Fort Design Studio is a true taste-maker in the Fort Worth design community. With spaces that balance traditional and contemporary, they specialize in creating rooms that are at the same time comfortable and edgy.
Reflective of their ability to balance different design styles, the dynamic duo behind Fort Design Studio bring different backgrounds and perspectives to the table. But a few things that founders Hilary Colia and Jennifer Kostohryz absolutely have in common are incredible taste, a collaborative mentality, and a passion for pushing clients outside of their comfort zone to create spaces they truly see themselves in.
We sat down with both Hilary and Jennifer to learn about Fort Design Studio’s founding, what this pair brings to the table, and how they’ve thrived during this tumultuous year.
When we walked into this space for the first time, we knew it was for us. There is art all around you, natural light, diverse businesses; there were just so many perfect things about The Foundry District for us.JENNIFER & HILARY, Fort Design Studio
How did Fort Design Studio come to be?
Hilary: We actually met when we co-chaired an alumnae charity event for our sorority! Jennifer majored in interior design and after graduation, she started her own business. Even in college, we had a great working connection and decided to join forces! I had spent six years in corporate America and had opened a retail store. We decided to rekindle the success we had working together and this joint venture quickly became our main focus!
You see so many design studios led by a single principal. What advantages does your duo provide over an individually-led studio?
Both: Our biggest strength is that we’re partners. You get two perspectives, you have built-in collaboration. We each bring something different to the table and the ground we can cover together is ultimately what sets us apart.
In any business partnership, each individual brings unique strengths to the table. How do you two work together and complement each other?
Hilary: Jennifer has the formal interior design education. She’s been able to teach me a lot with her classically-trained skills and know-how.
Jennifer: Hilary has a business degree, serious business savvy, and really understands the strategic side of our business. She’s been able to teach me a great deal about running a business and over the years our skill sets have started to blend!
Both: We also have to shout-out our Director of Operations, Whitney. She’s an integral part of our business; we always say she makes our world go around. A lot of interior designers have to wear too many hats – project management, creative tasks, meetings, customer interactions, scheduling, etc. But Whitney takes many of those tasks off of our plate, so we can do our jobs every day.
Your website discusses your passion for bringing clients into the process and facilitating collaboration while also pushing them outside their comfort zone. How do you pull off that balance between client collaboration and innovation?
Both: Every client has a serious vested interest in the outcome of our projects simply because it’s their home. They have to live with the choices that are made, and we want them to see themselves in every piece and love every choice. We begin our projects by letting them talk us through all of their inspiration, showing us their Pinterest boards, their saved Instagram posts, etc. All that to say, getting by in on our collaborative mindset is easy because we’re collaborating with our clients from day one.
As you gain trust throughout the process, you can start incrementally pushing them in the best way towards choices that they wouldn’t have initially made for themselves, even though they end up loving it more than their original idea. More than pushing them for its own sake, it has a lot to do with education. By the end of the project, they feel comfortable stepping out and trying something new. They realize they hired us because they want us to bring their vision and our expertise together in a way that feels cohesive, like a complete thought. If we’ve done our job, at the end of the project, that’s exactly how they’ll feel.
How has your business been impacted by COVID?
Both: At the beginning, we were fortunate because as others were reconsidering their business models, our new construction projects continued. So, we really poured into those projects. The people who we were in early conversations with about a new living room or a new dining room were on hold, but by the time our construction projects wrapped, those customers started coming back.
People are spending more time than ever at home, so for our business, there have actually been some favorable outcomes. People who maybe wouldn’t have reached out to a studio like ours are taking the plunge because they realize how important a curated space is. There is this renewed focus on home, which has been wonderful to see.
We have had to adjust our processes slightly to ensure that all of our interactions are safe and secure for all involved. If that means taking some meetings digital, we’re happy to make that choice to provide our team and our clients with peace of mind.
What made The Foundry District the right home for Fort Design?
Both: We’re unique in that we didn’t need a traditional retail storefront. We aren’t selling inventory, but we also didn’t want to be in a high-rise office building all day. It’s also important to us that we could have ground-floor access so we can host clients, stage rooms, and accommodate other unique situations. We also wanted to be somewhere that was inspirational to us, that was at the core of our wish list.
The only place in Fort Worth that fit the bill was The Foundry District.
When we walked into this space for the first time, we knew it was for us. There is art all around you, natural light, diverse businesses; there were just so many perfect things about Foundry for us. Knowing M2G’s vision for Foundry and the city as a whole was also important. We are so aligned with their vision and so excited for the future!
To learn more about Fort Design Studio and to see some of the amazing spaces they’ve crafted for their clients, visit FortDesignStudio.com
You can also follow them on Instagram at @FortDesignStudio. Having a dynamic duo like Hilary and Jennifer in our neighborhood is such a luxury and we’re forever dazzled by the spaces they create!