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Meet Susan Knof of KNOF design in South Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Susan Knof.

Susan, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
The path of where I have gotten to today is the story of a true journey! One that started in New York City and has taken me to Dubai, London, Baku, Bali, Moscow, Milan, Lisbon, Luanda, Sofia, and beyond.

I started my career working at large architectural practices, such as Gensler, TPG, and SOSH Architects based in New York City designing, planning, and programming for Fortune 500 companies to boutique Casinos, Hotels, and Restaurants.

After witnessing first hand the devastation in New York on 9.11, I felt a strong need to have a different impact, and I took a slight career change to do volunteer construction work for ‘Habitat for Humanity International’ in mainland USA and Hawaii. I then began a teaching career at Berkeley College and became a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accredited professional.

In 2007, another journey and greater change took place. I moved overseas to be a lead designer with a luxury London based design practice, where I lead a team focusing on high-end Residential interiors throughout the UK and Europe. I had the privilege of working with heads of state, celebrities and the world’s top developers and architects.

Then, in 2012, after over 15 years in the architecture and design industry, I started my own practice, KNOF design. I am proud to see our work grace the covers of over fifteen leading global magazines, including ELLE Decoration and OBJEKT. I have had the pleasure and privilege of working on projects in Europe, Africa, and America.

In 2015, KNOF design was shortlisted for the International Design and Architecture Awards and won Gold in the London Design Awards. In 2018, KNOF design became an official partner with Rolls-Royce in ‘The Pursuit of Excellence’ .

My passion and career has taken me around the world and has allowed me to meet incredible people that have trusted me to create one’s most sacred space, their home. In 2018, I returned to the states to begin KNOF design’s new chapter in Miami!

Has it been a smooth road?
The path has not always been a smooth ride! Some of the obstacles along the way primarily relate to the added complexities of working internationally. I am constantly tackling the extra hurdles of different metrics, currencies, customs, import, tax, and duties from the dollar, to the pound, to the Euro, Bulgarian lev, and Angolan Kwanza.

It is important to be aware of the fluctuating economies. Managing projects in varying locales can be stressful. There are also time zones, customs, and cultures that play a large role. One thing for sure, you learn a lot about humanity and geography!

I am always double checking where products are coming from and going to so I can ensure feet and inches versus meters and centimeters and making sure plans are all done in accordance to local systems, and building codes. Finding the right local teams is always an essential foundation for a projects success. It is always testing, but when the right teams come together, it is a wonderful international sharing of knowledge and resources.

The above are all obstacles you can plan for, but there are always surprises that keep you on your toes! While working in Africa, we had pigs invade the construction site! You can plan ahead, but there will always be interesting bumps in the road. I believe success lies in how you react and respond.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the KNOF design story. Tell us more about the business.
KNOF design specializes in luxury residential and recreational properties and products. I think a life well traveled and explored sets KNOF design apart from others. It is one thing to be guided by an inspiring image. But, it is an entirely another thing to be able to create a design based on real experiences and the feelings evoked when drawing from visits to many historical and landmark buildings and sites.

Having lived on three continents and worked in a multitude of countries has provided me endless inspiration and a wealth of resources and contacts. I believe what I am known for and what sets me apart from others is my ability to tell a three-dimensional story. I love creating a space that tells a tale, whether it be of the family about to occupy a new home or a new boutique hotel or restaurant ready to be imagined or re-imagined. What is the history, the story and how are we going to tell it?

My approach to design is respectful and considered, preserving the character and authenticity of an existing building whilst creating something entirely new. I have profound respect for classic building methods and traditional handicrafts. To honor the handmade ideology means that each project’s interior concerns are responded to individually, with consideration of the emotional, cultural and anthropological context.

Projects take on life and reflect the character and evolution through a collaborative design process. I enjoy bringing a new approach to traditional techniques creating interiors with traces of history, each with a new story to tell.

Where do you see your industry going over the next 5-10 years? Any big shifts, changes, trends, etc?
I think the industry is currently moving at such a rapid pace that in the next 5-10 years I hope to see a more considered approach and multi-disciplinary collaboration with design as a whole. The ongoing ‘need ‘ to create content has been a bit overwhelming.

I really hope that things take a slower pace allowing more time to create with consideration. There has been so much information sharing, which has had many upsides, however, globalization has made the design feel similar from one place to the next.

I would also love to see more collaboration and innovation in regards to Sustainability and Design. I think using the knowledge and crossover of varying industries can only be an added benefit for our built environments, urban landscapes and ultimately our collective way of life.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Emma Sekhon, Dave Cleveland, Sean Litchfield, Assen Emilov

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