Senior Associate Spotlight: Amber Kolkman, RID, NCIDQ
December 19, 2023
Amber Kolkman, senior interior designer and senior associate at MSKTD & Associates, is passionate about architectural design. You might even say it’s in her DNA. From a young age, she developed a keen interest in the way forms, colors, and textures impact spaces.
“My dad owned a flooring company that he ran out of our basement,” she said. “I would go with him to jobsites, and I was always intrigued at how updates to the interior environment can impact the way you feel in that space.”
And while form, color, and texture play a significant role in her work today, Amber’s scope at MSKTD includes much more than finishes and accessories. “As a designer, I’m fully integrated in the projects from inception to completion,” she said. “I spend a lot of time studying spaces to determine how the interior architecture and design can impact the function of the space.”
Working side-by-side with all stakeholders, Amber makes it a priority to understand the overall intended human experience. “I work closely with our clients, listening to their needs, to define space use, which starts to drive where areas of impact should be. We design intentionally to make sure the flow, circulation, and feature areas are in alignment with the overall function and aesthetic.”
It’s an iterative process that requires good listening skills and the ability to read how clients react to different options. “We do a lot of vision boarding,” she said, “presenting anything from inspiration images and conceptual layouts to 3-D modeling to make sure we’ve understood our clients’ needs.” Only once the overall programming and function are determined does Amber begin homing in deeper to select materials, colors, and textures.
Understanding the way spaces function is especially important in Amber’s work on the higher education team at MSKTD. Remembering her own college days, Amber is struck by the lack of functional communal space on her campus. “People were seated on the floor along the corridor walls outside the classrooms, which made circulating through the space difficult. I had to constantly look down to ensure I wouldn’t trip on other students’ legs. There was nowhere to sit, nowhere to collaborate outside of class after the lecture. We were forced to just leave.”
Today’s college campuses are quite different. “There’s been a paradigm shift in learning environments,” said Amber. “It’s imperative that students and faculty have spaces outside of the classroom that foster collaboration, engagement, and innovation.” In any particular building, that might mean including seating areas outside of lecture halls, complete with white boards and built-in niches.
Being part of the design process from the beginning gives Amber the opportunity to shape the conversation about how spaces function, and it’s one of the reasons she loves working at MSKTD. “The people here really make MSKTD what it is,” she said. “They value you for your profession and trust what you do.”
While she acknowledges that trust takes time to build, Amber is skeptical that she’d find that same approach at many other firms. “Everyone at MSKTD knows the others’ strengths and weaknesses, and we’re all willing to plug in and help, utilizing everyone’s strengths to manage the workload. That is what makes us unique.”
As a senior associate, Amber now has the opportunity to continue building that team approach, ensuring that the respect and camaraderie she has experienced will remain a key part of the culture at MSKTD for the company’s near and long-term future.