Joel Kalmin spent his twenties working for several nonprofits before embarking on a nearly two-decade-long career in high-end residential and hospitality design. But the call to “give back to others” never quite faded, and eventually Kalmin found himself looking to switch gears again. “I realized that all this time, energy, money, and beauty was only able to be experienced by a few elite,” he says.

While searching for a way to bring his design skills to a broader socioeconomic audience, Kalmin was approached about a job as facilities design manager at Legacy Community Health, a full-service Federally Qualified Health Center. “It opened an opportunity for me to use my skill set in a way that my ‘return-on-investment’ was huge,” says Kalmin, who joined the organization in 2011. In 2012, he became director of facility design and now leads the design and specification of everything from exterior signage to lobby seating to lab millwork for projects throughout Texas.

His current project for Legacy’s Fifth Ward facility (which was dubbed a “healthcare desert” by local media), stands out as one of the most rewarding, he says. “It’s a wonderful combination of community input, community art, an amazing architectural and interiors team, with the best regional staff, that results in supporting our mission: connecting the community to health every day, in every way.”

What was your first project in the healthcare sector?

Legacy’s main campus building in Houston. It finally brought all service lines under one roof for the first time, along with 21st century technology—and, of course, rock star interiors.

What lesson did you learn on that project that you still carry with you today?

Flexibility. I (we) never knew how much the organization would grow and at such a quick pace.

What parallels do you see between hospitality/retail design and healthcare design?

Know your clientele! Just like in hospitality/retail, the client comes in many forms, but you must be able to serve them all.

What do you like best about working in healthcare design? 

The clinical and administrative experience of the patients and my fellow employees are positively enhanced because of the design choices I and my amazing team of architects have made.

What challenges keep you up at night?


Three words to describe your design aesthetic

1. clever

2. forward

3. fresh

Three items on your desk

1. Painter Smurf

2. nameplate that says “Joel ‘Bad Boy’ Kalmin” for being a “bad boy” of design. (My support team making fun of my accomplishments.)

3. a waiving Queen Elizabeth figurine

Outside the office, you’ll likely find me….

In the TRX suspension training room. It is a 45-minute escape that allows me to focus on my core—and just me!

Dog or cat? 

Puppy breath always wins.

Coffee or tea? 

Newly a tea addict.

Morning person or night owl? 

Hmmm …. is 4:30 a.m. morning or late night?

Beer, wine, or liquor?

Liquor. Bourbon aficionado.

Fiction or nonfiction?

Nonfiction. Fact is so much more interesting.



Quote “Tact is for people who aren’t witty enough to be sarcastic.”—Karen Walker on “Will & Grace.”

Movie character Satine in “Moulin Rouge.” She likes to be the center of attention, but she’s fatally flawed.

Weekend activity Being poolside.

Band/musical artist George Michael.

Color “Silver Mist” by Benjamin Moore.

Guilty pleasure Luxe sneakers. My favorites are my Moncler suede hiking kicks.

App/website Houzz.

Snack when you travel Sweet and salty: Pringles and M&M’s.

Ice cream flavor Talenti’s Sea Salt Caramel Gelato.

TV channel MSNBC.

Book “A Tale of Two Cities.” It’s set in two of my favorite cities: London and Paris.

City to visit Orvieto, Italy. I love the amazing views, history, miles of hand-carved caves, and great food of this charming city, which very few Americans visit.