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Meet Kenneth Walter of Gray | Walter Interior Design in River North

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kenneth Walter.

Kenneth, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’ve always been a creative person and realized by the time I was 16, I was destined to be an interior designer. Finding design schools pre-internet was a challenge but the local library had some basic resources which allowed for a school search. I made phone calls and sent letters requesting catalogs and information. It was a simpler time but it worked just fine. Before I knew it I had a stack of catalogs to peruse. I settled on Brooks College, a small liberal arts college in Long Beach, California. This is where I had my ah-ha moment and found my tribe.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I wish I could say the road has been smooth, the career path for anyone (let alone creatives) is less than smooth. I would actually call it full of pot holes! However, these setbacks help build character and let us appreciate the successes that eventually come as well. One of the things I see today is the lack of tenacity in young people when doing a job search, they tend to think an emailed application is all they need to do, hardly! I can attest it takes determination and relentless pursuit of your objective which is how I got my first job.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Gray | Walter Interior Design – what should we know?
We are a boutique firm, quite small actually with less than 10 people. However, what our 10 people can do is amazing when I look at huge firms that waste their client’s money.

The creation of great design isn’t enough! Our approach has changed tremendously in the last five years. I have noticed how many of our clients are in need of more than great design. It’s my mission to create spaces that heal and enhance our client’s lives. I really care about my client, I’m not interested in selling furniture and never seeing you again. It’s our goal to become your “family doctor” when life changes occur such as downsizing, aging in place, divorce/loss of partner, first home etc. We have been with each other through thick and thin and that’s a beautiful thing to me!

I believe in personal service and always going beyond our client’s expectations. We have been fortunate to do private clubs, boutique hotels, restaurants, corporate offices and residential projects of all shapes and sizes. Artwork and fine details (whether the project is contemporary, traditional or somewhere in-between) are paramount. We tend to obsess over all the details: the architectural interior layout, flow, furnishings, materials selected, the artwork, accessories and even little things like flatware, glassware and china. If my client cares enough to hire us we care enough to take a holistic approach to the entire project. Great design may not cure cancer but I can assure you its life changing and enhances our daily life in ways you cannot imagine until you hire us.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I believe we are all travelers on the road through life. I want to help my fellow travelers along their journey. I’m thrilled to say I have benefitted from a few “guides” along the way.

My mother was amazing, she had a very tough life. My father died when I was two, I had an older brother and a sister who was born three months after my father passed. My mother never gave up till her dying day, that kind of determination shapes a life.

My department head in college was a person who did her best but sadly didn’t motivate me. However, there was a man named Joe Perry who headed another department who was quite inspiring and became a mentor while I was at school.

My best friend in college knew I was having problems with my financial aid. He leaned on his parents to loan me money so I could finish my education. I consider Jonathan and his parents’ guardian angels.

My very first boss, Margaret Harris was a wonder. I learned a lot from her and I’m not just talking about design. Whenever I run into her I’m thrilled over the moon!

My second boss, Ann Gray who eventually became my business partner. Ann became my mentor, my partner and friend, she was an amazing person. Unfortunately she passed from cancer but I think of her often.

My partner Noreen who makes me a better person every day.

My kids who inspire me in ways I cannot even begin to mention.

My clients who “get it”! The bottom line is you don’t become our client unless you “get it”, if you do then I fall in love with you. The best projects come from mutual respect, nurturing and love! Yes, love! I say that twice because you can’t do good work if you don’t enjoy being with your clients. Taking care of our special clients, their committees, families etc is an honor and a privilege we don’t take lightly.

I’m looking forward to meeting more guardian angels, I have a lot of living to do!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
James Yochum
Nathan Cox
James Brady
Werner Straube

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Mary Abrahams

    February 14, 2018 at 2:45 am

    Hi Ken, Have you left Twitter? Are you OK?

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