Over the last 28 years, Kendall Wilkinson has become one of the most highly regarded residential designers in the West. Her passion for the industry initially burgeoned while traveling during a trip abroad in Paris, where she became enamored with French architecture and antiques. Fast forward to today, mastering the art of combining authenticity with contemporary design, Kendall’s design firm, Kendall Wilkinson Design, has become one of the most sought-after designer firms for leaders in tech, finance, retail, and hospitality.
With degrees from the University of California, San Diego and San Francisco’s Academy of Art College, Kendall has been chosen as a keynote speaker at U.C.’s “Who’s Who in Interior Design” conference five times, and has been the recipient of California Home + Design’s “Award for Showcase House Design,” the Marin Art & Garden Center’s “Outstanding Achievement Award” and Sunset Magazine’s “Award of Excellence.” She is now regularly featured in leading design and lifestyle publications, among them ELLE DÉCOR, Gentry, House Beautiful, InStyle and LUXE Magazine. Kendall’s tight-knit team of designers is a diverse pool of talent from top firms, who bring a variety of perspectives and skills to their projects.
We sat down with Kendall to discuss to her process, new fabric line and how her mother has been her biggest influence on her career.
Can you tell us how Kendall Wilkinson Design was conceived?
Interior design was actually a second career for me. I started out in the entertainment business. Unhappy in the field, I decided to take a risk and find my passion elsewhere. While visiting family in San Francisco, I asked my mom, Alice Wiley, about her own career in interior design. My mom tried to talk me out of it, but as these things go, the more she discouraged me from the field, the more I wanted to get into it. After realizing there was no way of convincing me otherwise, my mom’s only request was that I had to go to design school, get educated in the field, and travel the world.
Before KWD, I started off working for my mom at Alice Wiley Interiors and then several showrooms on and off after that. After a while, my creativity left me restless and I realized I didn’t want to work for anyone else. I finally branched off on my own and success followed from that point on.
Can you explain your process during the onset of a new project?
When a job lead comes into Kendall Wilkinson Design, we meet with the potential client, give them a free consultation, show them their extensively diverse portfolio, expand on their values as a firm, and secures the job. Then, we start working with the client on imagery to get a feel for what the client’s needs are aesthetically and functionally. From the onset, we carry a dialog with our clients, listening and placing those needs before everything else. We understand that communication is the key to success.
How does environmental sustainability factor into your projects?
Our sustainability efforts are more present now than ever before. We are actively educate ourselves on best practices, and incorporate efforts wherever we can. We work with architects and builders to encourage using reclaimed materials on as much new construction as possible. When it comes to furniture, because we use timeless pieces, our clients don’t have to change out their furniture as often by buying new pieces. When furniture can be repurposed, it reduces their carbon footprint, which is the ultimate goal.
What would you consider to be the biggest change in the field of design and architecture since you opened your firm?
The introduction of the internet has changed a lot within the field of interior design. In a positive light, it has broadened our audience by being able to share our work on multiple social media platforms and obtain new clients as a result. Technology has kept us on our toes to constantly stay current and be better with every project.
On the flip side, clients are now exposed to perhaps too much — which can make for a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation. We believe that expertise in our field is so important in this world of so much information.
A curious mind is ultimately what makes good design.
Have there been any notable influences on your career?
Since I started in the industry, I’ve always thanked my mom for her support and sharing her knowledge of the industry. My interests have remained in both in French and classic design, but they have become more modernized and updated for today’s clients. My personal style has stayed romantic; however, it’s gotten more tonal, typically leaning towards more a neutral palette. As present in today’s trends, my style has also become more tonal and less about color.
I’ve always been inspired by nature and travel. Nature is full of such interesting color and patterns. Travel opens my eyes to so many things, both artistically and culturally. I love incorporating these experiences into design. A curious mind is ultimately what makes good design.
How do you predict design will evolve over the next couple of decades?
I considers this inevitable change when considering design and architecture: technology and how it will enhance/impact design, blending comfort, style and durability, open plans in bathrooms, color in every way, and lastly engineered materials and how best to use them.
What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline?
I feel very lucky in that we have a lot of variety in our current projects. One is in the wine country which is very Wabi Sabi. We have another large vacation home project in Jackson Hole, that after six years of designing is nearing completion. We also have many projects of various sizes in and around our city of San Francisco.
I’m also very excited about the launch of my new fabric line: Fabricut. This new fabric line is now available for purchase in all Fabricut showrooms and online. I want people to feel that they can find everything they need — from a large project, to a small room while still experiencing a luxury product.