story: legacy piece

Q&A with Kendell

Early in 2022 our interior design lead, Kendall Gaddes went on maternity leave with the arrival of her little boy. Kendall is now back in the office part time so in celebration of her return we did a quick Q&A to get to know Kendall if you haven’t already had the pleasure of meeting or working with her.

Why interior design?

I’ve always enjoyed creating art in various forms and mediums. When I finished High School, I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take, but I knew I had a lot of creative energy bursting to be explored. I went on to complete a Bachelor of Visual Arts and Design, where I got to work with a variety of mediums including painting, drawing, ceramics, photography, object design, screen printing, among others. During this time, I started to become more and more interested in the spaces that we create, inhabit, interact and transition between. I was drawn to the psychology of how our built environment affects our mental, emotional and physical health, the energy a space creates, and how this energy makes one feel. Anyone who knows me well, will also know I’m also quite the researcher and a think of myself as a student for life, always seeking to learn about new ideas and practices. Interior design really brought together quite a few of my interests and passions; the creative, the researcher and the intellect.

When designing a space, what is the most important factor for you?

That’s a tough question! Aside from meeting the client’s brief….! My most important factor is sustainable, low environmental impact design that promotes human health and wellness. For some clients, this priority might not be their top priority and that’s totally okay too! I support all my clients with achieving their interior design dreams, while also striving to design with sustainability and human health at the heart of all my creative work. I want to make sure that anything I specify is going to have low environmental impact (this includes the whole life cycle of the product from raw material to end of life – does it biodegrade, or can it be recycled / reused?) and is it going to promote good health (for example, is it going to off gas toxic chemicals into your home for weeks, months, years to come, polluting your indoor air). I feel as designers we have a huge obligation / duty to consider the environmental impact of our designs have on planetary and human health.

What started your interest in holistic health practices and wellbeing and how does this translate into your work?

My interest in holistic health practices, like with many people who are interested in this area, came about with a health diagnosis, or should I say poor health diagnosis. At the age of 13 I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, an autoimmune disease where my body attacks my bowel. Throughout my adolescent and early adult years I was heavily medicated to keep the symptoms at bay. But I wasn’t thriving. There was always this low-grade pain and lack of vitality. I thought to myself, this surely can’t be the rest of my life. Surely there is some other pathway for me and others with similar conditions. I started researching… and that was it for me! I had fallen down the health and wellness rabbit hole. From there I made many lifestyle changes and was able to get off my medication, almost 10 years later and I’m still medication free.

So, what started out as a personal health battle, then trickled its way into my professional work. The more I learnt about how many toxins we are exposed to daily through pesticides on our food / in our food, in the water we drink, on the clothes we wear, the products we put on our skin and use to clean our house, the more I started to wonder about the building materials we use to build our homes. I was shocked to learn that often the indoor air quality of home is just as polluted (sometimes more) as the outdoor air! Materials such a paint, cabinetry, carpet, many other floor finishes, fabric on furniture, rugs (the list goes on!) contain VOCS, formaldehyde, phthalates, among other carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals. A wellness warrior, armed with this new knowledge, I made it my mission to design spaces that promote good health and wellness, not add to a person's toxic load, creating disease. I work hard to research and specify materials that are low tox / free from harmful toxins.

In addition to the low tox component, other elements that promote good health include kitchen’s that are designed to encourage cooking nourishing meals with real and fresh ingredients, spaces that encourage social interaction and sharing of thoughts and feelings, spaces that encourage unintentional physical movement of one’s body, spaces that are visually clean and uncluttered (this could mean having sufficient and well designed and located storage), spaces that have comfortable lighting – natural where possible – (so good task lighting in areas where good direct lighting is required such as the kitchen, and softer indirect lighting in spaces of relaxation, socialisation, play and rest) and spaces that connect with nature and invite it inside, rather than it’s this “thin” that’s “out there” experience as I walk to and from my car.

I think one thing the pandemic has really driven home is the importance of creating a wellness sanctuary in your home.

How do you collaborate as a team on a project at APA?

Our APA Team have a variety of different skills, strengths and experiences, so most, if not all, design work in our office is a collaborative affair. At each stage of the design process, from conceptual design to detailed design, we will check in with each other, asking for feedback and thoughts. I feel this enables our team to really breathe to life thought provoking, interesting, unique, highly functional and beautiful built environments.

What is your dream project?

For a client to come to me and say they want a high performing, energy efficient, off grid, low environmental impact, sustainable, low tox home that promotes health and wellness and interaction with nature. If that’s you…. get in contact please!