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Creativity is a family affair at Isom Collective

Siblings Jeffrey Chris (from left), Chris Isom, Matthew Isom and Jenn Isom are partners in ISOM, a multiple disciplinary design collective at 123 Southwest Boulevard.
Siblings Jeffrey Chris (from left), Chris Isom, Matthew Isom and Jenn Isom are partners in ISOM, a multiple disciplinary design collective at 123 Southwest Boulevard. kmyers@kcstar.com

Isom Collective is more than just a group of creative thinkers, designers and builders; they also happen to be siblings. Each specializes in skills that cross-pollinate: Chris Isom is the builder and mechanical guru; Matthew Isom, the industrial furniture designer; Jenn Isom, the interior designer; and Jeffrey Isom, the visual communicator through signage and graphics.

Their Crossroads office and showroom is being prepped to open up on First Fridays this fall with the family’s first furniture collection, as well as featured artists.

It’s almost unprecedented to make it out of childhood just getting along with your siblings, but you all have purposefully chosen to work together too?

Jenn: We love each other so much.

Jeffrey: We all have strong opinions, which certainly can create conflict, but we’re all working toward the same goal.

Matthew: If there ever is a disagreement, we hash it out and five minutes later we’ve worked it out.

Is artistry genetic in your family?

Jeffrey: Our father was an illustrator. We have a ton of his work and are thinking of curating a show. He was a native Kansas Citian, born and raised. We are keeping the legacy alive. Our mom was an interior designer for the better part of her career.

Jenn: We’ve all watched our dad draw in his studio at home, how he layered colors to make them stand out or recede, and how light and shadow affect space. Both of our parents have an amazing sense of color and how to create combinations of color.

Matthew: Our roots are from a fine arts background.

How do you apply your individual skills as part of a collective?

Jenn: Each of us has our strong suit that we lead on, but we all have the awareness and ability to overlap on any day on any project, whether it’s interiors, exteriors, signage or lighting. Our overarching theme is that we understand how things work, not just on the surface, and we can figure out ways to improve things. We’re always taking an idea to each other and asking how to make it better.

Matthew: We all have an affinity for well-made things. We are adaptable problem-solvers.

Tell me about your furniture line.

Jenn: There are benches, casegoods and tables. All pieces in the line have similarities — a lot of shared parts — so it looks cohesive, but it’s not matchy-matchy.

Matthew: The furniture is more architectural and structural, very sturdy and with big expanses.

Many people equate this quality of work with being expensive. Is that true here?

Matthew: Being in New York, you’re exposed to a giant world of European culture and Americans with lots of cash. Then there’s the more budget-conscious, and we design for that too.

Jeffrey: We approach everything the same way: with care and attention to detail. Ultimately, we can create something for anyone that we are proud of.

Jenn: Materials set the tone for the level of finish. If it’s not a high-level budget, we know where to spend the money to make the most impact.

What is your design process?

Jeffrey: It’s ingrained in our processes not to jump to a computer; we all pull out paper first.

Matthew: It’s useful for repetitive components. Hand drawings get the concept out in front of the client to see what they gravitate toward, that’s when we take it to the computer to build in 3-D. I really like the functionality of things and the precision of what they do. I don’t just draw something then pass it off to someone else; I construct it as if I were building it.

Jeffrey: We take the extra time to do things the right way. And we’re constantly learning, refining and becoming more efficient.

What is your philosophy?

Jeffrey: The ideal is driven by Bauhaus — to create things that are beautiful and functional. I feel like that’s been lost. We want to strip away the unnecessary. Just like our identity with our logo, you can’t quite pinpoint it, it’s as timeless and relevant now as it will be in 50 years.

Jenn: We focus on bringing a sense of space and feeling of authenticity, not just an image from a page in a catalog. Each project should have a layer of history and personality of the client. We take their ideas and thoughts along the way so that they have ownership.

Matthew made the move to New York, so why do the rest of you stay in KC?

Jeffrey: We’ve all moved around, but KC will always be home. There is so much local talent; we want to utilize it and feed the community. People are sticking around more, or they’re coming back. It’s visible. The city has turned a corner the last five years.

How does the busy Crossroads location suit you?

Jenn: It functions as an event and display space that can reconfigure to be a gallery or display space as our furniture collection is launched. We have a subtle presence until we know exactly what’s happening here.

Jeffrey: At that time, we’ll activate this space to draw people in, but it won’t be showy. It’ll be more understated, with simplicity and purpose.

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