The Women of Studio K

the women of studio k creative chicago

The power of another person’s story is unique. In its raw form, it flows from one person’s experience to another in an almost physical rush. Perhaps a feeling of inspiration: “If they did it, so can I!” Or a moment of clarity where, all of a sudden, a new idea appears, sprouting from the exchange of experience.

For women, another’s story of perseverance, innovation, motivation, and success can be oh-so-powerful! In honor of Women’s History Month, we want to share the stories of women behind the brands that they have dreamed, founded, and built.

These are the women who bring a brand to life; women who are living, working, creating, and raising families. Through a series of questions, we delve into the minds of these women to share their empowering and uplifting thoughts and stories. Up now, The Women of Studio K.

The Women of Studio K Creative | Karen Herold, Alicia Kelly, Kayce Carter, & Alexis Gatch

Founded in 2014, Studio K is a hospitality interior design firm responsible for some of the most stunning hotel and restaurant designs in the Chicago area and beyond. Founder and Principal Karen Herold moved to the United States from Amsterdam, bringing with her a degree in fashion design and a budding talent for interior design. 

Karen spent more than a decade with the prominent Chicago design agency 555 International, during which time she evolved the hospitality design department. While at 555 International, she worked on many popular Chicago dining establishments and even reached beyond city limits to helm Las Vegas projects such as the Playboy Club at the Palms and the La Cave restaurant. When the time came, she set out to build her own multi-disciplinary firm with other creative, trailblazing women. 

“Working as a Creative Director for 555, I realized my passion was the artist side because it’s a way to express myself through interior design. I felt more freedom having my own company and pursuing the passion of creating spaces.”

Studio K Style

Love Happens is no stranger to Karen’s style! We had the honor of presenting her as the subject of the first of our Design Questionnaire series in print and featured her and Studio K in other stories as well. She is a designer that we love to keep up with! Her studio and its imaginative, eclectic, inspired interiors are responsible for cultivating inviting spaces that keep guests coming back for more. 

BIÂN interior | Photo by Anthony Tahlier

Studio K is known for their layered, authentic, timeless designs that prioritize joyful elements and showcase the unique personality of a business. Among Karen’s most notable projects is the Downtown LA location of Girl & The Goat, whose flagship Chicago location she designed during her time with 555. BIÂN is another recent triumph of design, whose industrial zen motif serves as a reminder of the versatile, adaptable vision of the studio.

Victory Ranch, a private community in Utah, is another testament to the welcoming, humble luxury achieved by Studio K’s process. Their ability to craft unique, distinguished interiors that exude personality and place is one of the defining strengths of the firm.

Victory Ranch interior design by Studio K
Victory Ranch | Photo by Alan Blakely Photography

Meet The Women of Studio K

The women who make up the leadership of Studio K pride themselves on an empathetic approach to design, creating emotional connections between brands and patrons. At the end of the day, design is all about the feelings inspired within a space.

Team members include Alicia Kelly, Kayce Carter, and Alexis Gatch; each bringing a unique perspective and skill set to the firm, helping envision and execute Studio K’s renowned designs. These women create with discovery, imagination, and collaboration at the heart of all they do.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the founding of Studio K! 2024 sees a decade of delivering eye-catching, inviting, timeless interiors for the firm. We are here to help them celebrate by highlighting their achievements and sharing the inspiring stories of the women who make Studio K the impressive design powerhouse it is.

Karen Herold

Founder & Principal

Karen Herold founder and principal designer of Studio K

When did your love affair with design begin? And how did it make you feel?

It started as a small child, it’s all I’ve ever known. I was raised by artists and we were always taught to create everything. Creation is the best way to spend your time and it’s a tremendous feeling.

Do you recall any critical turning point when you realized your business was succeeding? If so, please explain.

Success is measured in so many ways, outside is different from the inside. A lot of people mainly just see my public success but I have internal success. Success to me is when a client is happy and everything is going smoothly with our team.

What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?

Externally I built a reputation that people know we are their partners and maintain good relationships; Internally we have a tremendous team that can work independently and have grown to work directly with our clients versus always through me for them.

We are a table with 4 legs. The entity of Studio K is because of the four of us all together.

Who/what has contributed most to your success? 

Alexis Gatch, Alicia Kelly, and Kayce Carter are my 3 partners at Studio K and we are a table with 4 legs. The entity of Studio K is because of the four of us all together. 

What surprised you most about growing a business?

The constant effort it takes and the movement where nothing ever stays the same. Challenges are rarely about design or clients, yet new challenges always arise. The world of business is never stagnant.

Tell us about your most demanding client. What was the experience, and what did you learn from it?

BIÂN but in a good way where I respect the owners so much! They challenged me to deliver the highest form of design. It was so rewarding because they pushed me to be the very best. 

How do you handle negative feedback or criticism of your work?

It doesn’t really affect me because design is a collaborative process and we handle it as helpful feedback. When problems or critiques arise it is just a new topic of discussion that we learn from to create an even better space for our clients.

If you could have done something different, what would it be?

Life and operating a business is a constant flow, therefore I don’t have many regrets but maybe overtime I wish I knew that most things are not worth the stress and to take everything with a grain of salt.

Studio K project process

What helps you move forward with your business despite the inevitable struggles?

Passion for design and the amazing people we work with. You do what you say and say what you do.

Who is Karen Herold, The Woman of Studio K?

I just want to please people and have a desire for everyone to be happy and everyone to work hard. I’m driven and passionate about doing things the right way no matter what. I’m super normal. I just want to create great things for people that I respect with people I enjoy being around.

There is a power in knowledge. I’m very proud that we have all similar mindsets within those women in our office. It gives a sense of security and excitement knowing that we can do everything with knowledge first.

When women invest in other women, we all rise together. Do you have any specific thoughts you would like to share about the women on your team?

Carry your own weight and nothing is impossible—I enjoy those people as well that have the same mentality. Owning yourself, knowing the technicalities, knowing what you’re talking about and being educated. There is a power in knowledge. I’m very proud that we have all similar mindsets within those women in our office. It gives a sense of security and excitement knowing that we can do everything with knowledge first.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in design?

Pay your dues—Know your stuff—Accept that it will never be perfect.

Do you have any mottos you like to live by?

Say what you do and do what you say.
Don’t explain your philosophies but embody them.
We are all stronger together.
Don’t dream about your life, live your dreams.

What’s next for Karen & Studio K?

Larger developments specifically in the mountains! Mountain developments are something that has been a long-standing passion of mine, and being able to have a stronger presence of that at our studio is very exciting. We’ve built such incredibly close partnerships with developers in that world so it’s something I really enjoy. Also continuing to work with Billy Dec on Sunda has been so much fun. There’s more to come!

Sunda Tampa bar interior by Studio K
Sunda Tampa | Photo Courtesy of Sunda New Asian

Alicia Kelly

Creative Director

Alicia Kelly Creative Director of Studio K

When she joined Studio K in 2014, Alicia Kelly already had diverse experience in the world of retail, commercial, residential, and hospitality design. After earning a degree in Interior Design from Purdue University, she worked for a few different design firms before finding her way to Studio K. She joined as a Senior Designer and was named Creative Director in 2021. She is an integral part of the design team and works closely with Karen to realize the vision of projects such as Victory Ranch, Girl & The Goat, and more.

Kayce Carter

Design Director

Kayce Carter Design Director of Studio K

Kayce Carter has worked with Karen since her days at 555 International. She holds a degree in Interior Design from Harrington College of Design and got her start with Playboy Enterprises in the interiors department focusing on brand management. She became Design Director in 2021 and leads the commercial design team. Kayce spearheaded Studio K’s work on Core Campus’ high-end student housing projects, as well as other high-rise luxury condominiums.

Alexis Gatch

Director of Growth & Operations

alexis gatch Director of Growth & Operations

Alexis Gatch joined Studio K in 2016 with a background in research, but she always nurtured a passion for business. After working five seasons with the Chicago Bears, she pursued her MBA at Elmhurst University while simultaneously starting with Studio K. Alexis has continued to help grow the company, working with Studio K’s management team. She assists in the development of new business entities initiated by Karen, the largest being Studio K’s Procurement Division.

Explore more by Karen Herold and The Women of Studio K Creative!

Word by Bridget Kitson
All Images Courtesy of Studio K

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