When Kristine Keller discovered she was born to be a designer, she also knew her instincts would lead her down a different path from other design professionals.
Her creativity flows in many directions since Kristine also began writing poetry as a young teen, which led her to Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, and a BFA in creative writing.
Moving to St. Louis with her husband and experiencing the joy of “family growing pains,” the time came to find a home.
The realtor arrived, looked around and said, “Oh, you’re a decorator.”
Kristine told her no, but that she had a cottage business working at the dining room table, fashioning fabric-covered photo albums from antique lace and fabric.
“I incorporated my passions into our condo. As a child, I designed Barbie houses with carpeting and curtains,” she says with a laugh. “So, I guess, I’ve been involved in design from the beginning.”
Kristine believes that each of us is born to create, in myriad expressions, throughout our lives.
Seeing the designer in Kristine, the realtor suggested she get some business cards, and she found Kristine her first client.
“My husband gave me $100 to start my company, which was a lot back then, and that’s how it started,” she says. “You have to believe in a greater power, follow your gut and be willing to risk.”
In the course of 35 years, Kristine went from this inauspicious beginning to million-dollar company by, in her own words, “gutting it out, staying hungry for learning and showing up every day.
“I’ve always had a hunger to grow and a thirst for what’s coming next,” she says. “If I’m feeling bored with current design trends, I search for what’s next. How can we turn that trend on its ear?
“How can we define and redefine and reenergize and reinvent within an industry at the epicenter of change? This keeps me going, and it’s very exciting to me.”
HGTV and social media have had a tremendous effect on how people want to be served in the design industry.
“I see shifting values across the board,” Kristine says. “Not just the design industry, but globally, and we’ve let go of the simplicity of family togetherness.
“I have developed philosophies about life, and one of the tenets I live by is that our clients awaken each day falling in love with their home over and over again,” she says. “That’s an experience I have living in my home.
“At the Design Source Limited, we don’t follow the latest design trends. Instead, we listen to our clients, learning about their families, their dreams and what brings them joy.
“We spring from our nests, [our homes] going forth each day, contributing in the world. It stands to reason that we can achieve more being nurtured, acknowledged and to be understood. And every day, we work to make that difference here.
“That is our gift to ourselves and our responsibility to our clients. Our gifts create fulfillment that illuminates our ability to be everything we can be, to participate in the world, and to share our contributions in a very positive way.”
Kristine goes into every client meeting with the intention of designing a client’s space in a way that honors them and supports and uplifts their spirits.
“If you initiate the project in a meaningful way, you will have fewer issues during the process,” she says. “I want to share my learning, experience and expertise.
“It is our goal to remove the mantle of concern from the clients’ shoulders and put it on ours. The most valuable aspect of the relationship is mutual trust. We honor our clients and operate in a space of integrity. We communicate frequently, and we bring only the finest people into their home.
“The result is we create a home that is all about them. Our clients’ experience of peace is at the core of our satisfaction.
“Great design is classic. One should be able to live in one’s environment for 15 years comfortably without needed to change it.
“We create interiors that are very personalized,” she says. “We design with soul.”
Kristine’s protégé, Jessica Laurinaitis, shares Kristine’s values and her design instinct. Jessica was a student at the Art Institute of St. Louis in St. Charles when her brother, former St. Louis Rams player James Laurinaitis, had Kristine design the lower level of his home. He asked Kristine if Jessica could “sit in” on the master design plan presentation, and that led to her being Kristine’s intern, which led to her being hired as a full-time design professional after she graduated.
“We know what the other is thinking, and we both bring our unique qualities to the table,” Jessica says. “While we may share different visions, we’re on the same page about serving our clients and delivering excellence to our clients. We’ve become family, and we just get each other,” she says.
“Jessica is a valuable part of our culture and the next chapter of this company,” Kristine says.