Five Under 40: Interior Designer Kristen Thomas

Colorado Homes & Lifestyles' Class of 2018

Portrait by Jennifer Olson

KRISTEN THOMAS grew up with an insider’s understanding of the value of great interior design. “My dad flipped homes, though back then you weren’t known as a flipper,” she says. “I’d spend a lot of time with him, going to houses for sale or to Ace Hardware for supplies.” Her mom, meanwhile, was in real estate and instilled in Thomas the importance of working hard. “I learned my hustle from her. She taught me persistence, never giving up, because there’s no such thing as ‘can’t happen’—it’s just a matter of how you’re going to make it happen.” 

Thus inspired, Thomas earned her real-estate license right after graduating from high school in Orem, Utah, and soon was working as a sales associate with a local contractor. Thomas, the mother of two, eventually moved to Denver with her family and studied interior design at Arapahoe Community College, founding Studio Thomas in January 2013. 

Today, with eight employees—including herself as principal, four other designers and an architect—she thinks of the firm as “a team, with each of us feeling good about and empowered in our own talents and qualities. We’re all very encouraging to each other, and the energy is awesome.”

A Lone Tree bachelor pad. [Photo by Callie Hobbs]
We want the homes we design to be representative of how our clients live their lives, to make them feel very good about themselves and elevate their lifestyles.” — Kristen Thomas

A WELL-TAILORED LOOK: “When I was in high school, I wanted to be a fashion designer, and our work at Studio Thomas is influenced by tailored fashion. My team and I do follow a lot of fashion today, and we bring it up a lot in our Instagram feed. Sometimes a client will show me an outfit they love and say, ‘This is how I want my home to feel.’”

SURPRISINGLY PERSONAL TOUCHES: “In our intake process, we really focus on our clients’ lifestyle—where they like to shop, what movies they love, where they travel, what inspires them. Then we might surprise them by putting books about places they love or their favorite designers on the coffee table, or photos of the church where they got married, in a style we know they like. For a client who played for the Broncos, we framed a piece of art with his number in it by the bedside table. We always include surprises that have a deeper meaning for our clients.”

A Lone Tree bachelor pad. [Photo by Callie Hobbs]

FIVE-BY-FIVE APPROACH: “We divide the design of any room or home into five layers. First is interior architecture, which sets the background. Then we focus on foundation furniture like big sofas and credenzas, and the traffic patterns they create. Next comes accent furniture, including coffee tables, side tables and lamps. After that are accessories—art, coffee-table books, throws and other objects that say as much as possible about the people who live there. Finally, we bring in life in the form of trees, plants, fresh flowers or anything else that smells pretty. Across every layer, we also make sure to include five elements: wood, metal, glass or something else reflective, overall contrasting textures, and again life. With that mix of materials, you feel an energy almost like the effects of feng shui.”

A vignette from a modern remodel in Lone Tree. [Photo by Pete Eklund]

THANKS, DAD: “My dad was the kind of person who could make anybody feel awesome about themselves. On November 15, 17 years ago, he passed away at the age of 50, and in tribute to him, on that date this year we’ll launch a new brand called K.Thom, with products including beautiful pillows and throws and nice, big leather trays. The K.Thom philosophy is all based on very simple but intentional living, with a layered look. I want to make each day one of renewal and happiness and elevated living—all the things my dad taught me growing up.”

THE MARY POPPINS EFFECT: “I watched Mary over and over again as a kid. Mary always did what I try to do in my work: She flew into this crazy, disruptive home; evaluated everyone’s lives; put things in order; made them appreciate their lifestyle; brought in all the happiness; and then she left.”

See the rest of the 2018 Five Under 40 Design Award Winners.

Categories: Interior Designers, Stylemakers