SUBJECT: KIM MUPANGILAÏ
Kim is one of those creatives that clearly has a passion for her craft and the human experience in general. Her well-trained design sensibility yields the right mix of timeless design principles and bold gestures for a universally comforting aesthetic. There’s an energetic multi-cultural intention, that’s very well considered. Her background in Graphic design is clear given the use of controlled edges and fluid lines, making for calming spaces with distinct materiality. We came across her work online, and the presentation of spaces that you really want to LIVE in. Kim is from Belgium originally, having moved to NYC three years ago (2018) to pursue a career in Interior Architecture. In this short amount of time, she’s gone from a designer at a firm to Leading a mix of Independent Restaurant Bar and residential projects that span across the Burroughs and extend to Upstate NY. Two things are clear, she’s carving a new lane, and it’s the beginning of what will surely be an outstanding path. Other work in progress includes a project in the Cayman Islands and a furniture line that’s been carefully underway, slated for a debut in Spring 22.’
What is especially impactful about Kim is the distinct way she infuses Belgian-Congolese heritage into her design aesthetic. The spaces are striking in all the right ways. In speaking with her we really began to understand the intentionality behind her approach, and we became even bigger admirers of not only her design work but also her authenticity. She has an easy-going art meticulous process and is really connected to the work. It’s clear she puts just as much heart as mind into each project. You can always expect light, line, and earth, for a masterful presentation of the natural against the well-engineered.
THE OBJECT: African Chair: Congo Region of Africa
It’s a low-rise little chair. I’ve moved a lot. And, it always accompanies me. A functional and purist design. It’s also very easy to store, being able to break down into two parts.
I admire everything that went into it and how I came across it. It’s hand-carved, honest, with a certain beauty in the wood, it hasn’t been handled too much. You can see that it just really comes from nature, barely touched. It’s connected to my heritage in a dear way and I truly love this piece.
I came across it at a flea market in New Jersey. It was being shown by African handlers that happened to be from the same region of Africa as my father. It was such a serendipitous encounter that the piece instantly became of greater value than just material. In a sense, it felt like an indirect connection with my ancestors. It was truly a precious moment to find this piece, chat and connect with these people. One I won't forget. Growing up, I wasn’t able to connect to that place, because my father migrated to Belgium early on. I’ve always only had the stories from my father. I got all of the Western European experience coming of age. But there was always something calling me to dive deeper into the African side. Very much want to take it all in, the Culture, the food, the Architecture, the Art history. It’s half of me and my story and such an important part. The older I got the more I wanted to learn about myself and my family, so the stronger this desire became. And, it’s only grown since moving to NY.
Kim’s object selection gave us a lot of context for Kim’s approach to space. This curiosity about her African culture, history, and aesthetic is a red thread and can find these elements well balanced in her designs.
Tell us about a time it was hard to be yourself, or when being yourself led to a breakthrough?
I was recently featured in MILK decoration magazine, one of my favorite Editorials. The feature made me realize everything I’ve been doing to date hasn't been void. And, getting to feel what it feels like on the other end being of being true to yourself and your process. It’s not a race, stay the course. When I was approached for the feature, it was clear. I can make it, being me. I don’t have to be a certain way for someone.
Things will come organically, no need for faking or feeling pressured to be someone or work in a way that’s not you. If it’s your passion and you really enjoy it, and I don’t want this to sound oddly weird, I really feel like it will all be ok. I got the cover story, for one of my favorite columns based on my own work, not projects for an employer and this meant so much.
I’m led by my heart & what I feel connected to. I rarely draw inspiration from the internet or Social Media. I tend to click away from all of the noise. I pull from my experience and what I’m drawn to. I don’t neglect intention and strategy, but my heart compass is a pulse I tap into. I also try not to be overly concerned about if it works or not. If you’re creating something and your story isn’t in the work, it doesn’t work. If you have your own story in the mix, the work is already unique.
WHAT’S SOMETHING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT KIM, THAT YOU’D WANT
EVERYONE TO HEAR?
Judging by my professional social media presence, some people may figure, “Oh this person is doing it, living the dream in NY and everything just worked out for them.” And, things were always picturesque, that’s definitely not the whole story. And, what a lot of people wouldn’t expect is that when I first moved to NY, I was living on a construction site. In those days it was the grind, the construction site, a gym membership, available furniture, and the help & support from dear friends. There’s a disparity between where I started and where I have worked to get to today. I’ve had to grow, learn and stretch to build what’s presented today. It’s really interesting where the journey takes you through. The same friend that allowed me to live on the construction site ended up being the connection to my first solo project. Things have come full circle.