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Designer Spotlight: Kelly Pitcairn Holland

Updated: May 27, 2019

@MiraJeanDesigns, you know we love collaborating with interior designers and fellow women business owners. For this blog feature, we are so excited to put a spotlight on the talented Kelly Pitcairn Holland of @KPH Studio, an interior designer whom we admire a great deal! So grab a cup of coffee and get ready to "meet" Kelly and learn more about this amazingly talented designer's story and work. You won't be disappointed!

Welcome! Tell us a bit about Kelly and KPH Studios … when did you first start designing?

As a child, I used to design floor plans and luxury homes. However, back then I didn’t even know they were floor plans! I would make dollhouse furniture for Barbie and find myself designing and tailoring items for anything that had a “home” aspect to it.

Above: Just one of many beautiful and luxurious spaces designed by KPH Studio. LOVE this mix of pattern, wallpaper, luxurious and natural textures!

When I was fourteen years old, I decided to be an interior designer.

Today, I am proud to be the owner of KPH Studio, a full service interior design firm that prides itself on expertly creating unique and practical designs that reflect individual clients’ aesthetics and lifestyles.

A KPH Studio interior scheme for an Arlington, VA homeowner's beautiful home renovation.

You are a design pro … with decades of experience in the design industry! Tell us a bit about your career and how you got started in interior design.

I studied Interior Design at VA Tech. We were required to do an internship following junior year, and a good friend of mine connected me with his mom, Frede Ottinger (now retired), of the Winifrede Beall Ottinger Interior Design firm in Old Town, Alexandria. She later became my mentor.

Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some exceptionally talented designers including Lisa Vandenburgh, Thomas Pheasant and Mary Douglas Drysdale. (Fun fact: one of my first Mary Douglas Drysdale projects was to go to the design center to shop for fabric for a custom shower curtain. It truly was a dream job!).

I spent almost twenty years learning from, and working with, these notable designers, until I finally took the plunge and opened up my own studio in 2012.

What was it like when you launched KPH Studio?

Exhilarating! Scary - and so much fun. From the very beginning, I had loyal clients who were really supportive and wanted to hire me. And within the very first week, new clients, too: a fellow mom who learned the news that first week immediately said, “can I hire you?”. I didn’t even have my company’s name yet! But I was in business.

You’re a design dynamo, an entrepreneur, a mom of three plus one beloved Black Lab …. what tips or advice would you share, on managing work/life balance and a fast-paced design business? How do you do it?!

Get outside and spend time outdoors! Get out of your head. It’s so easy to start working and get in the zone, but I find when I take a break I am much more efficient and creative. Daily walks and daily yoga are a must, as is a weekly group exercise class with friends. Also, there is no substitute to getting out and appreciating mother nature.

Bring on the coastal vibes! The view at the Chatham, MA beach via KPH Studio on Instagram

The term “work life balance” stresses me out - it suggests things need to be perfect - and they don’t. Sometimes work needs more attention, sometimes it’s family that needs family more. It’s a constant mix.

It’s also important to pay attention to what is priority at the time. I’ve created this career in tandem with my family; I have the good fortune to have a beautiful home office and studio right outside my home - a very short commute! - which definitely makes it convenient.

Finally, I have an amazing team with my designer, Lauren Withers, and our assistant, Kerry Weaver. We always have each other’s backs in the studio; we are there for one another and to be a second set of eyes and ears.

The talented team @KPH Studio! From left to right: Kerry Weaver, Lauren Withers and Founder Kelly Pitcairn Holland.

Tell us a bit about your ideal client and projects … what are the kinds of projects that allow KPH Studio’s work to truly excel and shine?

The ideal project for KPH Studio is one where we engage with clients from the time their project is a glimmer in their eye, to seeing it through to final installation. When the clients trust us, the process is so fluid and successful.

My projects reflect my clients’ personalities. I listen to my clients and what they say they want. We have created formal, ethereal spaces with soft surfaces and Swedish antiques on Embassy Row, to very contemporary, modern homes with lots of hard surfaces. I had one client tell me, after attending an event in the very formal, historic home full of Swedish antiques, “I thought of you because this client’s home was so beautiful!” When I told her it was a former client, she couldn’t believe it because the style was so different from the very contemporary project she and I had worked together on. I love listening to people and bringing out what they want in their homes.

Stunning custom glass light fixture commissioned for a KPH Studio project via Florida artist Rick Singleton ...

... and here it is installed in the space! --

When I first started my own business, a former client congratulated me -- and in the same breath, asked if they could hire me. When I asked her why, she said, “because you listen to me.” This is the greatest compliment.

You have some high profile clients! What new and exciting projects (that you can tell us about) :-) are currently in the works at KPH Studio?

We are currently working on a number of projects, including kitchen and bath renovations, bedroom renovations for a client we have worked with for more than 10 years, and whole house furnishings for another. We tend to have a shopping list for clients running at any given time - shopping for an interesting piece of furniture to fill a void, the right piece of art for a niche in a client’s home.

Do you have a favorite project in your portfolio? If so, please tell us about it.

It’s so hard to pick a favorite! I have favorite elements in each one. I’ll share one example:

Recently, we re-designed an Arlington family’s home and home office. They are huge baseball fans, so we designed built ins, the desk and countertops using ash, and used baseball glove leather for the drawer pulls. One wouldn’t walk in and say “oh this is a baseball room!,” but it’s understated, elegant and meaningful to the homeowner.

KPH Studio's Arlington VA home office remodel ... complete with baseball bat ash wood built-ins, baseball glove leather drawer pulls, and contemporary glass jar waiting to be filled with homerun balls for this baseball fan homeowner.

What advice would you offer to other creative entrepreneurs and women business owners?

Collaboration over competition! And you must read the book, Work Party. As women we need to collaborate with and support one another. I would also say, “just do it!”. There’s never a good time, we’re always busy … and we can make a lot of excuses. Go for it - and ask for help.

One of Kelly's favorite books ... if you haven't ready it already, put this one on your list!

We are SO excited (and honored!) to have some of our textiles and wallpapers in your projects … how and where do you source new textiles for your projects, and what do you look for in the lines you work with?

I love collaborating with Mira Jean Designs, because the sky’s the limit! If I had to pick a few words to describe Mira Jean textiles and fabric, I’d say “coastal vibe” … and I love that by changing just one color you can change it completely. I have loved using the textiles and wallpapers in non-coastal projects and in ways that give a whole new light to it.

Mira Jean Designs' Tunisia Leaves in Orange wallpaper, on a custom taupe ground to match the paint color in this KPH Studio client's home.

Where else do you draw inspiration from?

My teenagers fuel my creativity! I also rely heavily on the Washington Design Center -- and still love and read design magazines in print, circle things and order samples. Also, when the reps call and ask if they can send things from the new spring line, I say, “yes please!” You never know what you’re going to see.

What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you, for design assistance?

Email me! Take a look at my website and Instagram account … and let’s set up a time to talk!

Thank you!!


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