of the home as well as create site-specific beautiful environments.
PT: What kind of roles do you hold outside of K+S Studio?
We are both actively involved in our community of South Pasadena, which is very special to us. We are currently serving our second term on the PTA Executive Board at Arroyo Vista Elementary School. And we also both teach Art & Architecture classes as well as summer camps through the South Pasadena Educational Foundation (SPEF).
PT: How is the soap line Further Products connected to your business?
We love supporting our community, friends and local small businesses, especially companies like Further. They’re an environmentally friendly company that upcycles used restaurant grease and turns it into amazing soap and lotion — which they sell back to restaurants. And their packaging also looks fabulous in photos!