The Fire Within Kimberly
Kimberly Lacy CEO of International Flair Designs realized at a young age no matter what life throws at you, accept it and keep on moving forward. She is a woman that inspires people she meets.
What challenges in life did you overcome to help you be the woman you are today?
From facing the stigmas associated with becoming a teenage mother in my youth, to losing a job while facing a life-threatening illness as an adult, I have learned that every experience (whether good or bad) was unique, powerful, and purposeful. One of my greatest challenges, however, has been the journey of dealing with emotional scars from the destruction and loss of my childhood home to a house fire. Through the tragedy and devastation of losing our home along with my brother having severe burns on most of his body, I learned at an early age the importance of helping others. The support of my community, especially the emotional support, was critical as we began rebuilding not only our homes but also our lives. Their support, undeniably imparted within me the importance of being selfless and serving others.
After the fire, my dad obtained his contractor’s license so that he could officially oversee the rebuilding of our house. Now, mother wanted me to do the traditional duties of a true southern girl, like working in the kitchen and completing household chores, all of which I thought were very tedious. But I was a true tomboy, and I wanted to work outside with my dad. Being a daddy’s girl, my dad would let me tag along with him. I watched him as he sketched blueprints and managed the day-to-day logistics of the construction. To this day, I still use some of the basic principles for schematics and managing my own projects that I learned from my dad as he rebuilt our home. So in addition to cultivating a passion for giving back, through the aftermath of the fire, from that tragedy emerged the foundation for developing my skills as an interior designer.
Each challenge has assisted me in knowing that I am a sum total of every experience, and each experience pushes me closer to my destiny.
How did your family help you deal with the bad memory of watching your home perish in the fire and your brother having to suffer from getting burned from the fire?
I can never forget the hot summer day in mid-July. I was only 5 years old when my childhood home was engulfed in flames. My younger brother Jarrett, who was only 3 years old at the time, was burned in the fire on over 90% of his body. One of our neighbors risked her life and saved him (my family is forever indebted to her). It was during this moment that I watched my parents demonstrate what I call “unshakeable faith”. After experiencing the shock of the fire, my parents were devastated at the mere thought of possibly losing a child. Secondly, I developed a deeper understanding of what community service was from the outpouring of love that was shown to our family during that time. Lastly, during the rebuilding process of our childhood home I developed a keen interest in blueprints, construction, and developing floor plans. I can remember tagging along with my father as I met with the builder to discuss budget proposals, problems, and project management.
Kimberly’s childhood home that was destroyed from the fire.
Home being reconstructed by her father
Her brother Jarrett recovering from the burns.
What do you like about your position as a Juvenile System Reform Coordinator?
The state of Arkansas has several initiatives to reduce the recidivism rate. My position as the Juvenile System Reform Coordinator provides me with the flexibility that is needed to maintain my position as the lead designer of International Flair Designs while also embarking upon a new opportunity to help at-risk youth. I get to wake up each morning and do two things that I love to do: working with at-risk youth and being an interior designer. While working as a system reform coordinator I have been able to provide my expertise as an interior designer by providing color theory and space planning to juvenile detention centers in order to create an environment that takes into consideration the health, safety, and welfare of incarcerated juveniles while they are being housed in juvenile detention facilities. I am also responsible for writing, researching best practices as it pertains to juvenile justice, writing proposals for possible policy and (or) legislative changes, facilitating community partnerships and engaging our stakeholders. In addition to the interior design aspects of this position, I also get the opportunity to flex my people skills.
What do you do for the young adults to help them overcome their challenges?
System Reform is a fairly new concept as we work toward reforming our approach for meeting the needs of juveniles on a national level. The System Reform Unit in our state is currently using a two-tiered system that first and foremost identifies and empowers individuals by developing partnerships with community leaders, organizations, and stakeholders. I believe that the best way to help the children that I service is by ensuring that I make data-driven, evidence-based decisions in both forming the community networks and designing spaces for them. For instance, have you ever considered the impact of constantly being surrounded by four walls drenched in a depressing mundane color? As the system reform coordinator, I consider what research says to change the color schemes and design space of juvenile detention centers in order to have a positive influence on the morale of our incarcerated youth.
How long have you worked as a Juvenile System Reform Coordinator?
I’ve worked with children in some aspect for 15 years. However, being the juvenile system reform coordinator is a fairly new assignment.
Have you thought about resigning from your position to focus all your time and energy to be a successful Interior Designer?
I have been afforded the amazing opportunity to solely work as the owner and principal designer of International Flair Designs for the past 5 years. As an interior designer, your income is based on your clients. As a Juvenile System Reform Coordinator, it provides some balance between the inconsistencies that exist in my workload (and consequently income) as a small business owner. My position as the System Reform Coordinator provides me with enough flexibility so that so that there is no conflict between either job. This does not mean that having both jobs does not become overwhelming at times. However, I find that organization and having a strong support system is key in managing such a busy schedule. Accepting the assignment as the System Reform Coordinator has moved me out of my comfort zone by allowing me to design for a different genre of clients, which allows me the opportunity to enhance my portfolio.
Who or what inspired you to pursue your passion in Interior Design?
Not to sound cliché, since I was a small child I having always had an interest in fusing colors together, collecting unique objects, and creating functional spaces. One of my major sources of inspiration outside of my father was my mother her grace, her poise, and sense of style were always timeless and classic. I definitely gained my sense of style and grace from her. My interior design style is often influenced by what is presented on the runways during Fashion Week.
Tell the readers what they need to know about International Flair Designs.
International Flair Designs is a full-service interior design firm. We blend creativity and functionality to transform and breathe life into any space. But decorating is not the only function of International Flair Designs. If it were then my company would be an interior-decorating firm as opposed to its true function as an interior design firm. International Flair Designs provides schematics and project management while maintaining the integrity of providing the client with an aesthetic experience. Rather than imposing our vision onto our clients, we first listen to the client’s needs and desires and then help the client develop their own vision. International Flair Designs nurtures the client to bring forth his or her inner designer, which is something we believe everyone has on some level.
Where would you like to see International Flair Designs to be in 5 years?
I am so grateful to see how much my brand has grown since the inception of International Flair Designs. A number of our clients include Kirkland’s, Sherwin Williams, William-Sonoma, The Pottery Barn, and most recently The Bass Pro Shops. The fact that these companies believed in me even when I doubted myself is quite amazing. So I would rather not place a limit on where I will be in 5 years, because I definitely believe that the sky is the limit. However, my plan is to make International Flair Designs a global brand. I definitely believe that I received divine inspiration for the name of my company and in 5 years, International Flair Designs will live up to its name and become a global household name.
You are involved with many different charities. Which of the charities is dear to your heart?
I have seen people who are dear to me experience challenges and go through tragic events. I too have my own story, personal tragedies. It seems as if I can identify with the population that each charity serves. I have worked with Ronald McDonald, Women and Children First, Central Arkansas Library System, Designing Hope, AR Read, and Goodwill to name a few. Each of these charities has a special purpose in my heart and are unique.
Are you married? Do you have children? If yes, how do you balance your passion, job, and charity work with your family? How supportive is your husband? If you are not married and you do not have any children, do you see marriage and children in your future?
Yes, I have been married to my husband for 18 years, and together we have four children ranging from the ages of 14 to 21. My husband recently asked me to marry him again. I smiled and then I looked at him I told him I would think about it. I guess he took that gesture as a “yes” to his proposal because we are planning to renew our vows for our 20th wedding anniversary. Being a wife, mother, and small business owner are three fulltime jobs. Each presents a unique set of challenges, but without reservation I can state that parenting has been the most challenging yet most rewarding of these jobs.
The reward of being a mother comes in many forms, but I am extremely thankful to watch my children as they give back to their community. My daughters take on a hands-on approach in their giving by working with my current charities. My girls love to cook and prepare meals for families at The Ronald McDonald House Charities, and they often assist me in completing pro bono interior design projects for well-deserving families who transition from the Women & Children First shelter into their own homes. I also have seen my son give the shoes he was wearing to a teenager he just met who had holes in his shoes. For some, this may seem trivial, but my son stands 6-feet-7-inches tall and wears a size 15 shoe. Needless to say, his shoes are a little costly. I am thankful that I do not have to question if he understands the importance of giving to those who are less fortunate. Observing the selfless acts of my children has allowed me to realize that the deposits I have invested into them would sooner, rather than later, equal out to a positive gain.
Kimberly Lacy proved the fire did not destroy her mentally. She allowed the fire to burn within her to give her the strength to move forward. Her experience with the fire showed her she can overcome any challenges she is faced with in life.
Interview by Lovely Haitian.
Kimberly V. Lacy, AIA, M.Ed.
International Flair Designs