A conversation with Sondra Phillips, owner of SKP Design.
What services does SKP Design provide?
SKP Design is a boutique interior design company—in fact, we are the only interior design firm in Kalamazoo. We have both residential and commercial clients and can do everything from new construction to remodeling. Clients come to us because they’re changing, moving, growing, or launching a new product line. If a client wants people to think a certain way when they walk in their space, we figure out how to make that happen. Essentially, our job is to make sure that an area makes sense visually.
How do you create a unique atmosphere?
Interior design employs a lot of psychology and sociology. We have to understand people and how they behave. We consider how people interact with an environment and what effect a physical space will have on an individual.
For example, even though you can’t quite put your finger on why, when you walk into a coffee shop in the morning, you immediately feel a sense of calm. Every aspect of the space is fine-tuned to make you feel that way. At the same time, we want a company to have an environment that makes sense for its image, employees, and workflow. Our task is to optimize the flow and atmosphere of a location to make sure that everyone involved has a fulfilling experience.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Unlike at big architectural firms where an interior designer may work on only a few large projects, we work on many projects of various sizes at the same time. Because of this, every day is different. We start each Monday with a team meeting where we sit down together and put everything on the table. Then, we travel to speak with our customers or source different materials. I’m on my feet most of the time, but I enjoy the variety. Interacting with local businesses allows me to make connections that I could never have imagined. With a community this size, there are talent and resources that we can bring together to complete amazing projects.
What have been some of your favorite projects?
We created Biggby Coffee’s interior design in 2006. The company asked us to create a happy environment for their clientele, and nothing could be more fun than that. We also designed terrazzo flooring and commissioned art at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport. When you walk through the airport, you will see Stephen Hansen sculptures, colorful paintings, and even art glass. It feels so great to be a part of these local initiatives and get more connected with the greater community.
How did you decide to become an interior designer?
Art runs in my family. My father is a graphic designer, and when I was young, he would take me to the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. It’s a 25-story building filled with furniture showrooms, and we would walk through each one together. Later, I went to the University of Michigan and got my bachelor’s degree in interior design. However, it wasn’t until after graduation when I moved to Chicago when I began to become enamored with that path.
I got a job downtown Chicago at an interior design firm called Tilton & Lewis. It was in this beautiful glass building overlooking the river—just across the street from the Merchandise Mart that my dad used to take me to. At the time, all the resources I needed were available at my fingertips in Chicago, but I was able to bring some of those things back here to Kalamazoo when I started SKP Design in 1996.
Where do you find inspiration?
I am most inspired by art fairs, architecture, and the work of other interior designers, but my job is to solve problems. I distill all of that information into an original solution. My creative problem solving is better done when I have that space to myself. Just being in a relaxing and soothing environment allows me to sort through that inspiration and make something unique out of it.
What is your dream project?
I’m sure that my dream project is something I haven’t even thought of yet. Some of the unique projects that have come across my desk are ones I would never have conceptualized.
What advice do you have for aspiring designers?
Being multi-disciplined is essential. In this day and age, you can’t afford just to do one thing. You have to know how to write, create a website, take photos, and how to communicate with clients. Writing is especially important; one of my number one responsibilities is proposal writing.