Show us your space: Keri Bing Kuhn
From light-filled private painting studios to collaborative offices with cityscape views, the varied workspaces of CCAD students and alumni represent the multitude of career paths an art and design school can help forge. Here’s a peek into where several of our students and grads make the magic happen M–F (or, sometimes, 24/7).
There’s a good chance Keri Bing Kuhn had a hand in designing your favorite musician’s tour bus. She’s done so for the likes of Lady Gaga, the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, and Willie Nelson (a three-time beneficiary of her design work). Although she works for the rich and famous (a 10-foot custom bed for an NBA star is another notable project), that’s not all: Kuhn also does medical environment space planning for oral surgery facilities and mobile cardiac units, interior space planning and custom furniture design, and transportation design, including yacht and production interiors, aircraft interiors, commercial trucks and trailers, and much more.
Kuhn, who juggles it all with a well-honed sense of humor, creates nearly all her designs by laptop from her living room, and counts her immaculately organized car trunk as a key workspace as well. She also makes great use of a brand-new Morbidelli CNC router (run by "Steve-the-CNC-Master") at Sarasota Architectural Woodworking, the architectural mill shop that builds all her designs. The shop’s owner, Brian Kuhn, used to be one of her best clients before becoming her husband; the router, she jokes, is more than likely her Valentine’s Day gift this year.
Kuhn recently shared her work—and her work style—with us.
Can you describe your studio?
I wish I could say I worked in a beautiful, south-facing office with glistening clerestory windows and thought-provoking conversation whispered between my well-disciplined, delightfully creative, and perfectly happy design associates, but that image exists only in my imagination (probably from a Hallmark Channel movie I watched last week). The reality is quite the opposite. My business usually takes me to the job site, which may be the factory floor, the airport or marina, or the side of the road. I have an immaculately well-organized “car office” and the bulk of my design work happens on a laptop sitting on the coffee table in my living room.
What kind of work do you do in this space?
My business has two branches, which are paradoxically unrelated. One side of the business is interior space planning and custom furniture design for high-end residences and commercial spaces. I design everything from cabinetry and millwork to freestanding specialty furniture like a 10 x 10-foot custom bed for an NBA star. I also do medical environment space planning for oral surgery facilities and mobile cardiac units.
The other side of the business specializes in transportation design. I do small-craft planing hull naval architecture, yacht and production boat interiors, aircraft interior components, commercial trucks and trailers, and entertainer coaches/tour buses for people such as Lady Gaga, Mike Love and the Beach Boys, Justin Bieber, Bob Dylan, and Harry Connick Jr. As soon as I am finished answering these questions, I am going back to work designing Willie Nelson's next tour bus (this is the third one I have done for him).
How do you prefer to work (late at night, completing a project all at once, or several pieces in tandem, etc.)?
Anyone who remembers me from CCAD knows I can barely stay awake past 11 p.m. (and yet I survived foundation year!). I'm definitely a morning person, which coordinates perfectly with most of the factory facilities I haunt.
As much as I would like to say I have mastered the work-life balance, the truth is I always have multiple projects going at one time. This past summer I had 17 open job numbers. I am the de facto Director of Engineering for my husband's business, Sarasota Architectural Woodworking, LLC in addition to my own clients, so I pretty much never get a day off.
What do you love about your space?
I absolutely thrive on working by myself, in a quiet, dark space with only the company of my cat, Edward. Yes, many horror films open with a scene like this.