American designer Ken Fulk creates memorable interiors with a playful mix of influences, ranging from cinematic history to runway shows
For San Francisco-based interior designer Ken Fulk, the process of designing interiors is akin to producing a movie. “Every project, no matter how small, begins with a cinematic concept,” he explains. “I like to conjure up a mental reel of inspirational references coming from not only films of every era and genre, but also literature, runway shows, music, TV and advertising. All these images and experiences come together to inform the look and feel of our designs.”
Often pictured with a bow tie, the inimitable American designer is known for crafting sophisticated interiors in a lively mix of textures and colours, coupled with a dose of whimsy. Fulk is adept at injecting a magical quality into spaces across the globe, ranging from luxurious homes to stylish hotels, restaurants and bars—each project has a cinematic intensity and a rich narrative, whereby rooms unfold from one scene to the next while forming a continuous visual flow.
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The self-taught design doyen highlights that while he had never formally studied design or architecture, he has always been “innately confident in my ability to dream big”. “I’ve never really thought of myself as a designer; rather, I see myself as a conjurer of wonderful memories,” muses Fulk.
The designer offers a peek at some of his most prominent endeavours in his new book, The Movie In My Mind. The monograph, which is his second overall and first with publisher Assouline, captures his creative ethos and process through 30 key projects, with insights penned by Fulk himself and photography by Douglas Friedman.
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Do you have a favourite project among those featured in the book?
Ken Fulk (KF) As trite as it may sound, I really can’t choose a favourite. The book features 30 projects broken into chapters by movie genre, and even arriving at that number required a lot of tough choices as we started with 70. I will say that there are a lot of ‘never-before-seen’ projects that I’m thrilled to share.
Every year brings so many new projects and pushes us so much further, that creating a second book—and a third and a fourth— has always been part of the plan!
You’ve never had formal training in interior design. Has this been limiting in any way?
KF I’ve found that in the absence of industry experience, my firm has found a place that exists outside of the usual parameters—we are not hemmed in by the usual scope of interior design projects as we touch every aspect of a project, from the concept and brand identity to the naming, interior and exterior styling, owner experience along with the opening marketing for our hospitality clients.
Have you always been drawn to colour play and pattern mixing?
KF Absolutely! Life is short; far too short to be scared of a little colour. That said, not every project warrants the same vibrancy or combination of colours as another. We recently completed a residential project that plays with various tones of grey, and the result is an intriguing, and frankly very sexy space.
What is the mark of a well-designed space to you?
KF I’ve never been a fan of anything too precious. So to me, a well-designed space should be effortlessly beautiful, but never so fussy that you aren’t comfortable.
Where do you seek design inspiration from?
KF Everywhere! I’m inspired by my travels, film, fashion, art, history, novels or something as elemental as the scent of a dwindling fire. Something as simple as a beautiful silk scarf or the smell of smouldering embers can give me a vision for a new space.
How has it been like working with so many celebrity clients the likes of rapper Pharrell Williams?
KF It’s always a thrill to be trusted to work with some of the top creatives in the world—not only folks in the entertainment industry but the minds behind some of the finest innovations of our time. It sometimes feels like we’re getting a peek inside an era that will be remembered as a new renaissance of creativity.
What do you appreciate the most in your own home?
KF My home in San Francisco sits atop a hill and has a stunning 180-degree view of the city and the San Francisco Bay spreading beyond with mountains in the distance. It's a magical setting and is always changing thanks to the foggy marine microclimates of Northern California.
Complete the sentence: You’ll never see a___in my home.
KF An empty glass!