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Five Under 40: Kristin Drake

Colorado Homes & Lifestyles' Class of 2019




Photo by Jennifer Olson

Born into a family of home builders, engineers and artists, Kristin Drake is a natural fit for lead designer at Studio Thomas in Greenwood Village. After obtaining a degree in fine art, Drake worked in an art-framing shop for a few years before turning to high-end residential furniture sales. “I wanted to be an artist,” she says. “But the prospect of making a living from art at that time was daunting.

Working in furniture sales was a great experience and a natural transition into the world of design,” says the almost-native of Colorado. “My family moved to Colorado [from Houghton, Michigan] before I was 1 year old, so I consider myself a native.” While working in the showroom, Drake returned to school to complete her second degree, this time in interior design.

“I have always had a love affair with this profession. As early as I can remember, my sister and I would buy lots of design magazines—Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Traditional Home—flip through their pages and dream big. We still do it!” 


Photo by Pete Eklund

A CLASSIC FOR MODERN TIMES: “It is always my intention to speak to the historical nature of a home and to bring the essence of the exterior architecture to the interior, while keeping the aesthetic clean and updated for today’s lifestyle. If a home has no history, my goal is to make the space feels as if it does. I have a deep appreciation for classical art, classical architecture and antiques. Bringing in those elements alongside natural materials, such as stone and wood, is my recipe for a really lovely and livable home.”

URBAN VIBE: “This is a very exciting time to be an interior designer in Denver. We are bringing other cultures and skills to Denver from around the world. We are also seeing classic architecture and design from the East and West coasts. Denver and Colorado have definitely stepped up.”

THE IDEAL CLIENT: “I just finished a new build in Country Estates in Greenwood Village. The site was gorgeous. It really makes the process worthwhile when a client trusts that you will see the vision fully come to life. I had many sleepless nights worrying about thousands of details. But in the end, the project turned out to be incredible. Now that it is completed, I feel it was the project that brought me to the next level as a designer. I can see even bigger things in my future, and that’s very exciting.” 


Photo by Pete Eklund

ARTISTIC INFLUENCE: “Mark Rothko is my art hero,” Drake enthuses. “I've had a love affair with his work since I first saw a piece of his at The Met in New York when I was in my early 20s. A few years later, I went to Houston and experienced the Rothko Chapel. His work, though apparently simple, has incredible soul and depth. I'm always moved to tears when I see it in person. His paintings pull you in and don’t let go. I highly recommend any art lover to visit the Rothko Chapel.”

UNREALITY TV: “HGTV has poisoned the mind of the consumer. It has hurt our industry by making people believe that everyone can do design. That is not true. Not everyone can be a designer. There is a reason you have to go to school to study form and function.” 

“As early as I can remember, my sister and I would buy lots of design magazines—Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Traditional Home—flip through their pages and dream big. We still do it!”  

NOTES FROM HER JOURNAL: “There is a quote I wrote down in a journal many years ago, and it has been my mantra ever since: ‘How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.’”

HEAD TO THE CREEK: “Looking at computer images can cause your creativity to shut down. Whenever that happens, rather than digging deeper into technology I head to the art museum or to a historic building. I may stop to look at a window trim or other aspects of the physical structures. Sometimes, I walk to a creek and watch the water flow. Ideas will come to you from nature walks.”

GAME OF THRONES MUSICAL CARNIVAL: “This year I saw Danny Elfman playing Concerto for Violin and Orchestra at the Colorado Symphony. Danny has composed many scores for Tim Burton’s films, which I adore. Collaborating with Tim Burton on a carnival would be pretty amazing! Of course, Danny would do the music. I’m also in the throes of watching Game of Thrones, so perhaps my carnival would be a mash-up of Danny Elfman, Tim Burton and Game of Thrones. That sounds pretty epic! One thing I don’t want my carnival to be is scary. I went to Oktoberfest in Germany, and the rides were scary and rickety. There were LED lights flashing and tens of thousands of drunk people walking around. It was total mayhem. I want my carnival to be playful and whimsical. I would add more adult rides, where

See the rest of the 2019 Five Under 40 Design Award Winners

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