Coffee With: Kiyonda Powell of Kiyonda Powell Design Studio

We chatted Lady Mix-A-Lot, bus transformations, and vintage fashion.

Kiyonda Powell approaches her design with the same passion and planning as a chef orchestrates making a flavorful gumbo; each design must present soul, spice, depth, and unexpected surprises. Her portfolio exhibits her bold but masterful design eye and personality.

Q&A With Kiyonda

Casaza: How did you get your start?
Kiyonda Powell: I come from a family of artists and musicians; it was meant to be. Since I was young I wanted to be a designer and work in a creative capacity. I always tell people that my first design projects included building a piece of furniture as well as designing a hair salon. I was 11 years old when I created a hair salon in my closet, complete with my mother’s pots and pans for wash bowls. Needless to say, she wasn’t too happy about that. I also created a window seat with an empty appliance box for my bedroom. I filled the inside with anything I could find and covered it with decorative blankets, pillows and voila!

A few years out of college there was an opportunity that presented itself. I quit my paid non-profit job to take a small stipend summer internship with a hotel company in their design department. It was my plan to wow them with my abilities and they would immediately offer me a job. They eventually did a few months after the internship ended. It wasn’t a glamorous position, but I was able to get my first taste of project management with the installation of model rooms and trade show vignettes for various brands.

C: How would you describe your style?
KP: Globally Inspired. Edgy. Vintage. Sophisticated.

I am always inspired by different cultures – their architecture and traditional costumes, especially those with deep jewel tone colors and adornments. I appreciate a little edge in any design because it brings a slight tension that gives people something to talk about! I consider myself to have an old soul and vintage pieces in fashion and interiors speak to my spirit and personality. Once you blend the various styles together, a touch of sophistication through selections and placement automatically elevates the design.

Living room designed by Kiyonda Powell with cream sofa and patterned pillows, picture frames and plants
Designed by Kiyonda Powell Design Studio

C: Where do you get new ideas and inspiration?
KP: I am happy to get inspiration from just about everywhere as I move through my day, but I will say when I am able to travel and recharge, that is when I find the most inspiration. At the moment I am inspired by vintage fashion and art from the 1960s. I have also been paying attention to floral arrangements. The artistic color and texture combinations are truly inspiring to me.

C: Favorite room in the house?
KP: I would say any room in the home where one can truly relax and unwind. For me, it’s a tie between my bedroom and living space.

Bedroom designed by Kiyonda Powell with pastel color decor and bed
Design by Kiyonda Powell Design Studio

C: Design rule you don’t subscribe to?
KP: Most rules I try not to consciously subscribe to. My process is really organic and it’s my goal to make sure a space feels good to its user, so it shouldn’t be textbook. I’m really not sure how I feel about the karate chopped pillow. I think I prefer a more relaxed lived-in look!

C: Recent project that inspired you?
KP: I recently completed a school bus conversion that really inspired me for multiple reasons. While the space had physical and spatial limitations, I was able to be extremely creative with palette and finishes. We even added a back porch within the footprint of the existing bus which was a hit! The mission and purpose of the bus are what most inspired me. We created a mobile office/classroom space that would engage with local communities providing access to its users with a variety of enriching mini classes and info sessions. I recently completed a country-wide tour with the bus and got to see first hand how much of an impact it was making and will make with sessions like the kids’ coding camp. The look on their young faces seeing the web pages they created go live just tugged at my heartstrings!

C: Favorite texture/pattern/color?
KP: Oh my goodness- all of them! I have been nicknamed Lady Mix-A-Lot and called a patternologist. Texture, pattern, and color are the flavor to design… I really cannot pick just one! I will say that I am generally drawn to jewel tones but my taste is really like a mood ring, it just depends on the moment and the energy!

C: What is “good design” to you?
KP: Good design is well curated for the user, creating an experience unmatched or duplicated. Good design is inspired and inspiring. Good design makes you stop in your tracks and do a double-take. That says job well done!

C: Pack your bag! You’re moving into a famous home. Whose is it?
KP: Thought you would never ask! Diane Von Furstenberg (I affectionately call her Auntie Diane in my head). Her home looks like it has an interesting story to tell and I am sitting perched and ready to experience the story! I love her bold pattern play and eclectic vibe. Her style resonates with me.

Diane von Furstenberg's Paris apartment
Diane von Furstenberg’s home | Courtesy of AD

C: What’s your rule when entertaining?
KP: I try to make it effortless. I tend to keep things simple with an impressive presentation. I make sure my guests feel comfortable with the perfect mood lighting, scented candles, and casual and comfortable seating. I was once told to never run out of ice, so I will pass on the same advice!

C: Best advice for DIYers?
KP: Practice makes perfect. Consider starting with a beginner level DIY project just to get a taste of the process and the time it takes to complete the project. Research as much as possible the technique before diving in, especially with any safety precautions. If it’s a task that seems too daunting, time-consuming and above your pay-grade, consider sending it to the professionals.

C: Best advice for those hiring a pro?
KP: Energy is important. Align yourself with a designer who is gracious, knowledgeable and will manage your expectations. Have a budget in mind and expect that a designer will help you understand how far your budget can take you. Trust the process and don’t second guess. When you hire a designer it’s because you believe in their talent and ability. Let them show and prove!

C: What is one design trend are you most excited about?
KP: I am most excited about furnishings, lighting and accessories that are sculptural and artistic. They will command attention as stand-alone pieces. There were several that caught my eye at this fall’s High Point Market.

C: How do you take your coffee?
KP: I gave up coffee around the age of 5 🙂 I am, however, a tea drinker, so pass me a mug of lavender earl grey with a half scoop of raw sugar!

Kiyonda Powell designed an apartment overlooking the Atlanta skyline with books and accent chairs
Design by Kiyonda Powell Design Studio

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