One of Us: Kathy Moran-Clarson


A fateful meeting at an airport baggage claim changed the course of Kathy Moran-Clarson’s life, bringing the interior designer to the First Coast. The president of KMC&A Design is enjoying life at the beach with her husband, Ric Clarson.

What services does KMC&A design provide to its clients?

KMCA is a full-service hospitality design firm with offices in South Jacksonville Beach. We specialize in the interior design of four and five-star hotels and resorts. KMCA’s approach is every property has its own unique setting and story. Our job is to capture its past and enlighten its future by creating beautifully designed interiors that reflect its locale and often historical surroundings. Through design, we enhance the guest experience, inspire exploration and help drive repeat business and positive word-of-mouth referrals.

How did you come to specialize in hospitality design?

After completing my degree in interior design, I began my career as an associate designer with a large design firm in Dallas that had multiple offices across the country. My initial projects concentrated on the Hyatt Hotel brands. I created environments aimed at an attentive and sophisticated traveler that functioned properly for guests and maintenance staffs, and most importantly, for the owner’s bottom line. During that career phase, I completed 11 Hyatt hotel renovations. Now, two decades later, those principles are still what drives KMCA: creating inspiring, world-class design while maintaining strong business and financial practices.

How many hotel interior design projects have you completed?

We’ve completed more than 50 hotels, including a mix of renovations and new builds. In the Northeast Florida area, KMCA is currently designing the new Renaissance San Marco in St. Augustine, a new luxury seaside boutique hotel in Fernandina Beach, and the renovation of the Sawgrass Marriott great room and lobby. We’re in the running for a new Daytona Beach project as well. We’re also working in state on hotels in Orlando, Tampa, Coral Gables and Boca Raton, and out-of-state with two projects in Rochester, New York, and one in Norfolk, Virginia. I’ve also done design work for hotels including Hilton Times Square in New York City; Hilton Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California; the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona; and the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco.

Describe the process of designing hotel interiors. What do you enjoy most about that process?

I love all phases of design. Transforming a vision into an impactful and memorable reality is exhilarating. Our process starts with listening to our client and understanding their vision for the hotel. We conduct extensive research regarding the area, which spawns ideas and inspiration from our findings to create interiors that showcase the region, the history, the culture and the lifestyle. This is emulated in color schemes, indigenous materials, local art and meaningful artifacts. For a design to be successful, a sequence of design phases must be followed to ensure we stay within budget, documentation is accurate, and schedules and deadlines are met.

Different hotels have different “personalities.” How do you reflect that personality through interior design while remaining consistent with the hotel’s brand?

We have a saying at KMCA: “On Time, On Budget, On Brand.” That is our ultimate goal. It is a balancing act, however, to meet the demands of both ownership and the respective hotel brand. In the past, hotel brands requested designers to design for a consistent scheme, color or style. They wanted guests to immediately recognize a hotel by its interior, with design consistency across the hotel brand. You see this in limited service hotels like Hampton Inn or Courtyard Marriott, and even in upscale properties.

But times and tastes have changed. Hotel guests are demanding more from their experiences, particularly Gen X and Millennial travelers. Why not stay at a uniquely designed hotel with seamless technology at your fingertips, and also have a “sense of place” while traveling for work or pleasure? Our job as designers is to be fluent with all brand standards but also recognize what’s in vogue with cultural trends and styles, and design the hotels to reflect its locale. More and more upscale brands now look for diversity in design and ties to the local area – which KMCA delivers – versus brand consistency.

Which presents a greater challenge – designing a new hotel or redesigning an existing one?

Both require the same discipline in regards to business strategies and design phases, so our focus remains on delivering a high-end design with exceptional quality and durable performance. What sets them apart is the blank canvas a new hotel project provides, which opens up endless opportunities to make your own mark in interior design. It sparks a different mindset in creativity when there are no existing conditions to maneuver around. Renovations, however, allow KMCA to take something that is typically worn and dated to a new level of luster, style and opulence. Both are challenging in their own way, and require different approaches, but our “On Time, On Budget, On Brand” goal is the same.

What brought you to the First Coast?

My wonderful husband, who is a second-generation native of Jacksonville. Divine intervention brought us together a little over four years ago. We met in the Palm Springs, California airport at baggage claim, though neither of us checked a bag. God at work! I’m originally from Pennsylvania, and after spending summers in college working at the Jersey Shore, living the beach life became a dream. After 30 years in Dallas and raising two beautiful children and honing my skills as an interior designer, fate gave me the opportunity to move to the First Coast, remarry, start my own design firm, live close to the ocean, and live that beach life. Ironically, in many ways I feel like I’m back at home.

How do you enjoy spending your free time?

I can’t get enough of time on the beach. I love walking, running, cycling and we have two paddle boards. I get to a weekly yoga class or two, but this area is just incredible for the outdoors. My husband and I enjoy exploring the First Coast, and there is no shortage of cool and fun things to do. We have a townhome in Dallas we enjoy going back to, but the sun- and moonrises out of the Atlantic Ocean are hard to beat.