k YODER design is a Philadelphia-based design firm that prides itself on creating spaces that reflect the fundamental principles of mid-century design while reimagining the era for modern-day living. The firm’s approach to architecture and interior design includes clean lines, a classic modern aesthetic, and maximizing storage space and organization.
Kevin Yoder, AIA, the founder of k YODER design, discovered his passion for architecture at a young age. He’d find himself sketching over existing house plans and blueprints, rearranging original designs, and reconfiguring the spaces. Early in his career, Yoder worked on designing corporate meeting rooms, office spaces, and hotels in the luxury hospitality industry. This experience served as a foundation for Yoder to eventually start his own firm in 2010 and focus his efforts toward passion projects.
Around the time he established his firm, Yoder and his partner were looking for a new home to accommodate their growing family. That’s when they stumbled upon a townhome designed by I.M. Pei in the heart of the Society Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, which was also conveniently located across the street from their previous apartment. They purchased the gem, and once Yoder got his hands on Pei’s original drawings for the home, he reverted back to his old ways of sketching and updating the house to reflect the needs of his family. The project did not need much structural renovation; the biggest change was the demo of a kitchen wall that, once removed, connected the kitchen to the dining and breakfast areas. Other than that, most of the changes were cosmetic, designed to enhance the original architecture, to clean up elements added over time, or hide exposed utilitarian elements. After its completion, the home was featured in several publications where Yoder’s vision gained some popularity and soon after, the firm was born.
The next few projects that the team at k YODER design picked up would define the firm’s place in the architectural community and go on to win them numerous awards and accolades. Among those projects is Louis Kahn’s 1961 jewel box style home, the Margaret Esherick House. When tackling the delicate task of renovating and restoring an architectural treasure, Yoder once again used his tried-and-true method of searching for Kahn’s original drawings and floor plans of the house and sketching the changes to be made. He worked extensively with the Kahn Archives at the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton Esherick Museum to obtain documents and information. “It always helps to look back and get an understanding of the original architect’s intentions for the project,” says Yoder. His philosophy of working to understand the original artist’s work while also focusing on the needs of his clients is the formula for the firm’s success.
Thanks to the notoriety of the home, Yoder and his team were able to find a generous amount of background info. One of the most notable rooms in the house is the custom-designed kitchen finished by renowned sculptor, Wharton Esherick, who was the uncle of the home’s namesake owner, Margaret Esherick. Conservation included restoration of the kitchen’s original wall finish, original paint colors, and the preservation of the Esherick woodwork. While the kitchen may be sumptuous to woodworkers, architects, and architectural buffs alike, the couple who bought the house still needed a place to cook that could handle daily wear and tear. Yoder transformed a former utility room adjacent to the kitchen to create a functional kitchen in order for the home to be more livable. The new kitchen does not interrupt nor clash with the Esherick kitchen and the new cabinetry was selected specifically to complement the color and grain of the original wood. Meanwhile, the goal for the rest of the home was to emphasize Kahn’s original details like the iconic slot-window in the living room that exposes the fireplace’s exterior chimney. Rather than hang art around the window, the homeowners opted to mount two projectors that reflect visuals onto the crisp white walls and are nearly invisible when not in use. Upon completion, this restoration project went on to win kYd its first Docomomo Modernism in America Award in 2016.
While working on the Esherick house, Yoder and his team were also tackling the restoration of a 1959 mid-century modern residence designed by Vincent G. Kling. Located in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, the house gave kYd an opportunity to update the interior four-square plan with a 21st-century facelift. Some of the most notable elements in the home are the restored original hardware like hourglass-shaped sconces, exposed wood framing, and the lines of ribbon windows.
The subtle geometric shapes of the home along with the immense amount of natural daylight and the textures of rich dark wood and grey stone are more than enough to make anyone swoon. The renovation and restoration of this rare Kling home won k YODER design its second Docomomo Modernism in America Award for the second year in a row in 2017.
Though much of their prestige comes from their work on rare historic residences, the team at kYd has also had the pleasure of working on newer designs like beach homes along the Jersey Shore, country homes in the Poconos, and within urban and suburban spaces. The pandemic has pushed the need for home offices, shared spaces, and cleaner design to the forefront as people find themselves indoors more than ever before. In the near future, Yoder hopes to expand the firm’s work into the tri-state area and eventually get their hands on what can be considered every designer’s white-whale, a Frank Lloyd Wright home.
Since its founding in 2010, k YODER design has built a reputation for both respecting the mid-century form of design and implementing its core elements into 21st-century settings. The firm has won numerous awards like those previously mentioned from Docomomo as well as the Lower Merion Township Historical Commission and Historical Architectural Review Board’s 2017 Historic Preservation Award and the Best of Houzz 2020 awards for Design and Service. Yoder’s love of mid-century simplicity and functionality has propelled his career in ways he never expected, and he has no intention of stopping any time soon.