Kelly Finley, a Stanford Law graduate with a business degree from Emory, realized early on that her keen business sense would be better suited in a more creative setting — interior design! Since launching her Bay Area design firm Joy Street Design in 2011, she’s built a dedicated following. Loyal clients look to her to create thoughtful spaces, blending her signature style with their personal tastes.

In 2019, Kelly felt another pull — this time to give back to her community. She launched the Joy Street Initiative, whose mission is to provide interior design services that transform office and living environments for Bay Area nonprofits and organizations. This initiative brings dignity back to those who have been adversely affected by hardship or trauma. We sat down with Kelly to learn how she made the jump from law to design, and what inspired her to use her talents for good:

When did you first discover your love of design?
I’ve always loved being home as there is a certain amount of comfort and safety that only a home can provide. I grew up very aware of the sanctity of home (and when that feeling is lost) but didn’t have a way to connect that to the design of the space as a young child.  Later in life, when I became exposed to this passion called interior design, I was hooked and immediately recognized that those feelings I had about spaces were because of the way they were designed to make me feel.  I started to devour all things design, including magazines and blogs, before I embarked on studying design as a second career.    

How did you make the transition from law to design?
While working at the law firm, I began taking interior design classes as a creative outlet.  I found myself taking multiple evening classes while working full-time because I enjoyed the subject so much. After a job transition to another city with my spouse, I took the opportunity to turn my side projects into a full-time job as an interior designer.  I haven’t looked back since.  

How would you describe the aesthetic of your design firm, Joy Street Design?
Joy Street Design attempts to create spaces that feel comfortable and personal by using vibrant colors and patterns in unexpected ways.  We create highly functional homes and bring in life through color, art and unique objects

Tell us a bit about the Joy Street Initiative. What inspired you to start this program, and what are your goals?
I’ve always believed that I’ve achieved great things because of the help of other people and I aim to give back in whatever capacity that I’m able to at each point in life.  When I started my interior design firm, I knew that my skills could be used to help others that don’t have the safety and comfort of having a home that they can call their own.  I volunteered my time with a few different organizations but always felt that I didn’t want to only make small changes but instead I wanted to design spaces that celebrated the dignity of the people and the spaces by providing a full scale design similar to my paying clients’ spaces. 

Joy Street Initiative is the result of this desire. Joy Street Initiative is dedicated to improving lives through transforming spaces for other local nonprofit organizations.  Through the support of partners, volunteers and vendor donations, Joy Street Initiative is able to transform spaces and restore dignity and ownership of working and living spaces, especially to those adversely affected by hardship or trauma. With a strong belief that beautiful spaces support positive attitudes and environments conducive to healing, Joy Street Initiative aims to provide personalization and functionality to often overlooked spaces.

Joy Street Design proudly donates full design time, and at least 10% of its profits to Joy Street Initiative.  

What have been some of the most rewarding moments since launching the initiative? 
Last year, we worked with several different organizations throughout the year.  But with the public launch of Joy Street Initiative, we had the opportunity to exclusively partner with a local community organization to create bigger changes.  We reached out to a transitional housing shelter for women with children and Joy Street Initiative has committed to renovating their entire building, which includes refreshing bedrooms and a plan to fully renovate the larger communal spaces such as the kitchen, dining room, and bathrooms, at no cost to them. The looks on their faces when we told them the plan was priceless and the work we’ve accomplished over the last few months has been amazing.  We hope that we will start the kitchen renovation in the next few months after raising the necessary funds for labor.  That’s been really rewarding. Design has such an impact on how people feel, and I feel for the marginalized and overlooked people in society, that impact can be even greater.