Keita Turner: Reflections of a Top Interior Designer

I went from people only hiring me to select paint colors for their walls to now getting calls from multi-million dollar, nationally and
internationally based companies to redesign their offices or retail boutiques.

[BSN Entrepreneurial Series]

Keita Turner, Owner and Creative Director of KT Design Solutions, LLC

BSN: Tell us a little bit about yourself; where you were raised and the most important things you learned from your parents: Where did you go to school and what did you study?

A: I was born in Houston, Texas and raised for the better portion of my childhood in St. Louis, Missouri. Under my parentsʼ supportive love and guidance, I learned to work very hard and very smart. They instilled in me a
strong work ethic. They stressed the importance of putting more than one hundred percent into all of my endeavors. To this day, my mom continues to tell me to “Keep the faith” and my dad reminds me to “Be thankful for everything I
have been given”.

After I left St. Louis, I attended undergraduate school in Providence, Rhode Island, graduating from The Rhode Island School of Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Apparel Design. Following school, I moved to New York City to pursue a career in fashion. Several years after establishing my self as a successful New York City fashion designer in a very cutthroat industry, I later decided I needed a major change in my career and lifestyle. I made the transition to interior design at the School of Visual Arts. After working on both residential and commercial projects for my motherʼs interior design firm in St. Louis, Missouri, Betty R. Turner Interiors, I later struck out on my own to share my unfailing eye for design and help busy people and businesses fulfill their design dreams.

BSN: Tell us a little about KT Design. What’s unique about your company and when was it launched? Tell us how much you enjoy what you do?
A: Since 2000, I have owned and operated KT Design Solutions, an award-winning residential and commercial interior design firm, based in New York City. Experience an environment transformed by me, and you will discover that I am
an interior designer whose business is about creating beautiful well-appointed and orderly safe havens. My mission is to create high-end residential and commercial environments that are clean and functional, warm and inviting, suitable and inspirational, and most importantly that uplift the human spirit. If I had to describe what makes my company unique on one sentence, it would be “We design spaces that uplift the human spirit!”

I love what I do so much that I just had to share the gift of design with others around me. I understand personally, the positive or negative effect an environment can have on the satisfaction or success in oneʼs life or business. Several years ago after transforming one of my former residences into a personal oasis, a place of serenity and tranquility from my stressed-filled life, I discovered that my well-designed space had far reaching influence on my friends and the people around me, way beyond just for my personal satisfaction. Friends and guests would walk into my home and be awestruck. “Wow, you live here?” would be the usual reaction.

I provide my clients, with what I believe are seven essential elements necessary to preserving and improving human life and experiences through the built and designed environment. Those seven elements are satisfaction, balance, order, esthetics, productivity, challenge, and abundance.

My design philosophy is about creating surroundings that will play a beneficial and spiritually uplifting role in my clientʼs lives.

BSN: What are some of the most popular designs you’ve been responsible for?
A: I would say our design for the Harlem Vintage wine boutique would be one of our popular projects in terms of more people being exposed to it and benefiting from itʼs contribution to a community. Harlem Vintage was the first high-end
specialty wine boutique in Harlem, a community typically used to only having access to liquor stores outfitted with bullet-proof glass barrier walls.

We receive favorable comments and compliments on the restoration of the luxury Sugar Hill townhouse we designed. The challenge was to contemporize the traditional home by opening up the space. Our design plans had to take into consideration restoring, replicating, and repurposing beautiful trimwork and moldings. The water wall feature in the powder room, the tray ceiling in the parlor room, and the suede paneled walls in the media room are just a few of the highlights in this stunning home. We are equally proud of the room we designed for the Essence Magazine Showhouse, which later won us a couple of national and international design awards and has received several press mentions. We are proud of our recent commissions designing and updating commercial office spaces for some of State Farmsʼ top producing agencies in the country.

BSN: Give us a sense of how much your business had grown over the years.
A: My business has grown in ways I never could have imagined when I first opened my doors back in 2000. I went from people only hiring me to select paint colors for their walls to now getting calls from multi-million dollar, nationally and
internationally based companies to redesign their offices or retail boutiques.

The clients that walk through my door generally tend to be very high level corporate executives, CEOs, COOs, CFOs, investment bankers, corporate lawyers, highly successful entrepreneurs, technology entrepreneurs, high profile doctors, real
estate developers, churches, elected public officials, fashion models, celebrity artists, and athletes.

We have worked on the design of a townhouse renovation for the former COO of Standard & Poorʼs, the design of a townhouse for a high profile celebrity plastic surgeon and his Emmy winning news anchor wife, the design of a home for a former mayor of a major east coast city, a foreign policy advisor to Hillary Clinton, a professional basketball player, and the design of John Legendʼs Home School Records office, just to name a few.

BSN: Talk about some challenges you’ve faced since founding the company and how you’ve worked to address them?
A: There was a time when I barely had anyone calling the office. Then I guess my work starting speaking for itself and I got clients through word of mouth. That organic type of buzz is still very important, but now we also focus on developing marketing and pr campaigns to target affluent demographics in this very competitive and saturated market.

Some clients do not understand the value that good design has on their life or business until the design process is over and the project is complete. They become the believers. And some will never value design, so we now know those are not the clients for us.

It has been challenging over the years, but I feel confident with what I have learned and experienced will only help to attract and keep loyal clients walking through our doors for years to come.

BSN: If you controlled all the variables tell us where you would want KT Design to be five or 10 years from now?
A: I want Keita Turner and KT Design Solutions to be a well-known and respected design brand five to 10 years from now. I would like my brand of design esthetic and products to be a go-to brand for design enthusiasts and customers, not only nationally, but internationally, too.

I want to branch out into product development and initially design lines of luxury soft furnishings, fabrics, furniture, lighting, carpeting, bedding, either through licensing or private label. I see my product brand being sold in select trade showrooms, high-end boutiques, or retails stores like Bergdorf Goodmans.

Then, I would also like to design and produce more moderate level product offerings that would be accessible to a wider target audience through department stores or HSN. In terms of interior design growth, it is my goal to continue getting commissions for high-end noteworthy residential and commercial projects that will challenge me to grow as a design professional. I would like to keep the mix between contemporary and traditional projects. And since I have a strong background in fashion design, my dream is to delve more into retail fashion projects.

Madison Avenue is one of my favorite streets in New York City, lined with high-end boutiques from some of the biggest and most respected fashion labels around. I see a store or several stores designed by us being on Madison Avenue one day.

How do you connect with clients or promote the company?
A: We are always in contact with our current, ongoing, and past clients either through follow-up phone calls, emails, monthly email newsletters and email blasts.

When we are featured in the press, we update our clients, prospective clients, vendors, fans, and friends of our status updates through email blasts, and social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. We advertise and promote our business on Google, Facebook, online home and lifestyle website registries, print publications, and through charitable and
philanthropic causes. We plan to launch our blog sometime in 2012 to help further increase our brand and presence in the interior design industry.

BSN: What are your own five favorite websites?
A: – We partnered with Hunter Douglas, Inc. and
Designer Blinds of Omaha in 2010 to become a priority dealer for Hunter
Douglas window fashions. This is our official dealer website. Please
– a wonderful lifestyle blog that covers everything
from art, culture, design, food, philanthropy to travel. The publisher
covers very diverse topics, people, and places. – One of the most creative and interactive websites I have every visited. David Stark is an
amazing event planner and fellow classmate from RISD.
– Montrese Chandler is a multi-talented
designer of both elegant jewelry and clothing. I love the simplistic,
yet striking lines of her jewelry. There is something architectural, yet
fluid about her designs.
– Only One. Only New York.

BSN: Any final words or observations?
A: The Interior Design industry is an awe-inspiring industry that affects and influences everybody in some way or another. Whether it is the fancy bed frame we sleep on each night, or the retail store we frequent to buy our weekly groceries or favorite pair of jeans, or our dining room table we gather around with friends and family to celebrate life, or the healthcare facility we visit during our time of sickness or preventative care, some aspect of the Interior Design industry plays a profound role in our daily lives.

I feel like Iʼm giving of my gifts and talents to help make peoples lives more enriching and productive. I would love to reach a broader demographic of people one day. But for now, I do what I can do, one day at a time.

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