Cullman & Kravis is known for providing the highest quality of design excellence and personal service since 1984. The firm collaborates closely with clients to realize their aesthetic ideas and practical needs while adhering to their established budgets. While elegance and practicality are C&K’s first objective, their utmost pride comes from the fact that every home they design reflects the personality of the owner, making no two projects the same. We had the pleasure to speak with Ellie Cullman and the C&K team so stay tuned and discover all the little details that make Cullman & Kravis a worldwide reference when it comes to interior design.
CovetED Magazine: Hello, Ellie! Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. First things first so, can you tell us about the beginning of your journey in the design world?
Ellie Cullman + C&K Team: I have always had a passion for art and design. Shortly after I got married, I spent two years living in Japan. In Japan, in addition to learning the complex and layered language, I studied flower arranging. This ancient tradition is completely analogous to interior design, but a microcosm of the choices we make every day in our work regarding color, proportion and harmony. I have often said that spending two hours arranging seven chrysanthemums honed my aesthetic sensibilities.
CovetED Magazine: How was the firm founded and what’s the firm’s culture?
Ellie Cullman + C&K Team: My friend and co-founder, the late Hedi Kravis, and I used to love going to our friend’s homes and doing a little redecorating! When a friend of ours said he would like to hire us to decorate his apartment, we realized that it was something we could actually do. In the forty years since the founding of Cullman & Kravis, collaboration and the sharing of ideas has always been at the heart of our culture. No project is a one-man (or in our all-female firm a one-woman) job. Every team member values the opinions of their peers and none of us could imagine trying to design a home with only our own ideas and opinions.
CovetED Magazine: How would you describe your design signature?
Ellie Cullman + C&K Team: At Cullman & Kravis, we try to avoid having a signature look in our designs because every project is completely unique and reflects our clients’ vision. However, we always strive to create homes that will stand the test of time. Much of our work is rooted in classic principles of design while embracing modernism. We love the alchemy that happens when old meets new.
CovetED Magazine: How does everything start when you have a new project in your hands?
Ellie Cullman + C&K Team: The most successful projects come when the clients bring the team together from day one – architect, designer, builder, landscape architect. When we are all on the same page from the start, we are able to work together and create a cohesive home from the inside out. When we are able to do this the first thing to consider is the floor plan and flow of the home. Once that is solidified we consider all of the finishes – from floor to wall to ceiling (never forget the ceiling!). Choosing lighting, rugs and fabrics usually comes next, and in some cases we need to base schemes around a client’s existing collection of furnishings and art. The final layer – pillows, art and accessories are just as important as the rest to create a fully livable and beautiful home!
CovetED Magazine: If you had to describe a design by Cullman & Kravis in three words, how would you describe it and why?
Ellie Cullman + C&K Team: Timeless, elegant and dynamic. As we mentioned, our work is rooted in classic design and therefore doesn’t follow of-the-moment trends. We strive to create rooms that will never go out of style. We also design spaces that, while they are comfortable, are still tasteful and refined. Lastly, mixing antiques with contemporary lighting and art creates an exciting tension that brings a room to life.
CovetED Magazine: If you had to choose the best/favorite project of your career and your life, which one would it be and why?
Ellie Cullman + C&K Team: That is like asking someone to choose their favorite child! We have been extremely lucky in the 4-decade history of Cullman & Kravis to work on some truly incredible residences, and with some extraordinary clients. In some cases, we have been asked to design homes for multiple generations of a family.
CovetED Magazine: What is the main message that you want to pass to the design world with your beautiful projects?
Ellie Cullman + C&K Team: As important as it is to look to the future of design, it is equally as important to remember the past and the tried and true principles of design. Our work is always founded in classic traditions, whether in scale, spatial planning, color palette, etc., but we are constantly searching for the newest designs in lighting, furnishings and art.
CovetED Magazine: In your opinion, what is the biggest change that the pandemic has brought to the design world?
Ellie Cullman + C&K Team: The pandemic has really changed the way people live in their homes. For many, home now has to serve many possible functions: office, school, gym, etc. Versatility has never been more important, and it has been a great learning experience for us to try and get more creative in how to design rooms that can function in so many ways. Whether it’s creating built-in desks that can be folded away behind cabinet doors or building outdoor spaces that can be used all-year-round, people are spending more time actually living in their houses and it is making our jobs even more rewarding.
CovetED Magazine: What are your next steps?
Ellie Cullman + C&K Team: Next steps are to transition our company to the incredibly talented next generation. I feel we have a specific and effective way of designing homes that reflect our clients aesthetics while adhering to the lessons we have learned in the 38 years of our practice.
CovetED Magazine: Which piece of advice can you give to young professionals?
Ellie Cullman + C&K Team: Seek out inspiration whether in your own city or travels abroad. There is so much to be learned and seen by exploring what surrounds you. Seeing the history and craftsmanship of the past can greatly inform your design style. While the internet is undeniably a valuable resource for us, it is so important to get out of the office – not only to see things in the ‘real’ to get an idea of scale and quality, but for inspiration. And always carry a tape measure!