Who She Is: President of sfa design

Why We Love Her: Designer extraordinaire, Kara Smith is the dynamic force behind the Southern California-based firm’s rapid rise to global acclaim. In just 10 years, Kara has transformed the boutique design company into a top international firm. Beautifying spaces all over the world from the Middle East to South America to Asia, Kara is a design force to be reckoned with! We sat down with the style maven to get the inside scoop on her beautiful workspace where all the magic happens!


We’re so impressed with your career thus far. When did you first discover your passion for interiors?
From the beginning of my career, I knew that I wanted to work in avenues that mixed creativity with business. Before joining sfa in 2000, I launched a full-service event planning company and a fashion line. I’ve always had an affinity for interior design, but the styles I’ve been exposed to and the clients I’ve worked with in the past few years have really intensified my passion for design.

Can you take a stab at describing your design aesthetic in three words:
Sophisticated. Chic. Glamorous.

So, let’s talk about your workspace. What inspired your office makeover?
I think my office is a direct reflection of the foundations of sfa’s business model: the appearance is glamorous, but in fact there is a lot of hard work being done underneath it all. I was inspired by sfa’s industrial glamour and I used that concept as a basis for my redesign.

Did you have a top priority for the office redesign?
When designing my office I knew I wanted something serene; a beautiful and clean palate that would continue to inspire me.  I wanted it to look fabulous, but I needed to make sure the style and colors weren’t influential or overbearing against the different projects I’d be working on.

Excellent point! sfa design has an awe-inspiring portfolio. Tell us- what does a typical workday look like in the sfa HQ?
It may sound cliché but there really is no typical day in the office. I guess it depends on whether I’m in Santa Barbara, LA, or New York, if not traveling to meet with clients. The creative process is so different for each project we take on, but the end goal is the same every time-making sure the client’s vision is met.

Any office essentials you swear by?
Water! I keep bottles of VOS and Pellegrino fully stocked in the office to remind me to stay hydrated. I also love lucite desk accessories. They help me stay organized without overpowering my desk space.

We’re firm believers in the quote “taking time to live your life will only inspire your work.” Where do you gather inspiration when not in the office?
I have the pleasure of being constantly inspired by my work and the people I interact with. When I’m not working I find inspiration in my travels, from weekenders to international trips, I love art, and of course, my daughter.

You have a passion and understanding of luxury living. What advice would you give individuals wanting to add a little luxury to their own homes and offices?
I stand by the idea that less is more. I strongly advise anyone looking to glam up their home to buy items as they can afford them. They should try not to fill up the space, but instead collect quality items they love over time.  For the home, I would advise splurging on the bed, if not on the mattress than on the mattress cover and the sheets. The bed is a sanctuary that deserves the splurge.

As someone currently in the market for a new bed, I’d have to agree with that! Can you leave Rue readers with your top 5 tips for a perfect office space?
1.  Plenty of lighting is a must, but stay away from fluorescent glare by using lamps and natural light if possible.
2.  Buy a topiary plant to permanently keep in your office rather than buying fresh flowers every week. They’re low maintenance which is a plus.
3.  Use a bar cart to keep water and beverages on display, adding an element of hospitality to your space.

4. I recommend collecting personal art. A unique art piece can change any space to look more personal and luxurious.

5. Desk organizing accessories like a lucite tray can help keep messy piles in order. Or at least, appear so!

We’re committing those to memory. Thanks for the chat, Kara!