As the Senior Designer of Kimberly + Cameron and the President of the Black Interior Designers Network, it’s a miracle Keia McSwain found a free minute to have coffee with Casaza. We chatted about her transition as a leader, what sparks her creativity, and Sophia Amoruso.
Q&A with Keia McSwain
Casaza: How did you get your start?
Keia McSwain: I got my start at an early age. I pestered my parents to buy me pink and white striped wallpaper to match a floral twin comforter set my great aunt had gifted to me. It was a bed in a bag thing and I was elated about it! It came with shams, a skirt, matching drapes the whole nine. I had the best bedroom on the block as an 11-year-old.
I was in stone, kitchen, and furniture showrooms. I saw Kimberly Ward of Kimberly + Cameron Interiors at an ASID event across the room in these really cool pants. She walked up to me and was like, “I’m Kimberly, follow me.”
Kimberly founded the African American Top 20 to highlight the work of the best black designers. After that, she was constantly asked to create a community for others in the industry or who wanted to break into the industry. Kim founded the Black Interior Designers Network to celebrate the community, provide exposure, partnerships and educational resources to designers across the country.
When we met, Kim asked me write for Iconic Home Magazine. As we built on our relationship, I told her I was interested in designing and had an eye. She handed me over a ton of books and suggested I read everything I could about design. She began pulling me in on projects and teaching me the basics – some of my teaching points were how to start a project, how to put together a contract, how to organize, and how to fire a client.
Although I knew something wasn’t right, it wasn’t until the end that I found out her illness was fatal. We spent hours going over bookkeeping and current projects so I could carry on her legacy. I slept in a chair by her bedside, waking up to work in intervals. After she passed in August of 2017, I took over Kimberly + Cameron Interiors as Senior Designer and the Black Interior Designers Network as President. I picked the torch up, pranced with it, and now I’m getting my speed up. The goal is to carry it at full-speed.
C: How would you describe your style?
KM: My style is continuously evolving. Style and design to me, are very similar to how I dress. What I wear depends on my mood and how I’m feeling. It’s an expression of who I am. Mood has a lot to do with it. Modern Contemporary has been my most recent “go to.”
C: Where do you get new ideas and inspiration?
KM: The time we live in, the art, the culture, and the people tug at my heart the most! They ignite my ideas, life goals, and give me a blueprint for the future of my business. I can be my best creative self by being inspired by others and their culture.
C: Favorite room in the house?
KM: My bedroom and kitchen are a serious tie! My bedroom is dark, moody, and very cozy. My kitchen is open, filled with books, and my island is the fellowship spot. Am I allowed to have two favorite rooms?
C: Design rule you don’t subscribe to?
KM: I don’t think there could EVER be too much pattern play in a space. Pattern play brings depth and character. It permits a boldness to a space that can’t be mimicked. Pair the right colors with the right textiles and you can never go left.
C: Recent project that inspired you?
KM: My current project is extremely inspiring! I’m working with a single family that has become my own family. The youngest daughter of 3 children has CP. I’m excited that I get to help them turn their home into one that works specifically for them! They have their specific preferences and I love that I get to bring their ideas to life.
C: Favorite texture/pattern/color?
KM: I’m an embossed leather kinda girl. I love the rich texture and feel.
C: Pack your bag! You’re moving into a famous home. Whose is it?
KM: I thought for a while about the home of a “famous dead” person that I’d be okay with living in and had a hard time. The thought is creepy. Sophia Amoruso has a pretty nice pad! It screams mod, eccentric, and rich. There are a lot of thrifted and antique pieces in her home. It’s very minimalistic, clean, and chic.
C: What’s your rule when entertaining?
KM: There had better be a plethora of dishes to pass around or the party is over!
C: What is “good design” to you?
KM: Good design is the ability to walk into a room and the space speaks to you. If you can walk into a room and feel at peace, in awe, experience a heightened mood or any similar feeling… You’ve witnessed “Good Design!”
C: Best advice for DIYers?
KM: If it’s your home and you’re confident that you can do it yourself, you totally can!
C: Best advice for those hiring a pro?
KM: Reviews are there for a reason and won’t hurt you to consider them seriously. If you feel they’re not a good fit, they probably aren’t. You can never go wrong with a gut feeling.
C: What is one design trend are you most excited about this season?
KM: Upcycling and preserving are what I’m most excited about this season. The ability to preserve while living comfortably is a win win in my book!
C: How do you take your coffee?
KM: I take my coffee with plenty cane sugar, plenty cream, and a drop of coffee.