Client Insights Inspire Creative Designs
authors Eliot Sefrin
NEW YORK — For Fauzia Khanani, creating inspiring, multi-functional kitchens and baths involves far more than simply utilizing the principles of architecture and design.
Khanani, founder and principal designer of New York-based Studio Fōr, also approaches the projects she creates by leveraging a background in sociology and public health.
Utilizing case studies, focus groups, surveys and other in-depth social science research tools in the client-discovery phase of a project allows Khanani to create innovative, well-informed designs that address functional and aesthetic client needs. An awareness of how materials, colors, light and textures affect human behavior helps her to create spaces “that promote change, healing and a sense of inspiration.
“We spend a significant amount of time in the initial stages of a project, getting to know our clients through in-depth research,” Khanani explains. “We want to know as much as we can about our clients – their goals and expectations and what makes them unique, since this really influences the end product.”
She adds: “Space and design affect people’s quality of life, so we strive to be really aware of the effects of our work. We also really want our clients to be a part of our collaborative team throughout the design process.”
That process – as well as Khanani’s background and perspective – is paying dividends.
A California native who earned a Master of Architecture degree from the University of California, Berkeley, Khanani left the West Coast and headed east nearly seven years ago. After securing her first interiors project for a home in upstate New York, she planted roots in the city, establishing a thriving firm that works on a mix of custom residential and commercial office projects, both domestic and international.
Recently, Studio Fōr underwent a rebrand, changing its name from Fōz Design. The rebrand, aimed at expanding the firm’s mission for inclusivity and increased involvement in community-oriented projects, “is a natural expression of the studio’s evolving nature,” Khanani explains.
“The rebranding has been fun and helped in creating a buzz,” she says. “The change from Fōz to Fōr is a one-letter change, but that one letter says a lot. I wanted to shift the emphasis from me, and put it on our purpose and our clients.”
Khanani leads a small team of designers from her company’s downtown Manhattan studio, priding herself on the diversity of talent she has surrounded herself with. A fierce advocate for inclusion in the workplace, her team – ranging in age from 25 to 61 – includes men and women of widely diverse backgrounds.
While Khanani says she doesn’t think of her design studio as having a specific “specialty,” she defines her goal as producing designs that are “reflective of our clients on an individual level.”
Studio Fōr, says Khanani, works directly with a wide range of cabinet, appliance, plumbing, hardware and other manufacturers, “to be sure we’re able to address client requests and desires. The manufacturers whose products we specify have a lot of experience, so we often look to them for insights.”
Studio Fōr also works regularly with Henrybuilt, since Henrybuilt’s unique kitchen systems – interactive wall panels, interior components, work surfaces and other products – “often appeal to clients who want something modern, but with warmth and materiality,” Khanani observes.
The company recently completed a project outside Chicago with a large Henrybuilt kitchen. It has also worked with a local millwork shop to design and construct a built-in banquette and storage that complements the kitchen cabinetry. The final touch was a colorful tile floor in contrast to the wood and gray tones of the cabinetry and built-ins.
Another recent project included the gutting of a kitchen in a historic Victorian home for a chef and her family. For that personal and test kitchen, Khanani’s design team used paneled kitchen cabinets to give a nod to the original design of the house, but complemented that with a modern gray cabinet color, as well as modern bar stools and light fixtures, to give the project more of an updated feel.
“We hope that our work speaks for itself,” Khanani says, “and that clients come to us based on our process and the spaces we create.
“Kitchen and bath designs are very personal, and often unique, based on the client, so we try to be as cognizant of those aspects of a design as possible,” she adds. “I think people who end up working with us come to that decision based on how we describe our design process and our relationships with clients.” ▪