Kim Dunham: Peace in Malibu

Kim Dunham is not only an artist I admire, she is a dear friend. What I love most about Kim is how she is intentional and thoughtful in everything she does, from her interior design sensibilities to jewelry she creates.

Kim’s pieces are custom made and created with her clients’ unique personalities and stories in mind. A quick scan of her Instagram showcases a variety of beautifully engraved rings and necklaces. Above all else, the attention to detail and emphasis on story for each design is abundantly clear.

I have always appreciated Kim’s taste and I am so excited to feature her for this month’s Interior Dialogue. Kim splits her time between Malibu and NYC and she has top tier tips for travel, dining, and sights to see in Malibu. Read on for Kim’s coastal finds and learn about the craftsmanship and creativity behind Kim’s one-of-kind jewelry designs.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What path brought you to jewelry design? What brought you to Malibu?

I’m officially bi-coastal splitting my time between NYC and Malibu. Like many New Yorkers that find themselves in LA, I started in a more walkable part of the city (in my case,Venice) but my love of nature and desire to have a more peaceful, quiet existence took me to Pt. Dume, Malibu. Just this morning I had a coyote and two neighborhood peacocks in my yard. Our yard is filled with fruit trees, an abundance of flowers and a vegetable garden that I planted – it really feels like Eden. Malibu is filled with creatives who come here to commune with nature, surf, and recharge from hectic, city life. I’ve been in the jewelry industry since the 1990s. I started in costume jewelry and trained as a bench jeweler. I studied textile design in art school but landed a job after college in jewelry and have now been in the industry for over 25 years.
All Photos Courtesy of Kim Dunham

What are some of your favorite spots for a great meal or drink in Malibu?

Malibu has a real throwback, relaxed, beach culture feel and the dining experiences are much the same. Some of the more unique, tucked away spots are Old Place, The Malibu Cafe at Calamigo’s Guest Ranch, and Saddle Peak Lodge. For an ocean view and vibe; Malibu Seafood (best fish sandwich!), and Paradise Cove (old school, tourist kitsch). The Surfrider Hotel has a stellar rooftop and delicious, farm-to-table style food and drink menu reserved for guests only. This is the best accommodation in town, so a great place to stay when visiting. In the Malibu Country Mart, I love Broad Street Oyster Company, Lucky’s and Taverna Tony. There’s a smoothie at The Vitamin Bar called, “The Lean Protein” and on the flip side, a burrito filled with tater tots at The Country Kitchen. Both are Malibu, cult favorites and great, post surf options – IYKYK, now you know. Of course, a picnic at the beach with your favorite bottle watching the sunset is where it’s really at.

Photo Courtesy of the Surfrider Hotel
Do you have any recommendations for great small businesses or boutiques that are off the beaten path in Malibu?

Malibu is home to a lot of designers who come here to be “off the grid” and just create. My stylist friend, Kim Ficaro of Totem Home is open by appointment to shop and order her gorgeous, handmade wares at her home in Pt. Dume. The Malibu Design Center is the go-to for LA designers outfitting a beach home and they are always getting in new containers from around the globe. For vintage design, home and unique gifts, Surfing Cowboys in the country mart and Abierto in Pt. Dume Village.

Photo Courtesy of Totem Home
What are your recommendations for experiencing unique Malibu living? Are there any interesting local spots or unexpected activities you love in Malibu?

Malibu living is wellness focused both physically and mentally. Hiking and surfing are how most people spend their off time – there are never-ending trails and breaks all up and down PCH. Some of Malibu’s unique wellness offerings are The Mindry is a meditation and yoga wellness center in Malibu Country Mart and Malibu Meditations is another meditation center in Trancas Canyon Mart. Five Sense Collective which is perched in the clouds with an ocean view offers sound healing and breathwork workshops. I recently had the pleasure of sitting with Mel Nahas (co-founder of Conscious City Guide) during one of her tea ceremonies. She offers them at her home in Malibu and you can check out her Instagram for details. For a truly immersive experience, Jobi Manson of Sefari has created a meditation journey in the waters of the Pacific ocean. On the weekends, Thorne Farm (Saturdays) and Malibu Farmers Market (Sundays) are the spots to go for fresh, local grown produce and bites.

Ok, let’s talk about jewelry! Talk us through your creative process when you create new pieces. Where do you draw inspiration? What is the production process like for your one of a kind pieces?

The work I do is custom and very personal. The process starts by the client filling out a Proust-like questionnaire that allows me to get to know them better. From that questionnaire and any of our correspondence, I create a set of symbols and design concepts that I think best tells their personal narrative. The final design is then hand engraved by my engravers onto a heavy weight signet or pendant. The process is quite similar to that of branding except instead of branding a company or product, my client is the focus of the storytelling. I’m inspired by my client’s lives, the never ending visual inspiration from my travels, and historical symbolism. Honestly, I can find inspiration in anything and everything.

Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry that you have created? 

While I don’t have a favorite piece, I do enjoy making “memorial rings” that honor a person or animal that is no longer on this earthly plane. I’m fascinated with the mysterious and anything otherworldly. I’m very Goth at heart. I find beauty in the things that other often find dark.

What is next for you?

Launching a line that is less custom with shorter lead-times. Travel and more travel – I’m looking forward to a trip to Egypt with Prior in the fall and having my mind blown. Replanting my vegetable garden for the summer. Beach picnics. Throwing dinner parties again. Hot summer nights in NYC with great conversation and cocktails with friends.