Q and A with Newport Interior Designer Kim Kirby

By Paula M. Bodah
Kim Kirby has a thriving practice designing the interiors for any number of spectacular homes in Newport. One of her smallest projects, however—the restoration of a historic boathouse on the harbor in the City by the Sea—is among her very favorites. Aloha Landing, a collaboration with Southport, Connecticut, architect Mark P. Finlay, and Kim’s husband, builder Jerry Kirby of Kirby Perkins Construction, was featured in our July-August issue. Kim welcomed the chance to talk a little more about this place she says is “really close to my heart.”

newport boat house

Photos by Warren Jagger

newport boat house

Where does Aloha Landing rank in terms of uniqueness among homes you’ve worked on, and why?

It ranks right up there. Because of the location and the historic significance of the building, because of the challenge of putting it back in the shape it was originally in—and then some—it was a wonderful project to work on.

How is designing for a small space like this different from working on a house that has many separate rooms?

We work in a town where a lot of people come for their second or third homes, and they’re usually large homes. This was like designing for a boat. The top level is basically just a kitchen and living room. It was originally really just a covered building where the owner of Aloha would gather his guests before getting on the boat. Creating a place that could be lived in was a challenge. It had to be very efficient and comfortable, and it had to work.

When a house has spectacular views, as Aloha Landing does, how does the view inspire your interior design?

The building is amazing, the craftsmanship and the materials are amazing, but the view—that’s to die for. There are some houses where you try to bring the colors from the outside in, but here I just left it alone. I kept it all very neutral, so it’s not competing with the view. We’ve done a lot of traveling, and being in Aloha Landing reminds me of being on Sydney Harbor, with all its little bays and private nooks. You get there and you get a little lost, in a good way.

If you were going to live in Aloha Landing yourself, how might your interior design be different? How would it reflect you?

When I create an interior I often do every single thing, down to buying the dishes and silverware, and I did that here. When the wife and I finished unpacking and putting everything away, I remember thinking, “Okay, this is not my house; I need to leave now.” I wouldn’t change a thing. I could move in there tomorrow, happily.

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