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A Layered Approach with Kirsten Blazek

As founder of A 1000 X Better, the lauded Los Angeles-based design firm, Kirsten Blazek has shown a knack for transforming blank spaces into striking interiors layered with history, individuality and meaning. As she launches her first book, Kirsten shares with us how color, texture and eclectic vintage finds can make a home feel warm, authentic and a pleasure to live in.

Photography by Michael P.H. Clifford and Alex Zarour

When did you first realize your passion for interiors?

I was born and raised in Scotland and grew up directly across the street from a palace. The village had many historic and architecturally interesting buildings. As a child, I wasn’t aware that this was unusual, but I do believe it started my love of architecture and older buildings. In my late childhood, I started constantly rearranging the furniture in my bedroom to create different looks and vignettes. I was unaware at the time, but this was my first foray into being spatially aware!

Describe the A 1000 x Better aesthetic. Is there a common thread between your projects?

I believe that every house has an identity and soul, and that in order to respect the house you should “listen” to the home itself. Each project should have a unique look and feel. The commonality in my work comes from creating spaces that aren’t too precious. A home should feel like it can be lived in and have warm and interesting textures and layers without feeling overwhelming to the eye. I work mainly with earth-based colors and I put a strong emphasis on interesting lighting, art, and textiles over heavily patterned large furniture pieces.

Sustainability is close to our hearts here at Armadillo. How do you weave environmental considerations into your creative process?

We love using vintage furniture, especially for casegood items. Sustainable design is important to us as a firm. Why buy new when there are so many beautiful vintage pieces out there? We try to buy locally, whenever possible, to avoid the environmental impact of shipping from overseas. When we have to buy new pieces, we do try to put an emphasis on sourcing from smaller vendors who ultimately have a smaller environmental footprint than the larger furniture manufacturers.

Over the years, you’ve brought some beautiful historical homes back to life. How do you decide what features to preserve and what to update? 

When working in older houses, there always has to be a delicate balance between the necessities of modern living and maintaining the integrity of the home. In general, the craftsmanship that was put into building older homes tends to be much higher than most newer homes and I like to respect that when possible. If you can repair and not replace the items that make up the character of the home, like original windows and flooring, that is always my preference. If the house has interesting architectural features, then I prefer, when possible, to retain them. All that being said, Idon’t believe in living in a time warp, but I try to be very thoughtful about the process of what still feels authentic yet modern when choosing new products for an older house.

"I like to design spaces that feel interesting and layered but don’t overwhelm the eye."

We’re excited about your new book, A 1000 X Better: A Rebel by Design. What did you learn from the writing and editing process?

Thank you, I am so excited too! It was such an interesting exercise in really differentiating between what feels instinctual but is actually based in process. Having to write down in words why, as a designer, I do the things I do was a very informative process for me, and I learned so much about who I am and how I really think about what makes a home and what space means to me. 

In it, you advocate for the beauty of imperfection. What is it about objects with a patina that you’re drawn to?

I believe that all objects, even inanimate ones, have an energy and an essence and when you purchase objects that have a history, they add a levity to and ground your space. You can feel the history in older items when you hold them and you can see it when you look at them and, for me, this is very appealing!

Do you have any advice when it comes to giving vintage and found items a contemporary feel? 

It is all about the appropriate balance of old and new. I do not gravitate towards design that feels referential or capsuled in a specific time period. I always try to mix things up and carefully curate the old and the new together. Too much of any one thing is never going to look good. For example, taking a beautiful mid-century dresser and pairing it with a more contemporary art piece will give you a more nuanced overall look, than pairing several mid-century pieces together.

We loved seeing our Agra rug in your Sierra Madre project. What are some of the considerations that come into play when you are choosing a rug? 

For this space, we needed a solid rug that made a big impact while remaining cohesive with the rest of the space. The living room has high ceilings and we had just introduced a bold patterned wallpaper. We needed a rug that was able to ground the entire space. One of the reasons I love Armadillo’s solid rugs is that they have a beautiful movement to them and that they aren’t a flat solid. This allows them to add an element of layering that is quiet but still powerful. I also love the colors that Armadillo provides, the range is so great and there is something for almost any space we design. I can also say to my clients categorically that they are buying a high-quality rug, one that will stand the test of time and maintain its beauty for years to come.

How do you think the addition of a small burst of color can completely transform a room? 

When designing a room, I like to think about the balance of each design element, and color is always one of the most important aspects. I like to design spaces that feel interesting and layered but don’t overwhelm the eye. My trick is to find one place where your eyes can land and where you can feel the essence of the space, and color can be pivotal in achieving this. One colorful art piece or rug in a room that is predominantly neutral will have a more powerful impact than the color being everywhere.

You’re kicking off a busy book tour. What are some daily rituals that keep you grounded when life gets busy?

I can’t start my day without at least two cups of strong coffee. I like the ritualistic aspect of taking the time for my morning coffee while checking emails. I also have two teenagers and five animals to care for and there is nothing like teenagers and pets to keep your feet on the ground! Working out and trying to eat healthy is also a super important part of my self-care routine. And perhaps most importantly, carving out quality time to spend with my kids, amazing partner, and friends is one of the best ways to keep me grounded and happy.