Jeff King Talks With

San Francisco-based Interior Designer John K. Anderson

Photography by Liz Caruana

John K. Anderson has been creating and designing his entire life and we’re so glad he decided to hone in on the world of interior design some twenty-five years ago. His firm, JKA Design, takes a personal approach to curate evocative living spaces that piece together the past and the present. Read on to discover how his love of the strange and unexpected, his thorough understanding of classic design principles, and his acute listening skills culminate into a dialogue of the most personal, eclectic homes for his clients.

Photography by Aaron Leitz

Jeff King: How did your early years with Steven Volpe, Orlando Diaz-Azcuy, and Howard Backen shape who you are as a designer today? 

John K. Anderson: My experience with these very talented designers taught me, collectively, that acute attention to detail and the quality of materials are of utmost importance. Each experience elevated my expectations — of myself, first & foremost — and inspired me to reach further and to raise my own bar.

Photography by Jose Manuel Alorda

JK: I read that your process begins with the client, finding out who they are at their core. Which sounds easy enough, but I imagine it goes deeper than, “what’s your favorite color?”…what are your tricks/techniques for getting clients to open up? How do you develop a rapport?

JKA: We develop that rapport first by asking a lot of questions and being really good listeners. We create a space that allows them to just talk and express — without any judgment — what they want to achieve, what’s missing for them in their current environment, what’s not working for them, and so forth. It’s imperative to foster trust at the very beginning of the process so that both parties can speak their minds. Our best work is founded upon open discussion and honesty so everyone can relax and enjoy the process.

Photography by Aaron Leitz

JK: As clients have more design-centric technology at their fingertips today, how do you encourage them to be involved with the process, and how do you use that to your advantage?

JKA: Oh the technology…it is both a blessing and a curse! Tools such as Pinterest and Instagram can be really useful to help guide and focus a concept, since many clients find it difficult to express a feeling or an idea, and images can really help in that regard. On the flip side, the endless online search can also lead them down dark rabbit holes at midnight where they get completely overwhelmed! Our job, in this case, is to be open to their use of these tools but also to focus the design so that their own searches are more fruitful and less frustrating.

Photography by César Rubio

JK: What does your ideal project look like? This could be in terms of project scope and/or location, client personality, challenges/opportunities to stretch yourself creatively, etc.

JKA: Actually, we’re working on an ideal project right now! A large ground-up construction home with a wonderful architect and landscape team, sited on a 26-acre property in Westchester County, NY. We’re coming in at the project’s inception, which is critical for a truly successful design project. And we’re working with an existing client who actually loves the process; she is very invested in great design, and in sharing that with extended family and friends. The quality of what’s being envisioned and created will allow everyone to do their best work and to really shine.

Photography by Aaron Leitz

JK: We worked on a wonderful remodel with you and Benjamin McGriff. What stands out to you about the project—either in terms of team collaboration or more specifically with regards to the design elements you brought to the project—that you’re exceptionally proud of?

JKA: We really enjoyed working with both your team and Benjamin’s. It takes a talented architect and contractor to get the envelope “just right” so that the interiors blend seamlessly and really sing. I’m especially proud that we created such an elegant design that is also super kid-friendly. The kid’s rooms are really playful and fun! 

Photography by Jose Manuel Alorda

JK: What do you enjoy most about being a designer?

JKA: Monetizing and indulging my obsession for beauty and order!

Photography by Aaron Leitz

JK: Where do you find creative inspiration?

JKA: I find a lot of inspiration from traveling and being in nature; both open the mind in such wonderful ways.

Photography by Cynthia Wood

JK: Do you ever feel like you need to push clients to embrace taking chances? If so, how do you do this while still honoring their core?

JKA: Oh yes, absolutely!  We are able to do this because of the aforementioned trust we’ve engendered early on in the process — and we do sometimes have to remind them of that!  

Photography by Jose Manuel Alorda

JK: If you weren’t a designer, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

JKA: I’d be a filmmaker.

Photography by Cynthia Wood

JK: What’s your idea of a perfect weekend?

JKA: My idea of a perfect weekend is spending one day alone, quiet and regrouping or re-centering, and the next sitting by the pool with dear friends, good drinks, delicious food and great music.

What an absolute pleasure it was to talk with John. To learn more about his personal approach to interior design, visit his website and check out his Instagram page for some sweet eye candy inspiration.