Designer Spotlight: Joy Street Design
Kelly Finley is a woman with a mission: to spread joy through design. The founder of Joy Street Design and the non-profit Joy Street Initiative works with clients, local shelters, and even HGTV’s Property Brothers to create spaces that elicit joy–including her own home, which she recently designed with Fireclay Tile throughout.
We talked with Kelly about how she went from lawyer to designer, the challenges of designing for her personal house, and why space planning, in her words, feeds her nerdy soul. Continue on for the full interview!
Kelly's Fireclay Favorites
Sample Kelly's favorite Tile colors here.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and Joy Street Design?
My name is Kelly Finley and I'm the CEO and Creative Director of Joy Street Design. I started Joy Street Design in 2011 as a residential interior design studio based in Los Angeles. Since then, Joy Street Design has grown into a nationally-recognized studio focusing on residential and boutique commercial/hospitality projects. We have offices in Oakland, CA and Atlanta, GA, and a team of ten people.
In 2018, I founded Joy Street Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving lives through transforming spaces. Joy Street Initiative believes that restoring dignity and ownership in your living space is extremely important, especially when transitioning out of hardship and/or trauma. Joy Street Design donates 10% of its profits to Joy Street Initiative which (along with vendor support) enables Joy Street Initiative to transform the spaces of local shelters catering to women and children.
With these two organizations, our goal is to create environments that inspire, support, and encourage people to live their best life joyfully.
Image via Kelly Finley
When did you first become interested in design? How did you get your start?
About 15 years ago, I had a career as a white-collar criminal defense attorney. While I was practicing law, I knew that I wanted a change so I decided to take an evening class. Funny enough, the only class available at UC Berkeley for the time slot that worked for me was in drafting - like old-school hand drafting. I bought all of the supplies, went to class, and fell in love with the entire process. I then took 2-3 classes each semester after that (all while working full-time) and, from that moment on, I was hooked and just absorbed everything design around me and online. Three years later, I took the leap, left the law firm, and started Joy Street Design.
What is your favorite part of the design process?
My favorite part of the design process is the initial phases of space planning and layouts. It feeds my nerdy soul to tinker with the ways in which the clients use a room and then apply actual rules to why things are placed a certain way. I think that's why I enjoy kitchen and bath renovations so much.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Joy Street Design designs spaces that seek to elicit joy from our clients. We believe that color and patterns are a joy. We think outside the box to create personalized, engaging + joy-infused spaces.
What are your 3 best design tips?
- Don't be afraid to mix colors, shapes, and finishes as the fun comes in playing with different layouts. We've done tile installations with multiple colors that just look amazing but we've also done installations with the same color but in different sheens and tones that worked as well.
- Don't forget the trim pieces. The finished work is the most important part of the job so don't forget how everything needs to be finished. The trim pieces or metal edging will help bring the entire look together.
- Hire a professional and read the installation instructions. There are a large number of mistakes that could be avoided by simply reading the installation instructions.
Why do you like using tile in your designs?
Tile is great because there are countless variations and it is extremely durable and practical. When you work with fabric, you're basically relegated to the fabric available. But because tiles create their own pattern and story, you can use tile to create exactly what you want. I love the idea of mixing and matching tiles to create a pattern. Or even using the tile to introduce an element of simplicity in an overly colorful space.
You recently worked on your own home. How was designing for your own space vs. a client?
The saying "The cobblers' children have no shoes" is an apt description. Designing for your personal space is daunting because it's really hard to know what you want or your own tastes when you have to narrow it down with no guidance. When I'm designing for the client, I get tons of guidance from the client and I'm able to feed off that energy. When I'm designing my own space, I'm overwhelmed at all the items I've pinned and wanted to use forever so it takes longer for me to really determine how I want to live and what the space should feel like.
What made you decide to use our tile throughout your home? Do you have a favorite tile moment in the house?
I was designing our home in San Francisco. The spaces in the home were pretty cozy so I wanted to make them special. I knew by using Fireclay tile, I would have the opportunity to introduce some vibrant colors and ground the room in a way that a simple subway tile could never do. Using the Hunter Green tile in one bathroom and the mixture of blues in the other bathroom created a great backdrop for the rest of the bathroom.
We switched gears in the kitchen and used the blue glass tile for the backsplash because the kitchen was upstairs, gets great light, and the blue mimicked the view of the windows at that height. By laying the tile in the same pattern in both bathrooms and the kitchen, it created a continuous thread throughout the relatively small house.
Lastly, which of our tiles would you love to use in future projects?
We're lucky in that clients have trusted us and we've used many Fireclay Tiles in a variety of projects. For a dream future project, I would love to customize your tiles to create a fun mural similar to the one in LaGuardia Airport. I loved those images and seeing them in person was even better.
Watch now! Behind the Scenes of LaGuardia Airport:
Feeling inspired to craft your own feel-good space with tile? We’re happy to help! Reach out to our Design Consultants for free one-on-one assistance, including design help, sample selection, and ordering.