Kimberly Brewer Nawn, of KBN Interiors, is a particularly interesting local fixture who is very much shaping Charlotte in her own rite. She is, by trade, an interior designer but this title alone doesn’t quite tell you enough: She can design and interpret drawings and renderings (a role usually reserved for the architect), she can design a electrical schematic, she could even assume the role of General Contractor on any given project… indeed, with over 30 years of experience in the industry, Nawn brings a well-rounded knowledge to projects that is unparalleled.
As Charlotte grows at an increasingly rapid rate, it strikes me that perhaps the most essential characters to this city’s development are those behind the scenes: the designers, the builders, the architects – the people quite literally shaping the look of the Queen City in 2017, 2018, and beyond. You may only see of them the homes, buildings, and interior ambiances they leave – but these are the people creating the indelible image of the city for generations to come.
Heavily influenced by her time spent studying classical architecture in England, she often professes such things as a “profound appreciation for massing, scale, and construction techniques.” When we meet Nawn one October day, it’s at her light-drenched office in the city. Dressed impeccably, she is both laser-focused and sincere – a true expert – and as she outlines her career and her plans for Charlotte’s future, we feel assured we’re in good hands.
You’re not originally a North Carolinian, so how did you end up in Charlotte?
By a stroke of good fortune! I moved south early in my career to work for two architecture firms in the Atlanta and Nashville markets. Eventually, I moved back to Michigan and began concentrating on interior design. The south left a mark on me, given its rich history, culture, and the beautiful landscapes.
How did you decide to start KBN Interiors?
I was in a unique position in that I already owned a design firm, cabinet company, and small boutique renovation company in Michigan. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a business owner again… Instead this time I preferred to work on a team with either an architect and builder. So, I took a job working for a custom home building firm in Charlotte, and eventually the opportunity to spin off independently and still collaborate with the firm presented itself. It was with support and encouragement of our clients, I started KBN Interiors. The collaborative approach was genius and I grew to love being a part of the design development team for our clients interfacing with architects, builders and landscape designers. Now, with the business, I can provide not only the interior architecture elevations, but also lighting plans, millwork details, and custom elements we have specified for clients.
Tell us about the ins and outs of how your business works – it’s unique in many respects.
We are independently contracted by the homeowner and work with the builder of their choice. We act as their navigator through the design and construction process. As clients begin to better understand the breadth and scope of our service, we find most clients have us tackle many of the issues facing them as they renovate or build a new home. Our designers’ respective skill sets run deep, and we travel to our vendor’s homes or office design centers which allows us to give vendors in-field observations and take in the new, cutting-edge technologies. Again, kitchens and baths are pivotal to every homeowner, so we have a specialist in kitchen and bath design who can intimately define every drawer and cabinet of your new kitchen after extensively assessing all existing needs of one’s current home – clients always love this detail!
What’s different about KBN’s approach, exactly?
We like to do an in-depth study of our client’s lifestyle, from how they store their food to their everyday use of space. Working from the macro to micro level environment, we plan for family growth or expected changes. Our second phase is design development. As a creative person, I fall in love with our client’s homes and once I’m invested in the home and client, it’s all I see. No two homes are alike, so we like to generate original custom designs specific to that client.
Describe a bit about how you design interiors.
A home isn’t livable without the comfort of furnishings, and that is our final phase. We like our homes to be quiet, pretty and comfortable. They are homes for families to live in and create memories in. These homes we help create become a family legacy. We love working with a wide range of styles, and I balance the design styles from project to project so I can stay fresh and excited about each project we are afforded. If we start to see patterns in what our clients are requesting, we know we need to specify unique details, so they truly have a custom design and not just what their friends or neighbors have. I love pulling out the special elements and honoring our families with details that show their personality.
What’s your favorite part of the process?
My favorite part is the ‘vision.’ I love to help our families get all of their dreams on paper and into 3D, so they can see it come to life. We are on our client’s job sites daily, managing the execution of decisions in material selections, colors, and finishes. The best day is when you see their reaction and it stops being a jobsite and it transforms into their home, usually during the millwork installation process. I love, love, love paneling of every kind and the drawing, mechanical execution, and installation of millwork and ultimately how it helps a house ‘hug’ my client and their families. We prefer to partner with the architects to compliment and not compete with the architect’s vision.
What are some of your favorite types of projects?
I love farm houses – I have one. Of all our work, our pastoral homes with barns are a favorite. They are so simple and charming. With that, I love my industry because it allows me to work within so many different vernaculars. As I continue to mature, I find myself living more simply and in that simplicity, I listen to my clients and build from there. Listening and observing is the key to delivering exceptional design. I strive to be exceptional – when our team achieves this, we get to work another day.
Where do you get inspiration from?
I travel a lot to get inspiration from all parts of the country, from Sedona to the Smoky Mountains, to my farm in Harbour Springs, MI. However, I have to spend time in Manhattan a couple times a year to really recharge my batteries. The boutique hotels are a favorite of mine. And then of course strolling through Central Park has, and continues to, be an inspiration.