Kirsten Pappas –W.I.N.K Designs

It all began on Washington Street in Traverse City’s original Bethlehem Lutheran Church where the front lawn grew green in June’s warmth and lit up with red and orange leaves before winter’s long pause. In 1998 Kirsten Pappas transformed it from a place of worship to her home, converting the interior with a mix of modern color and classic pieces, remaining cognizant to the original aesthetics of the century old church – steeple and all. Her finished home was featured in Traverse the Magazine, proving her eye for design.

Kirsten, who graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in advertising, honed her talents over the years, updating vintage furniture and exploring her interest in art while chasing after her two young children, Peter and Elizabeth.

As her children grew, Kirsten found herself spending less time shuffling to after-school activities and sensed that as this season of her life shifted, she would too. In 2013 she began commuting to Kendall College of Art and Design where she studied interior design. During her three years there, Kirsten took part in a study abroad program in Italy where she spent two months with Elizabeth by her side. While her daughter attended sculpture and pottery classes, Kirsten, far from northern Michigan and her former career in advertising, walked over a mile of Italy’s oft romanticized streets to her internship with an architecture firm.

Back in the states, she graduated with honors and spent a year designing for Wolverine Cabinet Company, planning to start an interior design business with a former colleague. However, when the latter changed their mind, Kirsten was undeterred. She stepped out on her own, turning her zeal for breathing fresh life into old spaces into W.I.N.K (Winning Interiors Now by Kirsten) Interior Design. She was led by the notion that it isn’t enough to simply throw together “pretty finishes.” Instead, every interior element must serve a functional purpose to each client and that means learning all about their needs and daily habits. Never is this ethos more apparent than in a project she carried out for Spectrum Healthcare in which she collaborated on a prototype Epilepsy Monitoring Unit which balanced the comfort of patients with the needs of medical professionals and their caregivers.

Since W.I.N.K’s debut in 2018, Kirsten’s church-reno days of home design still inspire her. Her projects include everything from small-scale kitchen and bathroom updates to full commercial interiors, including Agave’s Grand Traverse Mall location, all while keeping the needs of those inhabiting each space at the forefront of her vision.

Want to learn more about Kirsten’s past and current projects? Visit

Written By Kierstin Gunsberg

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