The Lord Has a Hand in Designing His Temples, Interior Designers Say

Contributed By Sarah Harris, Church News contributor

  • 25 September 2017

Interior designer Gloria Kummer works on a drawing. Kummer graduated from LDS Business College in 1997 and has been doing interior design for temples for 11 years.

Article Highlights

  • During the interior design of temples, every detail is refined to create a space of worship.
  • The Lord is involved in the designing of His temples.
  • Temple interior designers often incorporate elements of local culture.

“The Lord has a hand in all of His work, and He looks over it, watches over it, and watches over those of us who are doing the work. I know that.” —Rickie Staska, temple designer

As interior designer Gloria Kummer reflects on her 11 years designing LDS temples, the sweet memory of a young woman helping local families install furniture in the El Salvador Temple stands out in her mind.

“She saw the [baptismal] font, and she came to tears because as a teenager, she knew she could go to the temple to do baptisms for the dead,” Kummer recalled. “It’s moments like that that make all the hard work worth it.”

Several graduates from the LDS Business College interior design program, including Kummer, now design temples and recently shared some of their experiences of helping to build houses of the Lord throughout the world.

Rickie Staska, a 1997 LDSBC graduate and current interior designer at CRSA, said doing things for temples is different than doing them for a home.

“There are all kinds of ways you have to specify and adhere to things,” Staska said.

Kummer, a 1997 LDSBC graduate who has worked on about 19 temples with her own firm—Gloria Hayley Interior Design—since 2015, said no detail is left untouched when it comes to building temples. Interior designers, architects, contractors, artisans, craftsmen, furniture makers, suppliers, and others all play a critical role in putting everything together.

“You pay attention to every detail and continue to refine the design as a team to ensure you are designing a space that will touch the hearts of the people and be a place for rest and repose to worship, serve, and receive inspiration,” Kummer said.

Jun Eae Kim, a 20-year temple interior designer and 1996 LDSBC graduate, said she knows from experience that Heavenly Father is involved in the designing of His temples.

“He makes it work,” Kim said. “It’s not me that’s doing it; He’s showing the way.”

Harold Martinez, a CRSA architectural technician and 2015 LDSBC graduate, said as a member of the Church, he likes to see people enjoying and being blessed by the temples he helped to design.

Martinez has worked on the Seoul Korea, Kyiv Ukraine, Edmonton Alberta, Louisville Kentucky, St. Paul Minnesota, St. Louis Missouri, Raleigh North Carolina, Bismarck North Dakota, and Columbus Ohio Temples, to name a few.

He said his favorite temple to design has been the Tijuana Mexico Temple, which is located in his home country. He said when he visited the temple while it was under construction, he asked people there how they felt about it.

“People who weren’t members of the Church could see that the temple is going to be a blessing for the people of Tijuana,” Martinez said. “They feel ownership and an identity with the temple.”

Kim said the Tijuana Temple was also her favorite to design because it allowed her to learn more about Mexico.

“I had no idea about how people live there, their cultures, and what kinds of things they like,” Kim said. “I learned their cultures and people and just appreciated what they had.”

She said the spirit she felt while visiting the Tijuana Temple grounds also made an impression on her.

“You can feel peace and power inside the fence compared with outside the fence,” Kim said. “It was my favorite feeling when you get past the gate of the temple, … you can feel a difference of power. You can feel the air is different.”

Kummer, who has led the interior design of the San Salvador El Salvador, Tegucigalpa Honduras, and Rome Italy Temples, said the El Salvador Temple was her favorite to work on because she was involved in every aspect of the interior.

“We approached that design with the intent of designing for the local culture, introducing typical Spanish details, such as conches or sculpted recesses in the walls, but we refined it to be appropriate for a temple,” Kummer said.

Staska said she first became interested in designing temples when she found out two students she had gone to school with at LDSBC had been hired by the LDS Temple Department.

“I just had a feeling that that was something that I would really like to do, although I thought I would probably never be able to do it, but if I had a dream, that would be my dream,” Staska said.

Her dream came true in 2008, and since then, she has been involved in the remodeling and interior design of many temples, including the London England, Preston England, Regina Saskatchewan, Toronto Ontario, and Star Valley Wyoming Temples.

“They’ve all been very sweet experiences,” Staska said. “The people that we work with are such good people that that’s always a choice experience.”

Kim, who was honored as LDSBC’s 2015 Distinguished Alumni, has worked on dozens of temples throughout her career and is currently helping with the interior design of the Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple, renovation of the Washington D.C. Temple, and remodel of the Mexico City Mexico Temple.

“My dream was achieved, and I’m still working on my dreams,” Kim said.

Kummer said her LDSBC education helped her get her foot in the door to start working as a designer by focusing on teaching the skills that interior design companies are looking for. “If you are considering interior design, learn the practical skills so you can land your first job,” Kummer said.

Kim, who came to the U.S. from Korea in 1992, said as she looks back on her LDSBC experience, it was really helpful that the professors had experience working in the interior design field and were willing to help students one-on-one.

“Their door was always open to us,” Kim said. “They [taught] us a lot of things we [were] supposed to know, including cultures, rules, and including friendship.”

Martinez, who moved to the U.S. from Mexico in 2013, said LDSBC changed his life and the life of his family.

“I came as a guy who wanted to add more on my educational background, to have great professional experiences; I wanted to learn a new language and all about a new culture,” Martinez said. “But it has [given] me more than that: the opportunity to believe in my dreams, that hard work and patience is not only for temporal things, and that there is always a connection between earthly and heavenly matters.”

Staska said her personal testimony and faith have grown as a result of her work on temples.

“There’s an awful lot of physical work that goes into a temple, but it’s all geared toward magnifying it being a spiritual experience for any who enter into the temple,” Staska said. “The Lord has a hand in all of His work, and He looks over it, watches over it, and watches over those of us who are doing the work. I know that.”

The San Salvador El Salvador Temple was Gloria Kummer's favorite to design because it was one of her first temples and she was involved in every aspect of the interior.

Interior designer Gloria Kummer said one of her favorite memories of designing temples was when a teenage girl helping local families with furniture installation in the El Salvador Temple teared up at the sight of the baptismal font, knowing she would be able to perform baptisms for the dead there.

Harold Martinez, a 2015 LDSBC alumnus and architectural technician at CRSA who does interior design and architecture for LDS temples, shows the design for another project he worked on: the Hardison Luxury apartment building. Photo by Robert Holman.

Harold Martinez stands next to a computer showing his design development work on the Hardison Luxury apartment building project. Photo by Robert Holman.

Jun Eae Kim, a senior interior designer at CRSA who graduated from LDSBC in 1996, has been designing temples for 20 years. Photo courtesy of Jun Eae Kim.

Temple designers Rickie Staska, Harold Martinez, and Jun Eae Kim each said the Tijuana Mexico Temple was their favorite to work on.

The celestial room of the Tijuana Mexico Temple. LDSBC graduates helped with the interior design of this temple.

The main staircase of the Tijuana Mexico Temple. LDSBC graduates helped with the interior design of this temple.