Hi All!

It’s my turn to contribute to our website’s InterKOM feature. While I am excited to be challenged to come up with something interesting, I am honestly not exactly sure where to take this…

So, as many of you know, I’ve recently returned from an extraordinarily amazing European vacation with my family – a once-in-a-life-time experience that was a graduation gift for my son, but in which the whole family participated. We stood at the top of the Arch de Triumph and marveled at the city planning of Paris, explored modernism in Barcelona (Gaudi really rocks!) and had the wow-is-that-cool-but-kind-of-embarrassing-at-the-same-time reaction to the Torre Agbar as well as the “Gherkin” in London. We chilled at the pool and on the beach on the Costa Brava, drove through the Pyrenees and the Alps – stopping in Cannes and Nice, Monte Carlo, and Savigliano, Italy, and Villars, Switzerland. (Where we celebrated National Swiss Day with the locals.) With my batteries recharged and my mind refreshed, I’m inspired anew in my chosen field! (I highly recommend it!)

Well, back to the task at hand… if I understand this whole “blogging” idea, the goal is to give our readers a little glimpse into what makes us, us. (Guess you just got a whole dose of that.) But first I’d like to tell you a little more about my background and what I do…

If we haven’t yet met, my name is Cindy Douthett Nagel, and I’m an interior designer at Krech, O’Brien, Mueller & Associates (or “KOMA”… although I hate saying “KOMA”… but that’s another story). I have two kids (one who has just started college… sniff!) and the second, a sophomore in high school. I also have a fabulous husband whose support makes balancing motherhood with a demanding career possible. I spent a good chunk of my youth in England – graduated high school from there, in fact (hence some of the fascination with Europe) – and then moved to Boulder, Colorado, where I managed a women’s clothing store. I learned a lot about the retail business in my four years there – being in a family-run business, one is expected to wear many hats and is given responsibilities at a tender age beyond one’s experience. Thrown in the deep end, I learned to swim! (The “deep end” thing was to become a model for my school experience and the beginning of my design career.) From there it was an intense education in interior design at the Colorado Institute of Art in Denver (of the 34 people who started the program, only two of us finished!). Upon graduation I packed up everything I owned into a yellow 1962 VW Beatle and a red panel van and drove to Minnesota where my future in-laws were gracious enough to take me in until I managed to find a job. I was lucky – it only took me three months. I was offered my first interior design position on December 4, 1984, for $5.00 per hour at CSB Design in Wayzata. (Later renamed Design Syndicate, Inc. and relocated downtown Minneapolis.) I was married a year later, and worked at that first job for seven years. Following that, I worked a five-year stint with L & M Associates, where that retail experience really came in handy while designing the prototype and subsequent roll-out program for NordicTrack Fitness at Home stores nationwide. Along the way, I met and collaborated with Brady (Mueller) and Jim (Krech) and ended up joining their firm, KOMA in 1997. Oh, and yes, somehow between projects I managed to produce two wonderful little human beings! How’s that for career/life in a nutshell?

Oh, wait a minute! You say you didn’t realize that KOMA had interior designers on staff? Yikes! Well, it does sometimes seem like we’re a bit of a well-kept secret. So, I’m here to tell you: we do great interiors work for our clients. I’m really proud of the work we do! People often ask about how architecture and interiors overlap, and I always tell them that there should be a “marriage” between the two disciplines – we need each other. While I may not be an expert on vapor barriers and load limits, I do need to be aware of the requirement and impact of such elements on any overall project. Decorators have been notorious for ignoring the existence of structure – trying to remove columns from building interiors. As a commercial interior designer, I need to fully understand the structural impact of, say, adding (literally) tons of sand to planters on the fourth floor of a structure, how a soffit is framed and how there must be accessible paths through every space – as well as how all material specifications affect life-safety. There’s definitely more to this than choosing colors and finishes, although I’ve always called that the “fun part.” Understanding comes first but communication is really the key! Concepts must be developed internally, and then communicated to the client so that they are excited and able to share the vision… construction methods must be fully worked out, clearly detailed and communicated to the contractors… and relationships of trust, based on experience, must be built (pun fully intended!). The whole thing is a collaboration of the team, comprised of the client, designers, architects, engineers and contractors, from start to finish.

Wow! That’s only two bullets! This is getting longer than I expected. (I do tend to be long-winded – at least when leaving voicemail messages!) But, the subject of collaboration actually leads beautifully to, my third (and what will hopefully be the last) bullet… process.

I’ve had a number of people ask me about “the design process.” Simply stated, the design springs from the needs of the client, the specific budget parameters and the client’s desired visual identity and brand. As kitschy as it may sound, I have always been, and remain, a firm subscriber to the old design adage – “Form follows function.” One of the things I love about my job is that I get to immerse myself in the client’s world and really get to know about what they do, who they are, and what is – and what isn’t – working for them. This is the essential component of my “programming” process. I have spent time watching how people work in their current space, and interviewed employees to find out how they interact with their surroundings and each other. I’ve even attended new franchisee training sessions for retail clients in an effort to completely understand those particular needs. This is crucial, for me: It would be impossible for me to design a functional, aesthetically pleasing and productivity-enhancing space for a client without fully understanding their business.

After programming, everything grows out of the space plan. While I’m in the process of space planning, I tend to think in three dimensions… I walk through a virtual video in my mind where the “sculpting” of the space comes alive for me. I’ve found it interesting over the years that on the construction site, I know immediately that something has gone wrong when the physical actuality does not match my “video.” I also find ultimate satisfaction at seeing the finished product and marveling that the reality matched the vision that I have carried mentally from the planning stage through construction.

With that being said, I think this is a good place to wrap up. (I could go on forever about some of these things.) Hope you enjoyed the read, surprisingly – I had fun writing! (Not particularly my forte!)

So, if you’d like to talk more about some of my above ramblings, or if you want to give me a grade for my first blog entry, please don’t hesitate to contact me at cnagel@komainc.com. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!