Compelled to flip anxiously through interior design magazines at the ripe age of 12 and exposed to the poetry in the process by her mother and grandmothers, Gray Walker’s start in design was like a well-placed mirror – reflecting onto every other aspect of her life even as she insisted upon a different path.
interview nicole camack // photography jonathan mullen
Coming to the industry by way of art history in college and photography in Italy, Walker worked for an interior design firm as she figured out the purpose shadowing her since her youth. “I thought, wow, this is what I want to do,” says Walker. Photography her first love, art history in her back pocket, and the elements of design in her upbringing, as she fell in love with composition, her love affair with design reads like a ballad of endless love.
“I’m an old fashioned interior designer,” she says. And while those adding machines may be on overload, her design aesthetic is no yesteryear production. Adoring antiques and personal treasures, her flair of personal touch and fusion of perspective gives vibrant resurrection to a space.
So before we go ditch all those old treasures in our homes to buy those posh new accents, let’s take note from Gray Walker. Her recent projects epitomize something she holds dear in her designs: antiques. “I’m deeply connected to history. I love antiques. I think they tell a story, especially if they’re family pieces. I think the things that you hold on to tell a story of who you are,” she says. “What I’m good at is taking antiques and giving them a new life, a new birth while respecting their history.”
What I’m good at is taking antiques and giving them a new life, a new birth while respecting their history.
And while she loves to adorn spaces, simplicity is sacred. “It takes away from the beauty of the object when you have too much around it. A room that is too confusing to the eye loses its impact. It’s okay to have nothing on that wall. Let the important things do the talking,” she says.
For Walker, passion drives her designs. “I have something that I love so much that I do every day and that is such a gift that God gave me,” she says. Her open, exotic blend of decades of culture and eras gives her a unique, bold approach to arouse and inspire. “I think you never quit being inspired,” Walker says. “I think I’m really more creative than ever. I’m evolving right now. I’m going through a creative midlife crisis, which is a good thing.” And that creative rebirth transcends to her designs and sets her apart from the status quo, the fit-in-the-boxers, and the run of the mill designers.
I think I’m really more creative than ever. I’m evolving right now. I’m going through a creative midlife crisis, which is a good thing.
Walker is a garden-fresh layer of authenticity and integrity like a crisp, new coat of the perfect paint on an accent wall. Her design comes with personality and soul, giving the space a story of its own. Walk into Walker’s home and you’ll be greeted with her aesthetic: bold, wild, graffiti adorning the front entrance accented with a precious antique grandfather clock from her own family. Keep walking and you’ll find her favorite spot: her bedroom. In a home full of men, she relishes in this “oasis” she designed for herself.
But her true haven exists in the depths of design, defying delusions of right and wrong. Walker loves tackling the challenge of transforming odd, abstract spaces, “the lost rooms with no meaning” as she calls them. She recalls a room only large enough to fit five items that she transformed into a glamorous space with a tribal theme. But the awe doesn’t stop there.
As if time had no constraint, her creative outlet does not just shine through one window with that bright ray of sunlight. In addition to design, this visionary brings out beauty via photo essays with original photography. And while we all know a picture is worth a thousand words, Walker also expresses herself through creative writing, or “freestylin’” as her husband likes to call it. But her authenticity coils itself through her other creative expressions as well. In an era where retweeting and repining are all the rage, Walker refuses to compromise the integrity in her craft. “I’m not into recycling other people’s photography,” she says. “Posting work that’s not mine, that’s not me. I’m going to express myself through my own work. If it’s a mudroom that I like, I want it to be a mudroom I designed.”
Posting work that’s not mine, that’s not me. I’m going to express myself through my own work. If it’s a mudroom that I like, I want it to be a mudroom I designed.
Outside of all of this, Walker loves to indulge in clothes, jewelry and landscaping. “It’s my guilty pleasure. It’s the thing that makes me feel girly,” she confesses. “I remember growing up, there were these women and no matter where I saw them they always looked like a million bucks.” And while her designs can easily look like a cool million or four, her approach, her aesthetic, and her authenticity are downright priceless.
Walker inspires us all to light that fire under our ass. Be bold. Break the rules. Mix it up. Reinvent perspectives. Find that passion. Design the life that you want to live in. Or, you could accent your life with the concepts of others. Do you really want to be the help in the composition of your own life?