The New Guard: Kati Curtis

At the crossroads of technical prowess & refined taste

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Several weeks ago my young friend Dustin O’Neal brought Kati Curtis of Kati Curtis Design‘s work to my attention.  In ‘The New Guard’ we feature designers who’ve been in business for themselves somewhere around 10 years or less, and whose talent we feel exemplifies the best of interior design today.  Kati certainly fits the bill.

I contacted her last week, and asked her to join me for coffee.  We spent an engaging hour chatting about design (honestly I ended up feeilng like we’ve know each other for decades), about her successful career in contract design, and about how she brings a mastery of mechanical knowledge to her stylish residential interiors.  Here’s an excerpt of our conversation.

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Can you tell me a bit about your design aesthetic?

My aesthetic has certainly evolved in over 20 years as a professional designer.  I feel that only in the past few years have I found my true “voice” – most likely thanks to some of my incredible clients who’ve pushed my boundaries.

I would describe my true aesthetic as a crafted mix of globally influenced styles, always with a curated, intuitive blend of color and pattern.  There is also a distinct spiritual influence in my designs. I’ve been practicing yoga almost daily for over 15 years, and the lessons I learn on the mat certainly influence the work I do.  Of course we always have the desires and uniquely personal style of our clients in mind, and create a look that reflects who they are.

You’ve managed to establish yourself in both the contract and residential design worlds.  What are the differences?

One might think that clients are more emotionally invested in their homes, but with our clients that’s not always the case.  Some of our corporate clients are also very hands on in the process, which we really do enjoy.  With any type of job we work on, the most rewarding part of the process for me is making a difference in people’s lives.  We heard last year “You saved my marriage!” from a client when we completed their home, and it’s equally gratifying to see our corporate clients needing more office space because they’re growing so quickly.  I do believe design has tremendous power, which is a huge responsibility I don’t take lightly.


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You’re certified as a LEED AP, just exactly what does that mean?

It means that I am a Leadership in Energy Efficient Design Accredited Professional.  In simpler terms it just means that I know the ins and outs of what’s required to design energy efficient and safe interior spaces. It also means I know specifics about selecting materials and furnishings that are chemical free and not made with endangered resources.

How do you balance the concept of sustainability with great style?

To me, it’s just part of the process.  Sometimes the most sustainable thing we can do is to design spaces with a level of quality and craftsmanship that will last for many years.  Our clients come to us to help then create beautiful and functional spaces.  Underneath all of that is the expectation that they are safe and healthy too.


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You have a history of partnering with architecture firms, just exactly how does that work?

The first 12 years of my career were spent in very large architectural firms.  Although I was always the one who ‘picked the colors’, I was still expected to produce detailed drawings like everyone else.  I learned early on that if I wanted the contractor to build it the way I had imagined it, I’d better show them how to do it.  The benefit of having strong architectural skills is that I have more control over the design.

I think these skills have made it easy for me to partner with architects as they respect my work. I’ve always seen my relationships with architects as mutually supportive, although in our practice there is a great deal of crossover.   We partner with Ira Frazin, RA on so many projects that we’ve just become part of their team.

I’m told you teach at the NYSID.  What are the courses, and who are your students?

I teach two graduate level design studios.  In the graduate program I have a lot of international students who seem to always be on top of the latest design and technology.  They keep things fresh for me and helping them helps me stay current.  I have a strong belief that you have to ‘give it away to keep it’, and teaching is a way for me to give back to the design world as a whole and help others to be successful.

You have a very interesting blog, why is it important for you to write it?

Often times people tell me that designers are intimidating, and the blog helps demystify what we do. It’s also a great forum for us to give shouts of thanks to our amazing team of vendors, suppliers, and craftspeople who make everything we design come to life. We certainly couldn’t do what we do without skilled trades to carry out the vision.


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Can you tell me a bit about the projects you’re currently working on?

We are very busy right now, which is how I prefer things.  We are working on an historic land-marked townhouse in the West Village, a brownstone renovation in Brooklyn, a four bedroom new construction LEED Gold penthouse apartment in Chelsea, renovations of three coastal homes, a young family’s estate in New Jersey, and a corporate headquarters for a growing technology client. We have some amazing and wonderful clients.  I feel so blessed in that way.


Katie CurtisSpecial thanks to Kati for giving us the opportunity to share her work here on the blog.  If you’d like to contact her, you can reach her via the website, on her social media outposts, or by commenting on her blog – Design + Life.



Kati Curtis Design

301 west 57th Street   NYC  10019    347.347.8299

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(FYI: If you’re planning on attending Spring Market at New York’s D&D Building, you can hear Kati participating in a panel discussion at the Dakota Jackson showroom.  Follow this link for more details)

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