In conversation with Krista Ninivaggi, Principal & Interior Design Leader

About Krista Ninivaggi

Krista Ninivaggi is a designer with more than twenty years of experience tailoring interiors for projects worldwide. In 2014, Krista founded her eponymous firm K&CO based in lower Manhattan. The 10-desk firm focussed on commercial interiors, particularly hospitality, multifamily residential, and office interiors.

Krista is the recipient of multiple awards, in 2013 she was named “Young Gun” by Curbed and was Contract magazine “Designer of the Year” in 2014. Krista is a member of the RISD President’s Alumni Council, Contract Magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board, and New York School of Interior Design’s Undergraduate Program Advisory Board. Krista has previously held teaching positions at Parsons The New School and Columbia’s GSAPP, has been a guest lecturer at numerous Architectural and Interior Design institutions, and has served on the Advisory Board for The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Krista is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design.

Can you tell us about your experience working in the architecture and design industry, especially on a global scale?

When I first started my career, the industry was even more male dominated than it is now. Early on, I was very often the only female in the room as well as the youngest person in the room, and quickly had to learn to not be intimidated. A lot has changed for the better. For example, we have more parity on the design side and now have as many female clients as we do male. That said, I’ve found that doing the work, focusing on what I can do, and not who I am or my gender identity, is the best way forward. I am a designer first, so keeping my attention on my work and having it speak for me has been the best way for me personally in my experience as a designer. Yes, maybe I have had to work harder in some ways, but design is a long game, not a sprint.

If you could give advice to anyone, especially young women, looking into a similar field or career path, what would you give?

Throughout your career you will find people that will hold you up and those who will hold you back. You need to strategically steer clear from the latter. However, it is always good to develop tactics to deal with people who hold you back in the event that you do not have the luxury to avoid them. Most importantly, do not get hung up on those who are not supportive, think of them as a distraction. Just move on.

Taking the time to recognize your clients and colleagues’ perspectives will help identify those who not only want you to succeed, but will actually support your professional goals. Identify those people and value their opinions. We have many types of mentors in our careers, each one guiding a different aspect of our development. Seek the people out that you naturally align with and who equally respect you back.

At the end of the day, I would advise young professionals coming into the field that it’s okay to discount the people who discount you because of your gender identity. Give your opinion of yourself the most credit.

Krista Ninivaggi, the Amberly leadership

Some of Woods Bagot North America’s leadership team including James Hickerson, Principal, Krista Ninivaggi, Principal, Matthew Stephenson Principal, New York Studio Chair, and David Brown Principal, Regional Design Leader.

“Give your opinion of yourself the most credit.”

What would you say to your younger self?

Earlier in my career I was eager and really hungry to get ahead. I actively sought more responsibility when it came to work. With age and experience, I now realize there was something really nice to be unencumbered with all that comes with added responsibilities (meetings, clients, etc), not to mention the sheer amount of time that needs to be reallocated to meet them. I would tell my younger self to enjoy having less responsibility, to relish the ability to simply sit at my desk with my headphones on, drawing all day. There is a beauty in being able to focus on the work. The added responsibilities will come soon enough, so take the time to enjoy your career as it unfolds. It will do so without your forcing it.  

What has been the highlight in your career/life?

I can make a lot of general statements about this, because there are so many incremental highlights over the years. My number one highlight though, was when my eponymous firm, k&co was included in the New York Magazine’s approval matrix for a project (brilliant/low brow category – an ideal placement). I think my biggest unrealized goal though, would be to have a drink named after me in a restaurant designed by my team!

To get in touch with Krista Ninivaggi, contact us here. 

Stay tuned for more stories celebrating women leading the way in the architecture & design industry, groundbreaking projects and celebrating #EmbraceEquity for International Women’s Day.


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Duos: Krista Ninivaggi and Matthew Stephenson on the Importance of Holistic Design

Having recently integrated Principal and Interior Design Leader Krista Ninivaggi and her esteemed interior design practice, K&CO, into the studio, Woods Bagot New York is more proficient than ever at delivering comprehensive design solutions at multiple scales.

Reflecting on this, Principal Matthew Stephenson and Krista took a movement to discuss the significance of designing from the outside in and how this approach benefits clients through efficiency and direction, and end users through coherent environments. Their conversation outlines how they collaborate to create holistic designs from start to finish, what they enjoy the most about the process, and what opportunities they see for design in New York in the coming years.

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