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Kari Armstrong of Unscripted Interior Design: 5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Art creates a sense of beauty and joy. It can communicate a spiritual or philosophical idea, explore the very nature of perception itself, and generate breath-taking emotion. Selecting art that speaks to a client brings joy into a home. As a passionate art aficionado, the art displayed in my home expresses my eclectic style and speaks to me.

As part of my series on the “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kari Armstrong, CEO and Principal of Unscripted Interior Design.

Great design elements are curated and collected — which is what Kari Armstrong has been doing for some of the country’s most celebrated interior and merchandising designs for over 24 years. As CEO and Principal of Unscripted Interior Design, Kari oversees all design direction for her firm’s respective design studios. A true creative spirit at heart, Kari spends concerted time and energy expanding her agency’s greater creative offerings — through cultivating new design trends, details, and sources of inspiration to her greater team. Kari spearheads the constant pursuit of ‘unexpected’ design forms and leads by example pushing through design norms and never settling for duplication.

Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Growing up, my mom owned a successful advertising agency. Observing her lifestyle, career and achievements inspired my business ownership dreams and hard work ethic at a young age. Although I was creative, my childhood revolved around school and learning. It wasn’t until college that I started to explore my creative side and realize my range and talent. This realization came in a drawing course where my aptitude for sketching and art shocked me. I fell in love with many artistic art mediums and took as many creative courses as I could. An intro to interior design class sparked my passion and I immediately knew my purpose in life was to pursue design. The provocative combination of materials and art in interior design ignited something within me.

Fast forward to graduation, I discovered an opportunity with a prominent Southern California model merchandising firm. This segment of design was new to me, but it married my obsession with interior design with my background in visual merchandising from retail jobs throughout college. I learned how to capture the imagination of potential buyers through powerful layered design and merchandising. I still practice model home merchandising today at my firm, Unscripted Interior Design. We also create unexpected and unforgettable spaces for commercial and custom residential clients and through art consultation with projects in 24 states to date.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

My career journey has been equal parts hard work and serendipity. As a California native with deep SoCal roots, my path to CEO & Principal of a Colorado-based design firm continues to astonish me.

I never envisioned a life outside of California until a family vacation in Denver where the Colorado lifestyle, landscape and community stole our hearts. My husband and I took a detour from our itinerary to explore open houses and envision a life in Colorado. At the time, I wasn’t familiar with the design landscape in Denver, however we ironically found ourselves in a model home that felt more in line with my aesthetic. I noticed a sign for Hillary Reed Interiors Designs (HRI) and said, “I’m going to work there!”

I sent my resume to HRI and received a call back from Hillary Reed herself. Familiar with my work, Hillary arranged a meeting in California where she asked me if I ever considered owning an interior design firm. Business ownership had been a lifelong goal and I agreed to become Hilary’s successor. In 2005, my family relocated to Denver where I joined HRI as the Director of Design. I worked alongside Hillary for two years to understand the business dynamic before acquiring the firm in 2007.

Flash forward to this year where we rebranded to Unscripted Interior Design. Some things in life are predictable, scripted, even routine. Interior design that inspires you to feel isn’t one of them. With work spanning the nation, there is no set approach or design aesthetic easily identifiable coming out of our commercial, custom residential, or model merchandising studios. “Unscripted” tells the greater story of where the company has been, and where it’s going. More importantly, the name promises to better serve clients — opening doors to new markets, new areas, and new ventures.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I have made thousands of mistakes in my career that have shaped my approach as a designer today, some humorous and some empowering. In school, emerging designers are taught concepts from scale, color balance, juxtaposition and contrast, but many design considerations are only learned through years of hands-on experience. These small design details benchmark the growth of a designer. Truly a designer must first know the rules before they know how to break them.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Unscripted Interiors is proud to work with Trailhead Community, a non-profit multi-family community providing housing for adults with developmental disabilities living alongside young professionals and seniors. Our approach to the Trailhead Community project is design-first to create a space that inspires people to feel, imagine and connect. We are thrilled to provide high design and functionality to a non-profit housing community doing great work in our community.

Unscripted Interiors’ growing custom residential portfolio also excites me. We are fortunate to work with clients who have a discerning eye for design, where we can push the envelope with truly innovative concepts and thought-provoking spaces. The portfolio has such a range of aesthetics from Bachelor star, Colton Underwood’s new Colorado residence, to a stunning modern mountain home in Park City, Utah and a glitzy Lake House in Michigan with super sexy vibes. It has been an honor to be on the team bringing these amazing spaces to life.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Interior design is a timeline driven industry and meticulous organization is crucial for delivering projects on time and on budget. I work with an extremely talented team of creative, detail-oriented designers but unexpected challenges still arise. When facing a stressful situation, I turn to the wisdom of two truths: “It will all work out,” and “Everything happens for a reason.” These quotes offer the peace and reassurance needed to overcome any obstacle with grace.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am incredibly grateful for Hillary Reed, the owner of HRI before I acquired the company and rebranded to Unscripted Interior Design. Hillary welcomed me into her world and shared her tools to grow and thrive in business. When I joined the company, Hillary granted full access to revitalize the company, expand our offering and grow into a national design firm with projects in 24 states to date. I will always be grateful for the relationship I have with Hillary and the impact she has made on my life.

Thank you for that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

A home’s interior should be a reflection of you: your wants, needs, and tastes. A place to live your best life. Home design is personal, but a great designer can translate your dreams into reality through a beautiful home that is functional and sparks joy. When approaching a project, I consider the following concepts:

  1. Art creates a sense of beauty and joy. It can communicate a spiritual or philosophical idea, explore the very nature of perception itself, and generate breath-taking emotion. Selecting art that speaks to a client brings joy into a home. As a passionate art aficionado, the art displayed in my home expresses my eclectic style and speaks to me.
  2. Something unexpected sparks joy. Design risks create a personal, quirky and interesting space. At Unscripted Interiors, we incorporate something unconventional into every project with innovative space plans, creative furnishings and unique materials that trigger an emotive reaction for the client.
  3. Organization and tidiness are pertinent to a joyful space. Clutter and disarray distract from the beauty of a well-curated home. When everything has a place there is harmony and balance. As a creative person, an organized home grounds and centers me so I can start my day without distractions.
  4. Personal accents transform a house into a joyous home. Thoughtfully styled sentimental items like framed photos, family heirlooms, souvenirs or a piece of furniture you love creates a sense of connection with a space.
  5. A connection to nature gives a home joyful energy. Natural accents and live plants bring a space to life while enhancing the color story or focal points of a room. As a designer, I swoon for natural light and indoor-outdoor living spaces that celebrate a connection to the outdoors.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

While design is my passion, I believe helping others comes first and foremost. If I started a movement I would leverage my resources and network to provide basic needs to underserved communities on a global scale. It is incomprehensible that in 2021 access to clean water, food and medicine is not universally available. I contribute to these causes on a personal level and would be humbled to mobilize my community to provide basic necessities and security to all.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Without question I’d love to meet Kelly Wearstler. She kills it with everything she touches from design to lifestyle, fashion — you name it. She’s the ultimate risk taker and innovative maximalist. She’s brilliant on every level and she surrounds herself with a brilliant team. Kelly sets the bar for great design. I don’t know where she gets her influence because she is the influencer of the interior design world. Her Masterclass series is amazing — she truly is the master of interior design!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @Unscripted.Interiors

Facebook: @UnscriptedInteriors


Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

Thank YOU!

Kari Armstrong of Unscripted Interior Design: 5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.