Kahi Lee is the type of girl that everyone wants as their BFF. Everyone from TV audiences to Hollywood’s A-list celebrities can appreciate her effervescent style and approach to design. Hailing from Los Angeles, her secret is in finding nostalgic and livable pieces while tossing in a flair for the dramatic and coming up with an original and stylish look. Proving that style doesn’t have to demand a celebrity paycheck, she has appeared as a host and design expert on numerous television programs including Design On A Dime (HGTV), Merge(Lifetime), Renovate My Family (Fox), Ultimate Gamer (Spike TV),Freestyle (HGTV), The Rachael Ray Show (CBS), and The Tyra Banks Show among others.
In Asia, Lee hosts the reality competition show The Apartment (AXN/ Sony Pictures Entertainment) which is broadcast in 23 markets to 82 million homes. Most recently, she penned her first coffee table book, Rough Luxe Design, which features collection of works by various designers. Here Kahi shares some of her inspirations and style tips with Asiance.
ASIANCE: Where do you find inspiration?
Kahi: It’s always evolving and has even changed over the years. It’s hard for me to do subtle design. I have a flair for the dramatic. My mom was an interior designer so I grew up around it and also coming from Los Angeles, my designs are glamorous but have a laid back feel, and also because I’m in Hollywood & LA. My clients don’t mind doing something eccentric and out of the box, that’s a bit crazier and wilder. So it’s fun to do that which goes with my personality too.
ASIANCE: What was the most challenging project you’ve ever worked on?
Kahi: Usually the ones that have a time constraint, like if I have to makeover an entire house in a month, every project has something that goes wrong. It’s just the nature of the business. I’ve never had a project that ran smoothly without a glitch.
ASIANCE: How would you describe your process to create someone’s dream space?
Kahi: It’s a lot of client collaboration. A lot of designers have a strong look and identity and you can tell who designed it. I don’t have that. I don’t put my stamp on anybody. It’s really about taking on my client’s personality and look and I just sort of guide them and steer them away from bad choices and show them things they may not have thought of before. It’s about building upon what they already want.
Host Kahi Lee takes the Koo family living room to a whole new level and gives it a complete Green makeover according to their needs and goals.
ASIANCE: What do you see as the new trends in home décor and how does it converge with fashion?
Kahi: In Rough Luxe Design, we built upon the idea of using old things and vintage and re-purposing them. While it’s not a new idea, it’s been around. The younger hipster generation has begun to latch onto it. The guys in Brooklyn are going towards this rustic direction that you’re seeing with the Indian Navajo prints. There’s a return to both tradition and simpler more natural elements that are coming together in interior design and fashion that I’ve illustrated in the book. A lot of the cool hotels like Ace Hotel and Bowery are all embracing this look. It’s about old woods, leather, and history and I feel that’s true with fashion too.
There are also the environmental eco factors and people want to reuse existing furniture, and there’s the financial aspect. Also, people are looking for something nostalgic and comforting.
ASIANCE: What was the most fun project you’ve ever done?
Kahi: I love doing projects on TV. They’re these timed challenges and we have money constraints, and we have to be really creative to build things from essentially nothing. From a business standpoint, I loved doing Nick Jonas’ penthouse at the W. It’s really dramatic and dark. It’s dramatic and sleek, the total bachelor pad. It’s in the book, but there’s elements of old wood and leather and a feeling of history and that was important to me.
ASIANCE: If there was a dream project what would it be?
Kahi: I would love to redo all of LAX. The airport is the worst, every airport is better and it doesn’t really reflect LA and Hollywood.
ASIANCE: What are some of your current projects?
Kahi: I have 2 residential clients, one is a singer and the other is on Mad Men. I’m designing their homes.
ASIANCE: Would you consider projects outside of interior design?
Kahi: I would like to do a line of home accessories, and also pen more books. It’s been really fun. It was like my baby to put this together. I am launching a secondary business which is a factory in LA that creates custom furniture.
ASIANCE: What do you like to collect?
Kahi: Other than shoes? I have a lot of chairs. I have more than anyone needs, not even functional ones, but cute accent pieces. I’m always out shopping for clients, and then I’ll see a cute vintage chair. I have so many that I find and can just cart in my car. I have Moroccan chairs, little stools, 50s mid century chair.
ASIANCE: What are your favorite kinds of shoes that you collect?
Kahi: I live in LA so we don’t need to walk everywhere. I love designer shoes, like super high platforms, as well as my Converse. I am a friend to all shoes.
ASIANCE: What do you see as the next big trends in fashion?
Kahi: My most recent purchases are fluorescent handbags. I love the accent of bright crazy color.