Remember when you were little and would come up with big dreams and plans of what you would do when you grew up? That's what sisters Katie Porter and Kim Vracar did, and their dream did come true. "We always knew we wanted to work together and have our own business, since we were very young, because we're so close, but we didn't know what we would do or when," Kim explains. Katie and Kim, owners of KP Design Studio and graduates of Design Institute of San Diego, grew up in Arizona and came to San Diego often to spend time with their dad. "I started off going to nursing school" Katie remembers, "but then I began to rethink everything and decided to move to San Diego because I had fallen in love with it when visiting." Although neither of them fully understood what it meant to be an interior designer, they had an idea that it might be a good fit. "I remember when our mom was helping a lady with her house and we went over there. I just remember thinking that 'This is a really nice house!' And I felt like I wanted to live like that. That's when I realized homes are more than just a piece here a piece there," Kim recalls. Their dad was also involved with the industry, she adds: "He was a custom builder and made it look so glamorous. He would pop into meetings and he was friends with his clients. It was very social and we're social people."
Once Katie moved out and toured DISD, it was a done deal: "I remember thinking 'Oh my gosh there's so much more to interior design than I could have ever thought!'" She started right away and absolutely loved it. After a while she called her sister and said, "'Kim, you are going to have to come over here. I can't teach you all of what I'm learning!' I was in the drawing and composition class and I didn't even think I was an artist! Kim eventually started at DISD two years after I did." The sisters could not have been happier. They loved the way each class prepared them for the next, that every one of their classmates had similar interests, and that it was challenging but fun. "I loved every minute of being there," Kim says. "It went by so fast."
While in school Katie interned for interior designer and DISD graduate Terry Strandemo, and eventually Kim worked there too. Their initial tasks included calling vendors and filing paperwork and photos, but little by little they were given more and more responsibility such as doing drawings, going on site and meeting with clients. "We loved working for her," Katie explains as Kim nods in agreement. They both worked for Terry for about 10 years. Katie left first and ventured out on her own, while Kim stayed but helped out Katie as needed. As Terry became less busy and Katie more so, Kim split her time half and half, and eventually went to work full time with her sister. "We felt more than prepared to start our own business," Kim says. "But it was still scary. You have to learn how to get new clients, grow your business and be present with the clients you're working with. But we just kept reminding ourselves that we were strong in our drawing skills, details and materials."
Both sisters are endlessly passionate about high-end new construction, which is the primary focus of their business. "There are major challenges but we love the challenges," Katie states. A big part of what they love is working with a team of builders and architects and having the satisfaction not only of the client but also of the whole team at the end of the project. They work hard to maintain the high quality of their work and their relationships. "We get a lot of positive feedback from the trade," Kim says. "The builders enjoy working with us because we're well-educated and experienced, and we know how to work through a detail." In their view, part of having a good relationship with the team is that everyone works together through the design challenges. That is probably why the majority of their work has been referrals from builders and architects.
Though new construction is their preference, they are open and eager to take on any style of project. From Craftsman to Asian-inspired, from saloon-styled pool houses to minimalist beach houses, they do it all and love it! They also do a lot of custom furniture and lighting. In the future Katie and Kim would like to produce their own line of products. For now, they are working hard to grow what they have and feeling grateful for where they are. "It feels really good to look back at how we've evolved and where we came from," Kim says smiling. "We're living our life, we're fulfilled and we're having fun. It just shows that you can do anything if you put your mind to it."
When asked if they had advice for students and new designers, the women agreed on two things: "Be reliable and treat your subs well. You're as good as the people around you. It's important to be nice, confident, trustworthy and calm. And enjoy it! Do good work but have fun along the way. Your clients will love you for it."