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Meet Kim Nigro of Studio Nigro Architecture and Design

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kim Nigro.

Kim, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve always had the desire to create and problem-solve– from elaborate forts as a child (which my kids and I still love to build), to working out the structure for my newest client’s home, to helping a neighbor renovate after a flood. I went straight into a Bachelor of Architecture program at Kansas State University after high school, got an internship in a firm as soon as I was able and worked there through college on breaks.

After graduating, I took my first job in Chicago at Tigerman McCurry Architects. I learned a lot there- trial by fire is a painful but fast way to learn! I continued working at another boutique firm for 5 years before starting my own practice in 2006. Having my own firm was never really part of the plan, but now I can’t imagine it any other way. I’m not a very good follower. I started my practice because I received a fellowship at the American Academy in Rome, had just had our first child, and had a new client wanting to build a home in Chicago. I needed to be able to juggle all of these wonderful opportunities across the globe and so on my own terms. Eleven years later, I still love the balance of work I’m able to take on that allows me to help others, keeping social and environmental consciousness at the center of my practice, while designing beautiful nourishing spaces for my clients and their families.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I always say that owning my own business is the best and worst thing ever. As any small business owner knows, the battle of smoothing out work flow/income so that it’s not feast or famine is the main struggle. A few years ago, I decided to talk to my staff about finding other work, so that I could go back to being a one-woman show. I made that decision because I felt that I wasn’t able to be selective about the type of work we took on, and was taking too many projects that we were not able to push to be built with the best sustainable practices. I also found it harder to maintain the level of quality client relationships I pride myself on with so many diverse project types. So, I took a step back and refocused on green residential design. I helped staff find other work where they could continue to grow, and partnered with key collaborators instead to create each project team. I love working with my interior design partner and structural engineer- both experts in their fields- without having to worry about keeping people ‘on staff’ when work slows down. It’s never been a struggle to ‘architect’–that’s the job I love. And finally, now I feel like I’m doing pretty well on the business ownership side as well.

Studio Nigro Architecture + Design – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Studio Nigro’s work is focused on sustainable design. We are known for designing healthy environments that nurture both our families and our planet. We utilize the latest sustainable building technology, including energy modeling and performance testing.

That is the core of ‘what’ we do. But ‘how’ we do it is different, and what I’m probably most proud of. I’m really passionate about partnering with our clients to create thoughtful, nourishing spaces for the things that matter most; crafting the settings for everyday moments that become cherished memories. We take a very relaxed, personal approach to get to know each family’s story, and to make sure the home will support them. Not every architect or designer has the patience or interest in this, but it’s what fuels me- imagining the stories and memories to be made in these homes.

The other thing that sets us apart is not simply attention to detail, but an anticipation of hurdles and possibilities with every detail well ahead of time. We are constantly looking far down the road at how one decision affects many others; this could be regarding how each family lives in their home now as opposed to what they might need ten years from now or how a small change requested during an early construction phase could cause an issue during finishing. This focus allows us to give our clients all the information they need to feel comfortable making decisions, and to have a smooth and enjoyable design and construction process.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I was asked to go back to my small hometown high school and deliver the keynote address at the Academic Achievement banquet last spring. The bonus was that my brother was asked to speak as well, so we did it together. It was the first time we’d put together a speech or anything professional together and it was so fun (also a proud moment for our parents). I was voted ‘most likely to move the farthest away’ my senior year, but I do love my hometown and love going back. It was great to be able to talk to those high-achieving kids and their parents about how fortunate they are to have such a supportive community. You can go out and see the world and do your thing well, knowing you can always come back home.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jim Barkus
Chris Nigro Photography
Studio Nigro

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