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Kelly Robinson: “Follow your heart and intuition no matter what”

Being a successful woman in the workplace requires us to acknowledge the patriarchal reality of the working world. Many times in my career, I have been the only woman in a room full of men. I realized quickly that the more I (unconsciously) tried to emulate a man’s way of working, the less effective and more […]

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Being a successful woman in the workplace requires us to acknowledge the patriarchal reality of the working world.

Many times in my career, I have been the only woman in a room full of men. I realized quickly that the more I (unconsciously) tried to emulate a man’s way of working, the less effective and more miserable I was. When I learned to bring forth my feminine energy, I was much more effective and I felt much better. I don’t believe in “smashing” the patriarchy, but in providing an open and gentle space for it to be disarmed. This also means negotiating firmly and knowing your worth. I was completely oblivious to gender dynamics of the working world before I started by business, but it has been a really important part of navigating entrepreneurship.


The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.

As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly Robinson. She is a spiritual interior designer who has been best known for building functional homes for pioneering companies like Airbnb, Headspace and Soundcloud among others turned her focus from the workplace to our homes in the wake of the pandemic. It was in sharing her design expertise and helping women navigate the new normal of working from home that Kelly found her true calling. She has since authored a digital design guide entitled Where Spirit Meets Space which has evolved into a movement to deepen our connection to the three foundational temples of our lives; our bodies, our homes, and our planet.

Over the past few months Kelly has brought Where Spirit Meets Space to life, hosting sought-after workshops, 1:1 sessions and design journey courses, where she shows us how we can leverage design to create space and make room for all that we would like to invite into our lives. Read on for more about Kelly’s pivot and how she’s transforming the lives of women, one space at a time.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Thank you for having me! I was born and raised with my two brothers in the northern suburbs of Chicago, around the corner from my mother’s childhood home. My mom was one of ten children, so I have a huge family. Growing up, we were constantly hosting friends and family for meals and celebrations, so the importance of hospitality and welcoming guests into our home were pillars of my childhood.

My father loved to take us traveling and each year we would explore someplace new. Our family vacations are some of my fondest childhood memories. I remember being fascinated by all the different people, landscapes, and foods when we traveled, and I loved staying in new and different spaces.

Balance has been a key theme of my life, and I was born on the Autumn Equinox, which is a day of equal light and darkness in the natural world. As a child I was equal parts tomboy and girly girl, and I loved everything from ballet dancing to basketball to climbing trees barefoot. I also had a very deep connection to animals from a young age.

One challenge from my childhood was that I suffered from chronic stomach pains that western doctors couldn’t diagnose, which eventually sparked my interest in alternative medicine and a more holistic approach to wellness. Another pivotal moment of my childhood was that when I was 13, my mother gave birth to my baby sister. This had a profound impact on my life and eventually brought me to the path of becoming a birth doula.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’ve received so many beautiful pieces of advice in my life, but the one I return to again and again is very simple, and from my mother. “Follow your heart,” she has always said. It is so common for us to believe that our intelligence comes from our mind, when in reality, our heart is a far more accurate and trustworthy compass. There have been many times in my life where my mind was making up all kinds of false stories, but following my heart’s whispers has always been a faithful guide.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Paulo Cuelo’s The Alchemist and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, were game changers for me. They validated travel as the beginning of my spiritual path and inspired my quest to India, which changed everything about how I see the world.More recently, I have been deeply moved by Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, which is oozing with indigenous wisdom and the magic of the natural world. My grandmother five generations before me was a full blooded Native American Indian, and as I’ve grown older I’ve felt more and more called to my indigenous roots and the wisdom held by the original earth guardians.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?

Before COVID-19 hit, I’d spent 10 years designing conscious workplaces for companies around the world. My journey into interior design was unconventional. At 24, I took a job as a stewardess on a private yacht in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, which taught me so much about designing intentional spaces to hold people. After my time on the yacht I traveled, mostly solo, to more than 40 countries and continued to receive design inspiration from different places around the world. I collected thousands of impressions and developed a passion for the connection between our inner world and outer world.

Among my travels, I journeyed to India to study yoga. It was here that I realized true happiness is an inside job, and that being of service and living with purpose is the path to lasting contentment. Shortly after India, I landed a job among the first ten employees of Airbnb, and quickly took on the role of mothering the company. That included managing the design, buildout, and operations of their earliest offices. It also meant establishing their first food and waste programs, and creating special spaces to hold culturally significant rituals. My experience at Airbnb launched a career for me that has felt like an unexpected, but very fun design adventure. I have since been lucky to support many pioneering companies like Headspace and Soundcloud among others, often at the early stages as their culture is still largely being shaped.

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

With the onset of the pandemic, the design brief of our homes changed overnight. We suddenly needed our homes to support us in a completely different way. I knew people would struggle being confined inside, so I began offering free design sessions to support those in quarantine. I was surprised by how much I could help simply by seeing people’s spaces through Zoom, and working directly with women and families felt so natural. My spiritual side could really bloom on these intimate calls, and the feedback was really meaningful and positive. I was inspired to write a design guide entitled “Where Spirit Meets Space”, and then launched a 28-day course to guide groups of women through the transformation of their homes, which ultimately brought about transformation in many areas of their lives. I was able to channel my expertise in workspace design into a business that has enabled me to find my true calling and that’s something I’m incredibly grateful to have had an opportunity to do. That along with the amazing community of women I’ve built over the past few months has been one of the silver linings of this crazy time.

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

During those first few days of the pandemic, I was glued to my phone, much like most people, trying to make sense of what was happening. At one point I started to feel so overwhelmed and afraid that I turned everything off, got really quiet, and asked myself, “How can I be of service right now?” I was deeply inspired by the essential workers and healthcare practitioners putting their lives at risk trying to help, and I knew I needed to do something. In that quiet moment, I felt the guidance to offer free design sessions to anyone who was struggling. To my surprise, I scheduled ten sessions over the next two weeks with people from all over the world. I was surprised at the impact I could have in empowering people to make changes within their spaces, and how it brought transformation in so many other areas of their lives. It was incredibly rewarding and felt very natural and organic. It was in that moment that I realized this would be my path forward and led me to start what is now my new venture, Where Spirit Meets Space.

How are things going with this new initiative?

Incredible, thank you. It has been a humbling and truly rewarding journey. Receiving messages from my readers about how my design guide has lifted their spirits is such a beautiful feeling. And the women from around the world who I’ve been blessed to guide through design journeys have become lifelong sisters, supporters, and friends. I look forward to continuing to host courses and workshops into the new year and beyond.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have so many people to thank for their support of my workplace design career, but this transition was most supported by my best friend in Berlin, Ricardo Oswald. I called him up one day to say, “I’m writing an e-book and I need to finish it in five days. Can you help me?” He was there every step of the way. I wrote all the copy and he started researching layouts and images and together we created a beautiful 80-page design guide that I am so proud of.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

There are many. It has been a huge joy to host circles of women for a 28-day process of transforming their homes. When women come together in a safe space to share their hearts, so much magic emerges. On the opening call of each new Design Journey circle, I invite participants to connect to their womb space. This part of us is so sacred for so many reasons, especially because our very first home is the womb of our mother. In one circle, a participant burst into tears during this opening meditation and shared her painful struggle with endometriosis, a disease that many women silently suffer from. She also shared that she and her partner were struggling to conceive. The group instinctively witnessed her pain and beamed love and compassion toward her. As she continued the journey, the whole circle witnessed her profound transformation. A few months later, she wrote our group to share the news that when she and her partner decided to undergo IVF, just three days before their first appointment, they found out they were pregnant. She told us that she believed that the healing from the Design Journey helped to prepare her womb to become a home for her baby. My heart definitely burst when I heard that!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Follow your heart and intuition no matter what.

The first time I interviewed for Airbnb, they gave the job to someone else. I was so upset and confused, because everything in my being was telling me I was destined to work for them. So I didn’t take no for an answer. I went back to them after getting rejected and convinced them that they absolutely needed to hire me. They liked my persistence and gave me a job. Our intuition is such a superpower, so the more we can create a trusting relationship with it, the better.

2. Being a successful woman in the workplace requires us to acknowledge the patriarchal reality of the working world.

Many times in my career, I have been the only woman in a room full of men. I realized quickly that the more I (unconsciously) tried to emulate a man’s way of working, the less effective and more miserable I was. When I learned to bring forth my feminine energy, I was much more effective and I felt much better. I don’t believe in “smashing” the patriarchy, but in providing an open and gentle space for it to be disarmed. This also means negotiating firmly and knowing your worth. I was completely oblivious to gender dynamics of the working world before I started by business, but it has been a really important part of navigating entrepreneurship.

3. Having healthy work boundaries is not only for your personal benefit, but also for the benefit of those you are working for.

As a recovering people pleaser, I learned about burnout the hard way, and have noticed my ability to set better and better boundaries at work as my career has developed. This is obviously much better for my life, but it also helps me show up more fully for my clients, meaning they get the best I have to give as well.

4. Don’t put anyone on a pedestal.

Everyone, no matter how much the public praises them, is still a human being. Idolizing people almost always sets us up for disappointment. I experienced this a few times during my career, and it was pretty deflating each time. Lesson learned! We are all human.

5. Nurturing people is a part of business.

So often in the workplace, people are working so intensely that they neglect themselves. Simple, basic things like encouraging people to drink water, providing healthy food, and creating a place for a power nap can make a huge difference for individuals and companies as a whole. I’ve been surprised by how much my ability to intuitively care for people has become a pillar of my work, career, and success.

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

Eek, this is so real. I’ve found with pretty much 100% accuracy that my worst mental health days are the ones I spend most glued to my phone and on social media. I’ve tried really hard (and still fail) to have good boundaries with my phone. The other thing that helped me so much over the past nine months was growing a garden. I got a community garden plot about 10 minutes walk from my home in Vancouver, and went there most days to watch my plant babies grow. Growing food from seed feels anciently good, and having a reason to get outside everyday was a lifesaver. Meditation is also a game changer. I love sitting with the Headspace app and Insight Timer first thing in the morning.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I really want to spark a movement to regenerate the earth, but I know that to do that, we need to go deeper. My recent venture, Where Spirit Meets Space is a movement to deepen our connection to the three foundational temples of our lives; our bodies, our homes, and our planet. These three temples are all connected, and I often imagine a world where all people remember this interconnectedness. In such a world, the daily choices that people make for their bodies and within their homes honor the natural world too, and take inspiration from the cycles of nature. We must live more in alignment with nature in every way that we can.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

A Chicago girl at heart, it has always been a dream to hang out with Oprah. I am incredibly inspired by her story, all that she has overcome from her childhood, and how much she has paid her success forward. I would also absolutely love to share a meal with Arianna Huffington. I resonate so much with everything she shares and imagine she has a ton of awesome stories and a great sense of humor.

How can our readers follow you online?

I share on my personal account @kellyarobinson on Instagram. For my work they can follow @wherespiritmeetsspace and check out the website WhereSpiritMeetsSpace.com.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Mahalo! I wish you the same.


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