Sometimes the road takes a turn leading to more joy than ever considered possible. For both Joann Kandrac and Kelly Kole, job transfers from up North down to Atlanta ultimately started a beautiful journey that would bring them together as friends staring at the same map … and deciding to upgrade the very paper used to print it. Once these two forged their bond, they quickly proved their talents in design, building a loyal clientele and “paying it forward” whenever possible with their firm Kandrac & Kole Interior Designs, Inc. Their success shows what can happen when bold souls pursue passions and maintain grateful hearts in the process.
Neither one of you are from Atlanta. How’d you make your way here?
JK: My husband worked for Hewlett-Packard and our choices to move were Boise, Detroit or Atlanta. It was a no-brainer!
KK: I was recruited by an Atlanta property management company to move here from Richmond, Virginia. I still can’t believe I picked up and moved my entire family when my girls where just 3 1/2 and 1! I was determined to climb the corporate ladder FAST (oh, how my priorities have changed).
As little girls, what did you want to be when you grew up?
JK: A soap opera actress (seriously).
KK: An ice skater — I was obsessed with Dorothy Hamill.
What has surprised you the most about becoming a Southerner?
JK: The consistency of cordial, pleasant people.
KK: That while I enjoy visiting, I would never consider living in the North ever again. A Northerner living in the South is the ideal personality type.
When was your light bulb moment, telling you to start your own firm?
JK: After completing The Governor’s Towne Club show house together back in 2005. We had such fun and our personalities, design taste and work ethic were so in sync.
KK: Right after 9/11, I lost the corporate job that I’d put my heart and soul into. It was the perfect time to reflect on what was most important to me — my family and following my dreams. I went back to school at The Art Institute of Atlanta and started Kelly Kole Interiors. (I look back and I’m still so proud of myself for being so fearless.) After flying solo for four years, I decided to hang up that shingle and join Joann to form Kandrac & Kole Interior Designs, Inc.
Who have been your greatest mentors as you develop your business?
JK: Lisa Robison and Kim Turner of Dwell with Dignity. They’ve created an organization with the singular goal to bring good design to those less fortunate, inspiring them to maintain a standard of living in which they can take pride and thrive.
KK: My good friend Michael Sawick, owner of several businesses, was an experienced sounding board for me. He introduced me to several great reads, one of which, The E Myth Revisted, still rings in my head.
Which projects give you the most pride and joy?
JK: The charity projects of course, but also the ones where the client becomes extremely emotional. You know that you have changed a life!
KK: The charity projects — our work in Guatemala with Catalyst Resources International, Dwell with Dignity and Room Service Atlanta has changed lives. To be able to use our talents and our passions to completely affect the way another human being faces the day is both humbling and empowering.
What’s your fantasy assignment?
Both: A house on the beach — big or small!
Do you have a Kandrac & Kole signature style?
JK: Function first, beauty second, pops of color and sophisticated, whimsical spaces.
KK: The longer we’re in business, the more we search for ways to customize our designs with original art, artisan-made products, hand-woven textiles, etc. This really benefits our client because our designs are NEVER cookie cutter.
Tell us your best advice for working with a decorator. What’s the most important thing you learn about a client from your initial meetings?
JK: How they like to live in their home. We ask a lot of questions to delve into their daily lives along with giving them something unexpected, something they would have never thought of on their own. The other advice I can give is to TRUST the designer and the process.
KK: From our perspective, we dig deep with our clients so that we can design a space that authentically reflects them and their family. We ask questions about their likes, dislikes, how they spend their down and work time, what do they collect, where do they travel, what are their long term plans for that house, do they entertain, what needs do the kids and pets have, etc. As Joann said, if you want the biggest bang for your buck, TRUST us. The end results are much better when the client gives us freedom to work our magic
Give us a little inside scoop — a decorating quick tip, shortcut or cheap thrill.
JK: A cheap thrill for me is incorporating a graphic wallpaper on the ceiling!
KK: Take the plunge and invest in a piece of original art that speaks to you, even if it’s a small desktop piece. Knowing that it’s the only one of it’s kind, beautiful and yours to enjoy will bring you happiness for a long time.
Do you have any irrational fears, secret passions or quirky hidden talents?
JK: I’m afraid to ride a bike; I secretly want to teach/coach design students just graduating from college the business side of interior design; and my quirky hidden talent is a certain contortion I do with my lips that creates a whistle I’ve never seen anyone else do.
KK: I’m a totally open book and pretty darn brave so I don’t have too much hidden. I am though, absolutely terrified of drowning (my cousin hung on to me in the ocean when we were little and pushed me under for way too long and I’m still traumatized). My daughter, Riley, really wants to go sky-diving with me. The thought of it scares the hell out of me which means that I will have to do with her some day. Talents? Hmmm … I’m still very flexible at my age – I’ve put it to good use in my yoga practice.
What’s the last movie that made you laugh hysterically? What about one that made you cry like a baby?
JK: I had one movie that did both — Life is Beautiful back in 1997 with Roberto Benigni who directed and starred in the movie.
KK: I can’t believe Joann said that … it’s one of my all time favorite movies. To quote another fave movie, Forrest Gump, “We are like peas and carrots …” so it shouldn’t surprise me that so many of our answers can be the same.
Where are your favorite vacation spots and which locations beckon from your travel bucket list?
JK: Charleston and Venice are my favorites. Would love to visit London, Morocco and the Amalfi Coast in Italy.
KK: Of course I totally agree with Joann again! I would add the Grand Cayman Islands as one of my favorites and I would add Thailand to the bucket list.
When visitors come in town, where do you take them to show off Atlanta? Restaurants, shopping, sites?
KK: Restaurants all over town — Capers, Fish Thyme and Chuys in Kennesaw; Century Tavern in Woodstock, Nan Thai Fine Dining in Atlanta; Souper Jenny in Buckhead … oh, the list could go on an on. Scott’s Antique Market and any arts festival or farmers’ market is always at the top of my list.
Name three things you just can’t live without (other than Faith, Family, & Friends)
JK: My daily dose of iced green tea, my shelter magazines and my MacBook Pro.
KK: All of my Apple products especially my MacBook Pro, my KMS Extra Firm Hair Spray and my Bernie Mev shoes (soooo comfortable and good for my crappy knees).
Fearless, feisty and fabulous. Kandrac & Kole, thank you for adding your sparkle and spirit to StyleBlueprint. Be sure to check out their blog: blog.kandrac-kole.com
Cat Maxwell‘s photos perfectly captures your energy. Thank you, Cat.