Designer Spotlight: Kay Black

KayKay Black approaches each room she designs as a blank canvas awaiting a central focus and concept. She finds it extremely rewarding to help a client achieve their dream room. Working closely with her client’s desires and budget, she incorporates the same design principles of a successful piece of art into each living space, incorporating interesting composition, color harmony, depth, and layers.

Born and raised in Memphis, Kay has been drawing, painting and designing since before she could write.  After earning her BFA in graphic design from the University of Tennessee with a minor in art history, she found success in a variety of commercial undertakings. These endeavors included corporate brochure design, print media illustrations, and casual clothing and jewelry design she sold to numerous retail chains, clothing and gift stores, and catalogs.

While her commercially oriented artistic activities were rewarding, she felt a special satisfaction when simply decorating for friends and family. Thus, in 2003, Kay turned her focus to interior design as a full time career.  Before joining the team at Chestnut Hall she was a design consultant at Norwalk Furniture and later at Capel Rugs. 

In her spare time, Kay is active in contributing to the good of the Memphis area and is involved in the community in many ways. She is a founding member of TWIGS of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, a member of Les Passees, and is active with the Suburban Garden Club, Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis Botanic Garden and The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.


When and how did you first know you were interested in Interior Design?
I was in elementary school.  My mother wanted to repaint my room and let me pick a paint color and fabric for draperies and bedding … I was hooked after that.  I still remember that feeling of excitement the first time I entered a fabric store; endless possibilities and combinations awaited me there!


Where were you before Chestnut Hall?
I started my professional career as a commercial graphic designer and illustrator. Over the years, I found it natural to transition the skills learned during those years to the increasingly occurring times when family and friends asked me to furnish or update their homes. In fact, since I love working with people, I discovered that interior design provided an even better artistic outlet for me to connect with and assist people.


If you could only pass along one piece of advice about purchasing fine furniture to a Chestnut Hall customer, what would it be?
Deciding on a central focus for each room and then surrounding it with terrific “supporting” pieces.  Beware of having too many “stars!”


If you could only pass along one piece of design advice to a Chestnut Hall customer, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to mix styles.  If you want a room to have personality, make sure the pieces in your room complement each other but have fun with old favorites and newly acquired pieces.


When you are designing with a client on a budget, what piece would suggest they splurge on and which to save on?
Definitely spend wisely on larger pieces such as upholstery, dining tables, and chairs. Accessories and smaller tables can be more easily updated without making a big investment.  Acquiring paintings or prints, for example, are fun additions that one can seek out while traveling.


What is your favorite coffee table book?
Oh I have several favorites, but Twenty-Five Years with Freida Hamm would have to be my pick.  She is a phenomenal local artist whose use of color and design inspires me to think outside the box every time I pick it up.


If your house was on fire and you could only run out with one item what would it be?
It would be the oil portrait of my husband’s father painted by his wife, my artistically acclaimed mother-in-law, Elizabeth Black. Talk about sentiment, the portrait was painted posthumously from a photograph made during his service as a World War II naval commander.


What do you enjoy most about being a Memphian?
Other Memphians!


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