Designer Crush: Meena Krenek


After playing a leading role in the creation of Unilever’s new North American headquarters and other award-winning interiors projects across the U.S., Meena Krenek joined Los Angeles firm Perkins and Will as principal and interior design director. Krenek believes the best design evokes human emotion by stimulating the senses and says that a project reaches its full potential when function meets form and feeling. Learn more in our Q+A below.

How did you get your start in design?

I’ve always been artistic and have a wild imagination. As a child, I loved to play with Legos and read books with bold graphics. I was obsessed with crayons and color pencils. At my prep school, we had an architectural drawing class where the teacher showed me a book by Francis D. K. Ching. I remember the book coming alive with graphic depictions of form, space and quality line weights. That was it – I was on my way to becoming a designer.

You’ve said it’s important for companies to sit up and take notice of how architects and designers can help firms (literally) build brand equity, craft culture and turn employees into advocates — can you speak more about that?

Most employees today are seeking a deeper meaning, experience, or opportunity to contribute to society within their workplaces. Connecting these aspirations to a company’s overall mission is essential. On the other hand, a brand generally has an end user who it is also trying to connect with and convey a special point of view. By listening deeply to our clients’ stories and integrating them within their spaces, designers can create meaningful emotional connections to an environment. This allows employees to become the brand’s biggest believers. As design influencers we have a unique ability to unify the aspirations of employees and companies together, fostering brand loyalty and engaging their imaginations.

How do you define “California style”?

California is like no place in the world, and Los Angeles, where I live, is no exception. The quality of natural light is so special to California – it’s absolutely beautiful here all the time, and it really gives it a unique “vibe.” Light has a profound effect on our mood, energy and overall well-being, and it naturally inspires beauty and mindfulness in so many ways. The connection between indoor-outdoor spaces is a big part of LA living and embedded in our everyday. As designers, we often blur those lines within the built environment. Health and wellness are huge cornerstones of LA as well, largely because of our strong connection to this natural light, creating a unique quality of life that’s truly like no other.

You’ve worked with some big consumer-facing and b2b companies on designing spaces that tell their story — what are some initial steps you take to get to know these clients’ stories and you do you convey pieces of that through design?

At Perkins and Will, we create workshops and visioning sessions with our clients, diving deep into their business strategies to understand their ambitions. We listen to our clients’ stories and explore scenario models with empathy exercises of the end users. Call them schemas, scripts, cognitive maps, mental models, metaphors or narratives: stories are how we think and how we make meaning of life. We then take these stories and evaluate how texture, lighting, materials and spatial layout can represent and recreate feelings expressed within them. It’s an art and a science!

Who are some of your biggest personal and professional role models and why?

Joan Blumenfeld, the global head of interiors at Perkins and Will, is a dear friend. I often text her for advice on any challenges I’m dealing with in my career. She taught me how to influence clients through design discussions, how to support my design ideas, and how to make sure we, as designers, can influence project work. She’s the best design critique I know and has always enhanced my work at our firm. She’s a big influence on my life. My other role model is Phil Harrison, the CEO of Perkins and Will. He is a visionary thinker and has such an innovative mindset. He has always been a person of his word and speaks with conviction, equality and optimism for the future of the design industry.

Describe your ideal Sunday from a.m. to p.m. 

My husband Rik and I sip coffee and chat while watching CBS Sunday Mornings. We take our doggies (a chocolate lab and a white boxer) for a long walk, and then typically go work out together. After that, I may catch up on a podcasts and/or do some research on a current project. Sometimes we take the doggies out on our boat or check out local fresh markets to buy items for our Sunday night dinner, which always involves a glass of red wine!

Lightning round!

Most quotable movie or TV show?

Troy Dyer, of Reality Bites: “You see Lainy, this is all we need. A couple smokes, a cup of coffee, and a little bit of conversation. You and me and five bucks.”

Favorite celebrity crush?

They’re always changing! Recently in LA, I met Rem D Koolhaas, the founder and creative director of my favorite footwear brand, United Nude. He is a trained architect, has designed iconic creations for the likes of Lady Gaga, and has collaborated with high profile creatives such as Iris van Herpen, Zaha Hadid and Issey Miyake.

Go-to dinner recipe?

Taco night at the Krenek household is always a good time!

Favorite musical artist?

I’m always discovering new favorites, but Beck and Coldplay are classics. A recent find that I love is Two Feet. Check out his song “I Feel Like I’m Drowning.”

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