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Kim Bernard, ASID, IIDA, is the Executive Director of Facilities and Showroom Design at Walker Zanger (Ceramic tile and stone), and has impressively designed and/or remodeled 27 locations to date, including some for their dealers (one location can include 500 floor installations and 300+ vignettes in addition to numerous architectural installations!) We are humbled and excited to be able to spotlight her this month!

When did you attend UCLA Extension’s ARC-ID program?  What were the most helpful skills you learned from the program?

I completed the program in 1981. Space planning, hand drawing and sketching and how to stay up all night to meet a deadline.

How has ASID played a role in your professional (and personal) life thus far?

In the early days, I had the opportunity to participate in several community service projects that gave me experience in disciplines that I had never been exposed to such as LA Free Clinic, Foundation for the Junior Blind, The Hollywood Bowl and a remodel of the Mayor’s office. Additionally, I value the many friends I have made and maintained throughout my 35 years as a member. Continuing education in our industry is critical as product and technologies change at seemingly break neck speed. 

What attracted you to interior design?

Both of my parents were very creative. I grew up in an A. Quincy Jones house and my family would travel somewhere specifically to see a particular building. I was surrounded by art, design and creative people that shaped my life and continue to influence me today.

Current occupation within the industry? How did you come to be in your position?

I am the Executive Director of Facilities and Showroom Design at Walker Zanger (Ceramic tile and stone). In 1992 during another, earlier recession, the economy was suffering and I needed stability to support my two children. I took a job with WZ as an outside rep, which turned into showroom manager within 3 months. A couple of years into my tenure as showroom manager at our West Hollywood showroom, WZ embarked on the construction of a new location in Houston. I asked if I could come up with some concepts for the showroom. I promised it would not compromise my daily duties so I worked on it after hours.  Fortunately, they liked what I presented and the rest, as they say, is history. I have designed and/or remodeled 27 locations to date including showrooms for some of our dealers. I will say that during those 4 years of working the showroom floor, I honed my design skills and gained confidence in my design decisions.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a major remodel and expansion of our Atlanta location as well as a replacement showroom in Charlotte. I typically build a new showroom per year. Some of these are to replace existing facilities. There are over 500 floor installations, 300+ vignettes as well as numerous architectural installations that keep me constantly busy as well. In addition, I am responsible for the office space for more than 200 employees.

What are 3 qualities that got you to where you are today, professionally and personally?

Being a good problem solver, which is what design essentially is about.  And… I hope creativity and tenacity.

What is one of your biggest challenges?

Staying abreast of the technical changes in the industry and making time to learn new skills. It’s important to balance your own work responsibilities with that of personal & professional development.

What does your typical day look like?

Before I leave the office each day, I create a short list of tasks for the next day based on a running inventory. After I finish my morning “East Coast construction” emails, I can hit the ground running. I always try to tackle the “worth things first” (which can also mean the most challenging) so that I can handle them when I’m at my peek.  

Best career advice you’ve gotten?

Keep growing and learning or you can quickly become irrelevant. The second is to develop trade partners to whom you stay loyal. They will be there to support you when you most need it.

What is one helpful design resource you can recommend to our students as they enter the field?

Your fellow designers. If you don’t know where or how to find something, one of your designer friends might.

Something you wish you knew when you first got started designing? 

I wish I had started learning CAD earlier. 

What is your favorite ‘thing’ in your own home?

Besides my new kitten (found abandoned in the bushes at work), I have an original Saarinen Tulip table like the one my family had when I was growing up. This one came from a client who didn’t want it anymore and was banished to their patio where it became badly damaged.  I had the base painted by an auto body shop and put a new stone top on it.  It looks as good as my mom’s did in 1963.