James Swan

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Episode 524: Weekend With Kerrie Kelly


Kerrie Kelly

Welcome to our “Weekend With” series of podcasts featuring interviews with guest alumni where we chat about how they approach their time away from the office.

Today we’re speaking with Sacramento California based, award winning designer and entrepreneur Kerrie Kelly.

Here’s the transcript of our conversation:

James:                          Join me as I chat with Kerrie Kelly and discover what her life is like when the weekend comes. Kerrie, great to have you back with us. Welcome to the show.


Kerrie Kelly:               Thank you so much. Great to hear your voice.


James Swan:               Thank you, thank you. So, for our listeners who may not have caught our earlier interview, Kerrie. Give us the 411 on Kerrie Kelly and what you, and your business, and brand are all about.


Kerrie Kelly:               Well, I’m an interior designer, I’m an author, and company owner in northern California. We have an over our chain creative agency that’s called the Kerrie Kelly Companies. And that’s made up of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab which is a residential and commercial design firm. We also have 42nd Street which is a fully customizable case good furniture company along with lighting, and rugs, and accessory lines that our team has designed. And Loft Media Group which is a digital marketing firm for the interior design industry that specializes in social media and editorial content.


James Swan:               Wow. So, you stay busy, right?


Kerrie Kelly:               We love our industry. We love interior design for sure and the areas we get to work in because of it.


James Swan:               Absolute. So, I’m curious then with all of those things going on and clearly a large team around you. How do you think your staff views you?


Kerrie Kelly:               Probably driven. I know they often feel the effects of that character trait or quality. But I think they also enjoy the ride and the dedication that the things that we’re able to be exposed to offer. So, driven. But they get to have their weekends too which is a good thing.


James Swan:               That is a good thing, always. How do you think your clients view you, Kerrie?


Kerrie Kelly:               I think they see all that’s going on with our companies and the various facets of that. But I also think that they think that our team is very approachable. I walk to work often, and I have clients pull over, and chat design, and I think they feel very comfortable in texting me. And we celebrate each other’s projects in the community and support one another. So, I think there’s an approachability that comes along with that.


James Swan:               Nice, nice, nice, nice. How about that handsome husband of yours and your extended family? How do they view you?


Kerrie Kelly:               Yeah. The silver fox – he and my dad were just talking at a Sunday night that we always have at our house – and they described me as giving which I found as a big compliment. But I think they see me with my team, and the people that we mentor, and having friends, and family over to entertain. Maybe that’s where that perception has come from.


James Swan:               So, it’s a big part of success in this world is giving back, don’t you think?


Kerrie Kelly:               Oh, my gosh. Yeah. And the older I get, the more I realize that, and the more fun that what we’re doing becomes. We’re actually headed down to San Luis Obispo. My alma mater is Cal Poly and we have two scholarships there. One for this innovation and entrepreneurship team. We have an accelerator team of these students that are digging into all these new projects, and we’re able to mentor, and support with them with scholarships.


And then, we also have a construction management scholarship, and it’s just so rewarding to see the light in their eyes, and be able to share a little bit what we’ve done in our career with them. And have them be that much further in what they’re doing because we can offer those little curls every once in a while.


James Swan:               That’s an amazing way to invest in the future, setting up something like that. Where did you get the idea or was that something that just came to you?

Kerrie Kelly:               Cal Poly was a very important experience for me. The whole concept there was learn by doing. And that was something that really spoke to me versus reading a textbook, to get my hands dirty, and touch, and feel, and see worked for me. And I thought that would probably work for others that were in this industry and I just really wanted to support that along with another place that we give back is ASID. American Society of Interior Designers. They’ve supported me throughout my career, so when it comes to supporting the foundation and that organization in general. I’m big on that.


James Swan:               Oh, it sounds like it’s a worthy – two worthy – recipients of your time and your energy. Most definitely. When you think about the idea about life work balance – I don’t know about you, but I read a lot about that. It seems like everywhere I turn, someone’s writing and saying something about it? What are your thoughts on that? How do you embody the idea of work life balance, Kerrie?


Kerrie Kelly:               It sounds amazing. But I think you’d agree with this – I’ve seen you in so many fun places as we go to market and such. I just love the mix of the work and the real life – the off-time things and how it can overlap. I like to work, so I don’t mind doing a design project that happens to be located in Napa. So, we’re standing in a beautiful place, working with lovely people, and tasting great wine along the way.


I think there’s a fun way to get the work done, absolutely. But celebrate along the way – and not only do that with our team – but do that with our clients as well and create friendships while we’re doing it. So, that definitely has taken time to evolve. And there was a point when I was half my age that I am now, that I just kind of said yes to everything and hustled, hustled, hustled. And it’s not that we don’t do that still, it’s just in a little bit different way, and a little more thoughtful way.


James Swan:               I was just going to ask, is it a conscious decision or is something that you’ve grown into intuitively as you’ve evolved in your career and your life?


Kerrie Kelly:               I think people always talk to me about it, especially with the ideas that I had or the things that I wanted to be a part of. They’d said, “When do you sleep?” Or those types of comments and that caused me to reflect. And I think as you get older, you choose how you want to work, and who you want to be surrounded by. And so, there is a conscious effort there of what do I want this to look like? And living in northern California, there’s so many things that we’re surrounded by that we want to be a part of whether it’s design project or something culturally.


James Swan:               Right.


Kerrie Kelly:               It was a conscious thing to have those elements overlap and I hope I can do more of it in a bigger way as we go on here.


James Swan:               Yeah. Bigger and better always, right?


Kerrie Kelly:               Yeah.


James Swan:               With that same thought in mind though, do you find that there are consistent challenges to that balance that you’re trying to realize? Or are the challenges random as they come at you?


Kerrie Kelly:               Luckily, we have a team of 10 of us to balance out the challenges. And I think we’ve been doing this long enough that we aren’t surprised too often. But I also am blessed with a husband who is very focused on that work life balance, and will pull me out, and say, “We’re going here for a week. And so, I looked at your calendar. Let’s figure this out.” And sometimes the work, and the travel, and such overlap each other so that you can dip in, and do a little bit of work. And then, extend it a bit to do some rest and relaxation at the same time.


James Swan:               So, it sounds like it’s a real conversation between the two of you?


Kerrie Kelly:               Oh, for sure, for sure.


James Swan:               Now, I’ve said this to his face because I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with you both. But I will say it again here on air – you make sure that he hangs onto you.


Kerrie Kelly:               Yeah.


James Swan:               Yeah.


Kerrie Kelly:               For sure.


James Swan:               He’s a good, he’s a good one.


Kerrie Kelly:               Yeah. And I think that contributes to the success. He definitely believes in what our team is doing and cares –

James Swan:               Yeah.


Kerrie Kelly:               About our team members and that’s another thing for us that while there’s 10 of us, that still has a family business feel.


James Swan:               Right.


Kerrie Kelly:               Whether we’re doing things at the national level or local level, come down to it – we’re a family and we got each other’s backs.


James Swan:               Exactly, yeah. And that’s priceless, isn’t it?


Kerrie Kelly:               Oh, for sure. Yes. And while we chose not to have kids at the same time, to be able to have this extended family in that way. And even with our vendors and clients too is a great feeling. A big hug.


James Swan:               Yeah, there you go. A big hug when you come to work. Can’t be that.


Kerrie Kelly:               Yeah.


James Swan:               So when the weekend approaches, how do you prepare for it? What are your goals and expectations as you move into the weekend? What special things do you do to make that time away from work meaningful?


Kerrie Kelly:               Our weekends are a bit unplugged. We typically find time to make dinner for friends or family, especially during the summer. This outdoor living that we get to do 90 percent of the year contributes to that lifestyle for sure. And in the winter, we just renovated our basement and installed a wine cellar. And so, that’s been a fun little spot to hang out in, and share moments with friends, and families, and our team members as well. And if we’re not at home, we’ll be in Napa, or Santa Barbara, or at the end of the pier in Lake Tahoe on our happy perch. But places like that invigorate us and the people who surround us do too.


James Swan:               Nice. It sounds like traveled and be it short – sort of in the neighborhood as it were there in northern California or even a little further afield is important to you.


Kerrie Kelly:               Yeah, definitely. I’m definitely a California girl and just that whole, “Al fresco,” kind of outdoor scenario is something that we do here if we’re not abroad.


James Swan:               Yeah. Having grown up in Sacramento I know how many choices and options there are just within – I don’t know – an hour, hour and a half away. It’s kind of a smorgasbord.


Kerrie Kelly:               Yeah. We’re going to get you over here. We have a long drive way and it has little Italian lights over it. And we turn that into a 20-foot table, it can be a 10-foot table too depending on how big our group. And that sharing and breaking of bread is just a great feel. We love it.


James Swan:               Nice. That prompts another question. How do you handle the balance between social time when you’re away from the office, and then the just more personal time? Where it might just be you or your husband, or maybe it’s even just you? How do you parse that out?


Kerrie Kelly:               I think a lot of it overlaps. We live in a – the area that we live in is very social as far as this kind of front porch living concept. And so, there are evenings where we think we’re having a quiet night at home sitting on the porch. And all of a sudden it turns into wine and ribs with neighbors. But during the week when we do after hours events for both of our industries. Vinny’s in the healthcare industry and there’s that overlap of friends, and clients, and coworkers. But once those things happen, we do like to grab some time alone, and see other’s eyeballs across from each other, and catch up on what’s happened.


James Swan:               How are you about stepping away from Vinny when you just need time for yourself? What is that like for you?


Kerrie Kelly:               It’s –


James Swan:               Or vice versa I should say when he might need time away also?


Kerrie Kelly:               We find our personalities are a little bit different when we’re away from each other in the way – for me – where we may relax and watch a movie. I’m a little bit more out and about when we’re apart from each other. And I kind of have a list and I want to get these things done. And if it’s not that, it’s more of a batteries out kind of concept where you find me at the spa. So –


James Swan:               Oh, yeah.


Kerrie Kelly:               I’m either a whirling dervish, or getting massage, or doing yoga, or meditation, or something along that line. But – yeah. We do – we celebrate our times away from each other and makes it that much better when we’re back able to reconnect and have that midweek date night too.


James Swan:               Nice. Is that something that you do regularly? Is that an every week thing?


Kerrie Kelly:               Yeah. It’s not something that’s ever on the calendar. But there are days where you come home and you just give each other the look. And it’s like, “Okay. Get in the car, let’s go.” Or let’s even walk around the block, and around the neighborhood, and we find when we’re moving that a lot of the information comes out. And you’re able to peel the layers and kind of center again.


James Swan:               That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Finding that center spot. That plays a balance.


Kerrie Kelly:               Yeah. We recently – I guess over the past two years – we used to be really intense and go do hip fitness, and be boxing, and I have a mean left hook. That sort of thing. But –


James Swan:               I’ve heard that, so –


Kerrie Kelly:               But we modified that a bit, turn more into that yoga and meditation side of things. And I think that helps with the mental balance and all the things that all of us juggle. And to show up a little bit better for our clients and our teams.


James Swan:               Nice. Kerrie, if you could trade places – just for a weekend – with anyone, anywhere, and at any time. Who would you pick and tell us why?


Kerrie Kelly:               Well, you know me well so you’re going to see this one coming. But I would probably trade with Mr. Ralph Lauren in the 1990s.


James Swan:               Oh.


Kerrie Kelly:               I worked for him in the 1990s and in my mind, he would undoubtedly be at one of his seven amazing residential properties that he has in all different – he’s outfitted in all different styles that were under his design umbrella, or at some event conjuring up a fashion line, or product, or restaurant concept. And I think, if I could walk around in his brain or see through his eyes, that would be priceless. Just inspiring.


James Swan:               Yeah, good pick. Very good pick. And you’d want to have a notepad with you, most definitely.


Kerrie Kelly:               For sure. Or I guess my camera, something. Yeah to capture –


James Swan:               [Inaudible]. Your phone.


Kerrie Kelly:               Those moments.


James Swan:               Today, we would have our phones with us.


Kerrie Kelly:               Yeah, no. I like the romance of the notepad, that’s much better.


James Swan:               It’s a different feel, isn’t it?


Kerrie Kelly:               [Inaudible]. Yeah.


James Swan:               Now, I was having dinner with friends over this past weekend. And they’ve just announced that their home has become – during family hours – a phone free zone. Have you ever thought about anything like that or maybe that’s something that you guys do by default?


Kerrie Kelly:               Yeah. I used to sleep with my phone on my night stand. We’ve relocated that to our bathroom area, and I think that helps with not having it be the last thing you see at night, and the first thing you see in the morning. And then, Sundays are pretty sacred to us. While sometimes we’re on our phones planning a dinner, or travel, or something. We do try to stay off the social media part of it and thankfully, we do have someone in our office who takes care of that aspect for us. And we try to really be engaged on Sunday whether that’s farmer’s market, or making meals for the week, or having that Sunday night family dinner. We try to really stick to that.


James Swan:               I remember you telling me about that Sunday night dinner. That’s rather special in your house, isn’t it?


Kerrie Kelly:               Yeah. No invitation needed. Dad is always there, and then my brother in law, and my sister, and my nephew sometimes come too. Especially when it’s time for swimming. And that’s our way that we get to see Honey, our family yellow lab. And she’s getting older, but she – it’s almost like she looks forward to it too. She knows her place, she knows what the deal is, and how we all interact with each other. So, she’s definitely a part of it as well.

James Swan:               Are you a hobby person, Kerrie? Do you have something that’s special in your life that facilitates your down time? Do you paint? Do you – anything like that?


Kerrie Kelly:               I do really enjoy writing. I love it. But that sometimes turns into work, so I call it a hobby. But we’ve written two books out of our home, and that process was incredible, and I just love getting those ideas out. And there are four projects that I just have in my back pocket just kind of simmering. And I like tapping into those in a different version of creativity outside of the design.


James Swan:               So, are you telling us there’s a third book percolating?


Kerrie Kelly:               Oh, yeah. There’s always a couple in the back pocket. And design related as far as the topic, but I’m sure if I’ve – if we were to trend how many times I said wine in this interview. Wine and design is one of them. And then, the other – just because we love northern California and Santa Barbara and –


James Swan:               Of course.


Kerrie Kelly:               The interiors and exteriors that those regions give us and inspire us. But the other one is Spanish Revival design, and just that white aesthetic that exterior with the tile roof, and how the landscape plays with it. I think there are so many things to study, and learn about that, and incorporate into our work. So –


James Swan:               And that’s such an important part of life there in California, both northern and southern.


Kerrie Kelly:               Yeah, definitely. And we have so many talented friends that contribute to those aesthetics. We love to celebrate their work and what they do.


James Swan:               Sure. Wow, okay. Something to look forward to –


Kerrie Kelly:               Yeah.


James Swan:               From Ms. Kelly. We’ll watch with eager anticipation for those books as they materialize. Let’s think about – maybe we’ll apply it to one of your Sunday evening dinners. If you could select one guest from the past, one guest from the present, and one guest from the future for your Sunday evening family round table. Is it round? I don’t remember.


Kerrie Kelly:               Yeah.


James Swan:               You’ve told me that.


Kerrie Kelly:               Outside is – actually both tables are round –


James Swan:               Both are round, okay.


Kerrie Kelly:               [Inaudible] if we were down the driveway, yeah.


James Swan:               Okay. We’ll go with round then. But if we could have those three people – one from the past, one from the present, and one from the future join you and your family. Who would you want them to be and why?


Kerrie Kelly:               For me, it truly would be my mom who passed away last year. My dad, who’s with us today and every Sunday. And their grandson Lared, who’s five years old now. And if they could see him graduate or on his wedding weekend, I know they would really understand how they’ve contributed to his success and happiness. And while we only knew my mom when he was very young, I see traits in him – they were just inseparable. So, I think they just would see themselves in him and be very proud of the smart, little guy he’s become.


James Swan:               Wow, nice. That does round that off very nicely, doesn’t it?


Kerrie Kelly:               Yeah.


James Swan:               Think about an upcoming weekend – just you and Vinny – what’s a destination, adventure, experience that the two of you haven’t had yet. But that you’d like to make reality if you could just wiggle your nose and make it happen. Where would you be off to?


Kerrie Kelly:               It would have – if I could wiggle my nose and get there it would happen even sooner. That’s – the schlep is always part of the calculation when planning these things. But Vinny and I have been talking about Portugal. And I think it’s often Greece, or Italy, or Spain are our top of mine for people. But I think Portugal sometimes gets left out, and just in looking at pictures, and looking with one particularly vendor. We’ve designed some – a dishware line, and I would love to go there, get my hands dirty with the manufacturer. And really understand that business, especially since we like to entertain so much and –


James Swan:               Sure.


Kerrie Kelly:               Just take photos of that country’s vibrancy, and embrace the culture, and even the pace of Portugal, and the surrounding areas. And bring those experiences back home. Every time we’re able to do that, it’s very meaningful for both Vinny and myself. But also, when we are able to share it with our team when we get home and our clients as well.


James Swan:               Well, having done two trips to Portugal. I can vouch for its amazingness.


Kerrie Kelly:               Thumbs up, then?


James Swan:               Probably a word. Yeah, it’s a definite thumbs up.


Kerrie Kelly:               Okay, okay.


James Swan:               Go for it.


Kerrie Kelly:               Okay.


James Swan:               Kerrie Kelly, it’s always a joy getting to speak with you. Thank you so much for sharing so candidly about your downtime, and the balance that you strike between your very busy work schedule, and the life that you have at home.


Kerrie Kelly:               Well, I appreciate you asking. I look forward to seeing you across a room at a market. And then, getting to reconnect again.


James Swan:               It’s coming up soon, I have a feeling, so –


Kerrie Kelly:               Yeah. I’ll see you in the fall.


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