Designer Crush: Howard Hawkes and Kevin Kemper of H3K Design

1. Who is your biggest role model?
HH: John Elgin Wolf/Robert Koch. They were the forerunners of transforming pure utilitarian items to something more glamorous and architectural. They were multitalented, made a fantastic team and introduced Hollywood and the world to new styles and designs. I appreciate the fact they dared to do something different while many were following the same design examples.
KK: The Palm Springs mid-century architects — Palmer & Krisel, Donald Wexler, Albert Frey, Hugh Kaptor — During the MCM explosion of growth, they were trying new, exciting building techniques. Using technology and new products in exciting ways. They really added an energy to Palm Springs that you don’t find in other cities.
2. Which movie or play do you wish you could have designed the set for?
HH: Strange answer. My all-time favorite cult classic is Xanadu. What a bizarre film and how fun would it be to do those sets!
KK: Almost anything from Alfred Hitchcock. I’m a huge fan and loved the way many of his sets and locations were integrated or part of the storytelling. He was genius for making the surroundings a ‘character’ in a film. Rear Window, Vertigo, Strangers on a Train — all brilliant.
3. What is the best way to gauge a client’s personality before starting a project?
HH: I like to find out what kind of traveler they are. Do they like to travel for adventure, education, relaxation? The answer to that question can really help you understand how they will interact during the design process.
KK: Most of our clients are renovating a second or vacation home. We like to take a look at photos of their current house for two reasons. One we want their vacation home to be completely different than their main home. But second, listening to them describe and talk about it as well as any work done to the house can give you small clues how your future will work.
4. What new design elements are you excited to integrate into your work?
HH & KK: Large format tiles. And we mean large format! We’re loving tiles that come in 30” x 60” or even larger. Love the look of it, particularly when using floor tile that goes indoor and outdoor. Palm Springs living is all about blurring the line of where the walls and windows start and end. These tiles really give you that continuity.
5. How do you completely unwind?
HH: Cooking. Even a simple meal helps to decompress me from the stresses of daily life.
KK: Growing up in Hawaii, my Zen space has always been to sit on the beach, listen to the waves, and take in the warmth and breeze. Sitting next to the pool in Palm Springs is my substitute when I’m not close to a beach!
6. If you hadn’t become a designer, which career would you have pursued?
HH: Hair stylist. I like being creative and making people happy. My dad always told stories about how he cut hair to help pay for his way through college. I think I inherited his knack.
KK: I went to USC film school and worked in the entertainment business before shifting gears and eventually working in design. I’d probably still be working in film production – a similarly creative field.
7. What’s the worst pre-designer job you’ve ever had and why?
HH: I was a pedi-cab driver one summer during high school. It didn’t last long as I soon realized Santa Barbara wasn’t as flat as it looked!
KK: My freshman year in college I took a temporary job making fruit baskets for the holidays at a local market. Being in a refrigerated room, putting together baskets by yourself for six hours a day got tiring very fast. But the extra fruit I could take home was a bonus!
8. What’s your favorite recipe?
HH & KK: A recipe from Kevin’s mom which is perfect during the Palm Springs summers. Great to sip by the pool!
Lush Slush (I fell in love with the name alone!)
  • 4 tea bags
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • Make the tea in 2 cups of boiling water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 7 cups boiling water
  • 1 large frozen can of lemonade concentrate (12oz)
  • 1 large frozen can of orange juice concentrate (12oz)
  • 2½ cups vodka
Mix all the ingredients together and add the tea. Freeze in a 9×13 inch pan. When frozen (usually overnight), scoop frozen mixture in glasses and fill with 7-Up. Serve with a straw and maraschino cherry. Slushy fun!
9. Create your perfect playlist for us.
HH & KK: We both love music and it’s such an integral part of daily life.

10. Who is your designer crush?
HH: Mary McDonald. I Love her style, sense of humor, and sass!
KK: Trina Turk. She is more in the fashion world but I love her use of color and the way she exudes Palm Springs!
Lightning round!
11. Would you rather shop new or vintage?
HH & KK: Vintage! — We love incorporating vintage pieces in our work, even if it’s just a tchotchke or two. Particularly MCM pieces!
12. First celebrity crush?
HH: Wonder Woman. I guess she’s not a celebrity but she was tough woman!
KK: Farrah Fawcett. The poster, Charlie’s Angels…the ‘70’s rocked!
13. What’s your hidden talent?
HH: I am fluent in German.
KK: I can put my entire fist in my mouth. I’ve got a big mouth!
14. Best restaurant in your area? Where is it?
HH & KK: Easy one for us! Dish Creative Cuisine in Palm Springs — food is amazing and how can we not love a place we designed! ☺
15. SF or LA?
HH: LA — I went to school at USC! Fight on!
KK: SF — what’s not to love!

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