Designer decorated one of Southern Living’s first ‘Design Houses’

Designer Carter Kay combines a unique mix of antiques and statement art to give any room or space a new point of view.

Designer & background: Kay grew up on Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga. She attended Newcomb College in New Orleans for three years and graduated from Mount Vernon College in Washington, D.C., with an interior design degree. After several design internships in Washington, she knew residential design was her calling. She moved to Atlanta to work with Dotty Travis, a cofounder of Travis & Company, saying it was the best training she could have had.

The company: Carter Kay Interiors started in 1982 in Atlanta.

Big break: When Southern Living approached her to decorate one of their first “Design Houses.” She worked with architects to build and design an Atlanta house from the ground up. The project made the cover in January 1991.

Seen in: Magazines including: Southern Accents; Southern Living; Tuscan Style; Mountain Living; and Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles. Also show houses: Atlanta Symphony and the Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles holiday house.

Quick fixes for a room: Rehang all art. Rearrange seating. Freshen pillows and lampshades. And paint walls, trim and ceiling the same color.

Every room needs: A touch of black.

Design pet peeves: Ruffles and overdone trims.

Current design obsession(s): Mid-century paintings and bronze sculpture.

New (or re-emerging) designs I like: Oriental tables, animal patterns and tufting.

… and looks/colors I am glad to see go: Balloon shades and the color mauve.

Unusual request: Design the bedrooms of a client’s mountain house in two days.

Fun (or unusual) design: A family bought the home next door to theirs to create what the wife nicknamed the “Man House.” The house was designed and built for his enjoyment. It included: outdoor grilling area, office, exercise room; a steam/sauna/shower; restaurant-grade stainless steel kitchen, upstairs guest suite; and at least one TV in every room.

Biggest design mistake I have made: During a carpet installation, discovered that the new carpet on the stairs and floor did not match. Had to start from scratch.

… and mistake homeowners make: Buying furniture that is too small for a space.


- Instagram: @jerrypair; @travisandcompany; @jimthompsonfabrics; @therhugheslifestyle; and @ainsworthnoah.

- Magazines: Milieu, Elle Décor and Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles.

- Atlanta-area home/design stores: Bungalow Classic, Dixon Rye and South of Market. At the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (ADAC): R Hughes; Jerry Pair; Ainsworth-Noah; and Travis & Company. Also Parc Monceau and A. Tyner Antiques in the Peachtree Hills area.

- Places unexpected finds: Revival in Chattanooga.

Recent projects: English cottage renovation in Garden Hills; renovation of a one-bedroom ranch house for longtime clients in Rock Creek, Mont.; renovation of a Vinings home for empty nesters with seven grandchildren; and kitchen renovation and redecoration of a den for long-time Dallas clients.

Up next: Renovation and addition for Chastain Park family; elegant townhouse for newly single client; and renovation of 150-year-old family home in Athens, Ga.

Find Carter Kay Interiors at:


Facebook: Carter Kay Interiors

Instagram: Carterkayinteriors

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