Creating inspiring spaces is at the heart of what we do, but it couldn’t be done without the people behind the designs that create that excellent customer experience RJE is known for. This month, we are kicking off a new series called “People Who Delight” to introduce you to the people behind RJE who not only create these inspiring spaces for you, but strive to go above and beyond every step of the way.
Today, meet Leah Kundel. Just celebrating her fifth year anniversary with RJE, Leah is part of our RJE Indianapolis’ talented design team. From conceptual design and space planning, to finish selection, design development and furniture specifications, our design team does it all to create the space of your dreams. Leah walks us through what she does, what she sees as an inspiring space, how she “hugs her customer” and everything in between. Get to know Leah below!
Name: Leah Kundel
Current Role: Senior Designer
Time at RJE: 5 years
RJE location: Indianapolis, Indiana
What led you to RJE?
I went to Ball State University, located in Muncie, Indiana, and graduated in with an interior design degree. With design there are typically two paths you can take, you can go the architectural route or stick with the space planning and furniture portion of it, and I ended up choosing the space planning and furniture route. I started out my career with a furniture manufacturer that did design development for fast food chains as well as furniture design. That role focused less on the specification side more on the engineering side, so a lot of restaurants and space planning and they had a select finish package so we would work from that. I was ready to get more creative with projects and explore different sectors of design (like corporate, hospitality, healthcare) because the restaurants design got monotonous, which led me to joining the RJE team.
Describe RJE in three words and tell us your favorite thing about working at RJE.
I would say RJE is lively, professional and creative. My favorite part of working at RJE is definitely the company culture. We have such a unique vibe – we all hang out, we have fun with each other and enjoy time with each other, but also know when it is time to be serious, professional and get things done.
At RJE, our foundation of the customer experience is “hugging our customer” or what you could define as going above and beyond for our customers. What does hugging your customer mean to you?
I think from the design side, hugging your customer is clearly communicating our deliverables to the customer, meaning defining our plans, providing brochure sheets, providing information in a timely manner, and delivering information or parts of the project in a way that there is no confusion what the end space will look like. I also think being a designer, hugging our customers is also keeping it creative, fun and delivery an experience, small details, and space designs that they haven’t necessarily thought of before.
At RJE, we strive to not only “hug” our customers, but create inspiring spaces. What does an inspiring space include in your eyes?
To me, an inspiring space is someplace you walk inside and immediately there is an element that is fun and unique that creates a space you haven’t been or experienced before. An example of this would be a coffee shop in a corporate office – unexpected and unique! Another example would be comfy lounge furniture that gives off that resimercial look (the combination of residential and commercial design), like I could put my feet up on an ottoman, relax and work in that space as opposed to a traditional office. That relaxing, playful vibe is very inspirational to me and think makes a space inspiring as well.
What can customers expect from working with you?
I think they can expect approachability and partnership. I like to let the customer lead the way, because at the end of the day it is their space. I will definitely help guide them with opinions and suggestions, but we are here to work with you not against you so will help support them in what they need.
Also, when designing with our customers for their spaces, we first pull inspiration to see what they like, so they can give their opinion on what they love and what they hate and we can build an inspiring space from there. It is actually really helpful to hear a customer say they hate something because sometimes that “negative” comment will lead us to a better suggestion rather than a lukewarm comment. It helps us refine things and makes it more cohesive design for them. So once we get that feedback, we pick out pieces they like then pick out colors, fabrics, etc. top finalize their space.
Why are you excited about the new Allsteel partnership?
I like that Allsteel has options for every type of customer and price point, whether you are budget conscious but want that stylistic vibe or want that high-end look with classic timeless pieces, they offer it all. Allsteel can meet every single market, and with them being fully integrated into CET, it is much easier for us to render out those spaces and do a live design for customers, meaning that we are not just showing customers a floor plan but are seeing a live 3D version of your space come together in real-time.
What is your current favorite product from Allsteel and its portfolio of brands?
I really like the Fritz Hansen Row Lounge Chair. I think it is a really unique piece that is like really fun and modern take on a classic high back lounge chair. It is really fun and unique with its curvy lines, but still has a pillow on the back so it is comfortable. I think everything about it is a welcoming chair.
Describe yourself in three words.
Quiet but also loud, creative.
You are a new addition to a crayon box. What color would you be and why?
I would be the color chartreuse, because I was joking around with friends one day about that color, but now I see this everywhere.
What emoji do you use the most?
Favorite way to spend your free time?
I love to spend time with friends or family, and if everyone is busy I love to sleep! I also have an adventure group that gets together to go on hikes and travel, which is really fun.
Cats or Dogs?
Dogs for sure.
Favorite place you have ever been?
Arizona! That trip, in general, was a lot of fun, because I went with great company and we did a lot of hiking adventures and not something you can do in day-to-day life.
Favorite downtown Indy spot?
I would have to say Livery. It is an upscale Mexican restaurant that is delicious but also our design team goes there at the start of the summer to kick off summer and also to end the summer too.
Favorite movie or tv show at the moment?
Inventing Anna because that was the first big scandal I followed in my first year out of college, so it was interesting to then relive it through that documentary.
Any personal mantra or words to live by that you follow?
“It isn’t that serious,” meaning if you are overthinking something or stressed or anxious about something, at the end of the day it is not that serious and not to overthink what is going on.