Kurt, who is originally from Missoula, Montana recently purchased an old school house (that he remembers from his childhood), and is in the process of renovating it as a Bed and Breakfast and a gift shop (Here's the link to watch the progress.) Perhaps if you are in Montana this summer you can swing by the B&B and pick up a home made home gift. Just make sure you tell Kurt, you saw him on Apartment Therapy!
Kurt, who appreciates all styles of design, has also published a stylish table-setting book that teaches you how to make fun centerpieces. He has also been teaching an environmental green class at FIDM where he shares his teachings about green design and building materials.
How did you come to be a designer?
I have always been interested in drawing and aesthetics. It was something that I always knew I would do. I would redesign family members' homes in my head when I would visit. Growing up in Montana, I secretly looked at shelter magazines at the newsstand by covering them with a sports magazine.
What's your favorite color to work with and why?
I don't have a favorite color. I love all color. What I find exciting is to create unexpected color combinations. Though currently I am smitten with old knotty pine circa 1940's. The color and finish has a creamy opacity while still allowing the grain to come through. I think only old varnish and shellac over the years can create this subtle coloration, yet I am trying to recreate it!
What color combinations do you see using in the future?
The mellow, golden yellow of a pint of Heffeweissen beer and a smokey gray-mushroom-green.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
History and travel.
Which interior or furniture designers, past or present, do you most admire?
Not so much a designer, but rather a style, 18th Century Gustavian, Mies van der Rohe, Craig Ellwood. These may seem disparate selections, but upon closer examination they have a classical simplicity and attention to symmetry.
Describe your design theory in 4-6 words.
Honesty of materials, honesty of spirit.
What is your signature mark that you always try to implement in a space?
My client's personality.
If you could redo any space, past or present, what would it be?
I am currently rehabilitating an old schoolhouse and teacher age that had been a bed and breakfast and Christmas market. It was a building from my childhood, and now it is mine. It has a lot of history, not only for me, but also for the community. I am working on maintaining that charm, but also taking it to the next level. It has been closed for two years. What I would love to hear at its reopening is "It's just as I remember it!" (You can keep tabs on my progress at www.9mileschoolhouse.com.)
What have you learned about having your own business that you wish you knew when you were just starting out?
This business is not about design, it is about psychology.
What are your best practices when it comes to client relations?
Hopefully, it is drawing out the needs of my client. Taking their hopes and wishes and turning them into a tangible space that they dreamt of, but didn't know how to get there.
What 5 things does a well designed home need?
1. Active surfaces that remain active – not catch-alls for stuff. These include countertops in kitchens and guest bathrooms. These surfaces constantly change and don't require static decoration.
2. Good lighting. This can mean many things, but a variety of lighting for a variety of moods. I believe every switch in a home should be a rheostat, with the exception of the garbage disposal!
3. Maintained organization. How well can anything be designed if there are not places for all the inhabitants' stuff. Closets, kitchens, utility rooms, all these spaces need to be custom designed to fit the needs of the inhabitants. LeCorbusier was right: "A house is a machine for living."
4. Souvenirs of the inhabitants' life. Art, travel stories, and above all, books. Not anonymous books by the yard, but ones that have been read and have affected the inhabitants.
5. That intangible sense of life that can only be achieved when the inhabitants really enjoy and use their home. And you know it and can feel it the minute you enter. Until that happens it is only just a building.
If you hadn't become a designer, what do you think you would be doing now?
That's a thought that has never crossed my mind.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Traveling and designing.