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Supporting Our Communities Through Design: 5 Questions With Kandy Christensen

photo of interior designer

Kandy Christensen of Meandering Design is a local interior designer who we met through her support of purchasing Bright Endeavors candles as gifts for her design clients. She lives in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago and runs an informative and super helpful blog and podcast about all things design. Kandy works to support her clients in the way they need it and at their budget level that includes anything from helping someone define their design style all the way to a full home design makeover. One thing we love about Kandy is that she aims to make her design experience inclusive, let her explain more below.

  1. Can you explain your design ‘philosophy’ or aesthetic?

My design philosophy is guided by two things:

One) Your home should support your life and Two) Buy vintage, handmade or local.

I strongly believe that our homes impact our moods and how we function. I do know that when I choose to spend time on my home—cleaning, decluttering and decorating, that my home rewards me with a peaceful welcoming environment. It soothes my depression and anxiety. I also believe that you should set up your home to support your passions and dreams. For myself, that means having an office in my home with a desk and a daybed to daydream and read. For a friend, it meant turning her bedroom into her art studio and moving her bed into the living room.
My design is driven by my belief in environmental and human rights. To that end, I try to source items that are vintage, handmade or shop locally. I often have budget constraints, but I try to incorporate as many of those items as possible. I love that I end up with one of a kind finds and that my money goes to support an individual or a community.

2. What are some easy and budget-friendly tips to make a house feel more like a home?

One) Shop your home. I do this a lot when I feel like my home needs a refresh. Before I go shopping I look around my home and see if there are things I can move around first. I’ll move pillows from one room to another, grab a handful of books and put those on the coffee table, move a vase or candle holder from one room to the other. I don’t have things in storage just hanging out, so I use what is already on display in my home.
Two) Get a plant. Plants aren’t just trendy, they literally give you oxygen! You don’t even need to buy one. Find a friend with some plants and ask them for a cutting. My spider plant is a cutting from my mom’s plant, which is a cutting from my grandmother’s plant.
Three) Buy a nice candle and use it. It’s amazing how lovely a lit candle can make a home feel. I have a habit of hoarding my candles, which is ridiculous. So, I’m going to start lighting them and enjoying them! (Bright Endeavors would like to affirm this suggestion! Shop our candles here!)

3. You talk on your blog a lot about thinking more holistically about interior design. How can we empower communities through design?

I’m still finding my way as an interior designer but what I have learned is that design is about people. I’ve walked away from projects where only one person makes all the design decisions.

I need to hear from everyone who will be using the space because each person’s needs are important.
When you design a space in a vacuum, then a part of the community will not feel welcome in that space. At its core design needs to consider the community that it is serving. I think too many times decisions are made without all the people being at the table. We need to build a bigger table!

Photo by Dorey Kronick

4. Similarly, do you think the interior design world as a whole is a very inclusive space? Or do you think we generally see and hear the same voices being represented? How can we change that?

This is an important question to ask. Unfortunately, the interior design world is not a very inclusive space. Listening to the voices of the Black Lives Matter movement I realized that I was living in a bubble. As much as I was trying to buy local and handmade, I wasn’t doing enough. My first step was to pop that bubble and surround myself with artists and artisans who were people of color. I did that by finding them on Instagram and searching out blogs (I read a lot of interior design blogs!).

I love to buy art and looking at my walls I realized that I wasn’t supporting artists of color. I’ve made a concerted effort to change that and to support artists by buying their work for myself and my clients. Finally, I’m sharing what I find on social media.

Reflective Girl by Stephanie Graham inside Kandy’s home. Many children lose their lives to gun violence, but what does heaven look like for a kid, this is what artist Stephanie Graham questions in her Golden Kids Exhibition shown in 2015 at the Terrain Biennial. The figures are displayed in playful positions, giving them an endless way to play after death. The kids are produced out of gold mirror so you can see yourself, make faces in the mirror, take pictures, you know have fun with them allowing children to play in heaven but still have a connection to those they have left here in the world.

5. Lastly, you are working full time and side hustling your interior design business, way to go! What advice do you have for people looking to pursue some passion projects outside of their typical job?

Just start. You don’t have to have a logo, the perfect website, and all your processes in place. Seriously, just start. There is so much you learn by doing. My pricing when I first started reflected this, but as I gained experience and more training I raised my rates. Run it like a business from day one. That means getting the proper tax forms filled out and having a separate bank account. That moves it from a hobby into the realm of a business.  

I have priorities in my life that include my health and well-being and so I don’t work until 2 AM and get up and go to work the next day. Instead, I have chosen slow and steady growth. It means that I have time to take pottery classes, have dinner with friends and get some sleep. I create space for the things that matter in my life, including Meandering Design. You get to decide what it looks like for yourself.

Looking for a home refresh? Head right this way…

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