Carey Reid Kirk
Carey Reid Kirk Interior Design
"I know you'll really like it."
The very utterance of that statement in a business scenario speaks
volumes about the level of trust on the part of the client, and
the level of sensitivity and experience on the part of the professional.
In the case of interior designer Carey Kirk, it is spoken with
the utmost confidence.
has been in the interior design business for 21 years. "I got
my training in the early 80s," he says. "I had the absolute great
fortune to fall into a crowd of top-end designers in New York
City at that time. The ladies and gentlemen that I admired used
their own names as business names. You knew you were hiring a
person and that person's talents rather than design innovations.
It is also about a personal relationship. I am supposed to listen
to you, understand your likes and dislikes, read between the lines
and know what you are not telling me."
From the perspective of client Christel Hennet of Bethesda, Kirk's
interpersonal skills are superb. "Working with Carey is a fabulous
experience," she says. "He is very warm, engaging and enthusiastic
about his work, and he knows a lot about people. He got us really
interested in interior design to a wonderful level. It was like
working with a friend on your project. We trusted him completely."
Projects to date for the Hennets include interior design and renovation
of a living room, kitchen, bathroom, family room and two bedrooms.
A native of Raleigh, N.C., Kirk admits that the accent "will always
be with me." His career path and sailing led him from Raleigh
to Washington, D.C., where he spent five years working in department
store display. From there, he moved to New York where he worked
in retail interiors for Lord & Taylor and then began freelancing.
When asked by a former co-worker to design an apartment interior,
Kirk reluctantly took the job. "I discovered how much more rewarding
it is to satisfy people as opposed to companies," he says. "I
spent a couple of years moving my business out from retail display
and retail interiors and crossed the line into residential interior
Kirk enjoyed the affluence of the 80s in New York for nearly a
decade. "It was the go-go 80s," he says. "New York was insanity.
People were making so much money. It was a great time to get into
business because it was easy, [but] it was such a false economy
that it made it more difficult later to readjust your thinking---'You
don't want to spend $10,000 on a coffee table?'"
High society decorator, "king of the design world" Mario Buatta
was around at that time and was a great mentor for Kirk. "He was
a very famous person who was a gentleman," Kirk says. "He had
an ego, but it was in check. He was very kind to novices in the
business. I certainly had the best start."
In 1987, Kirk returned to Washington, D.C., disappointed that
in New York he had completely lost touch with the waterfront.
"Contact with the water and boating in New York was probably a
fraction of 1 percent as far as impact and interest level," he
says. "The Hudson River was right there, and I never even thought
twice about it. I was more interested in being young and single.
Here, the waterfront is absolutely integrated into the city."
Kirk chartered a boat in Annapolis one Columbus Day weekend and
that was the beginning of a whole new chapter for him. "Three
years later, I owned a house and a boat here," he says, "and moved
my business [as well]."
To the outsider and often to young, aspiring designers, the industry
appears very glamorous. Kirk estimates that 5 to 10 percent of
the job is glamour and the rest is just hard work. "Since I came
back from New York, I have had five interns from local colleges
who thought they may be interested in going to design school,"
he says. Only one of them has done so. The rest were dissuaded
by the reality of the business. "Somewhere in the first three
days, they are horrified," he adds, "and have been grateful that
they saw the reality."
Kirk sees his role as being an educator as well as an artist and
encourages clients to keep an open mind and have fun along the
way. "If they are looking at coffee tables, I know instinctively
what they want and what I think they will like," he says. "I will
try to show them something to the right and to the left of that
target area. I will stretch but not direct you, and you can't
hurt my feelings. You don't have to be diplomatic." Clients usually
appreciate that broadening of perspective, Kirk adds.
Carey Kirk wears another hat
in the community---that of president of the Eastport Business
Association (EBA) since 2000. He is credited with starting a publicity
campaign to improve awareness of the EBA as an advocacy organization
for the businesses of Eastport and also to further the community
goals. About a year ago, Kirk organized a monthly leadership luncheon
for representatives from EBA, ECA (Eastport Civic Association),
the City's Office of Economic Development, the Maritime Advisory
Board, and Ward 8 alderman Josh Cohen. It has worked well as a
form of "rumor control" and keeps the information flow from becoming
Callaghan is a freelance writer and native Marylander who
enjoys spending time with her five grandchildren.