Whether it’s working on a $23M renovation of a Beverly Hills mansion or creating a look from scratch for a new build, $6M bungalow in Venice Beach, Kim Gordon is one of the most sought-after home designers in Southern California. A woman in a male-dominated industry, she makes it clear that it’s a status she fought hard to earn. “I was catcalled, berated, and generally disrespected by male colleagues,” she says. “Very few people took me seriously. It wasn’t easy to get to where I am now.”
Currently, Gordon is working on an 8,700-square-foot compound in Pacific Palisades, complete with a series of swimming pools, sprawling outdoor rooms, and a two-story pantry with spiral-staircase access to a ceilingless room for growing vegetables. While still under construction, the home is currently on the market for $14.8M.
Born in Long Island and raised in New Jersey, Gordon started her career in Los Angeles nearly 25 years ago as an artist who put finishing touches on homes—elements like dramatic lighting installations, mosaics, and intricate ceiling murals. Lead designers like Kerry Joyce regularly hired her for her talent and creativity, but she eventually got tired of working for others and wanted to branch out on her own.
“I didn’t want to come in at the end of the design process anymore to work on a few aspects here and there,” she says. “I wanted to shape an entire home from start to finish.” Today, the industry veteran, who resides in L.A.’s Mandeville Canyon neighborhood, has a waiting list of high-paying clients and counts on a full-time staff of eight to help bring her visions to fruition.
Her work is now a 50/50 balance of homes that she develops from the ground up and clients who hire her for bespoke interiors. When it comes to developing homes, a Kim Gordon project has an average time on the market of less than a week, in up markets and down. Gordon attributes this success to her focus on making contemporary design warm and inviting, not cold and severe.
“A lot of times you have a gender divide with architecture: Men want super hard-edge contemporary; women want a warmer atmosphere that is often expressed with more traditional design,” says Gordon. “I think my homes manage to appeal to both men and women.” Case in point: Most of her projects sell before the open house, and almost all sell for above the asking price.
“In my opinion, it shouldn’t be too perfect looking, like a designer worked on it,” she says. To achieve this lived-in feel, she relies on details such as book collections, mismatched furniture, and unexpected tchotchkes like an antique cuckoo clock in the living room of a contemporary residence.
In the area where clients first enter their houses, for example, Gordon likes to build a shoe storage where they change into their favorite pair of slippers. At the same time, this entryway might have a fountain, diffuser, or other feature that engages the senses. “You should be able to feel pleasure right then and there that you’re home,” says Gordon.
In all parts of the house, she says the ability to manipulate the lighting with blinds, curtains, and dimmers is a must. “You want to control your environment depending on what you want to do right then, whether it’s sleep, read, or entertain friends,” she says.
Gordon’s perspective on her work took a turn toward wellness following a bout with aggressive breast cancer in 2018 (she’s now in remission). “I realized that having a healthy home is as vital as its appearance,” she says. “Through my cancer, I learned that your living space can be toxic or help in keeping you well.”
As a result of her experience, air and water filters are now among her design signatures. And the residences she’s charged with building use chemical-free, sustainable woods and natural paints without strong smells.
Gordon’s journey has had challenges, professional and personal, but she says the path has been fulfilling and well worth it. In a reversal of roles from her early days, she’s now the one hiring artists and designers to work for her and makes it a point to seek out up-and-coming talent, particularly women. “I encourage them to dream bigger and tell them that they can achieve whatever success they envision for themselves,” she says. “I’m living proof of that.”