From the Deep South to the West Village

By Brenda Ware Jones
Photography by Rory Doyle

Q&A with Kate Hayes

Fresh out of college, this Clarksdale gal made the big move to New York, taking lots of the Delta with her. She loves to talk about how she got from here to there, and how she has brought touches of home to her tiny but elegant apartment in Greenwich Village.

So, tell us what led you to move to the Big Apple?
My mom, Paige Hayes, studied interior design and lived in New York for a year after she graduated from Ole Miss. She migrated back south and married my dad, but the number of stories she tells about living up here make it seem like she was here at least ten years! Her passion for the Big Apple quickly spread to my sisters and me at young ages. We were lucky enough to take trips to New York, going to Broadway shows and playing in Central Park. I definitely credit my mom with giving me the confidence and desire to experience New York for myself. I spent a summer at Parsons School of Design, after my freshman year of college, and I knew I wanted to come back.

What is your background? As we say down here, “Where are you from, and who are your people?”
I’m originally from Clarksdale, born and raised there. My dad,Tripp, took over my grandfather’s farm; he grows primarily cotton, soybeans, and corn. I love the small town life and appreciate it even more now when I visit home. It’s an amazing feeling to know you are in a town full of family and friends who care about you. I relish both the laid-back lifestyle and social atmosphere that characterizes the Delta. And when I come back during spring and summer months, I thoroughly annoy anyone around me by proclaiming, “It’s all so green and beautiful!!”—having grown used to the lack of foliage up here!

Were you an Interior Design major?
I majored in Integrated Marketing Communications at Ole Miss, and was always interested in the visual side of any project. This led me to specialize my degree in Magazine Service Journalism, and I wrote my senior thesis on the graphic design approaches of interior design magazines. When I moved to New York, I was hoping for a job that would further develop my visual skills and attention to detail, and was lucky to land an internship with a small but respected residential interior design firm based in Manhattan, Christina Murphy Interiors. Having grown up in a large family that loved homes and entertaining, it was a natural fit to take the knowledge I’d acquired of interior design and build on it. I took night classes further studying the field and got my certification in Interior Design and Architecture Studies from Parsons.

Are you still with the same firm?
The internship eventually became a full-time position. I now manage and oversee projects in Manhattan and surrounding areas like the Hamptons, Connecticut, and Martha’s Vineyard. We just wrapped up a job in the Bahamas. It’s such a treat to spend time in our clients’ beautiful homes and help customize the spaces for their lifestyle. I’ve learned so much about people through this job. It’s very rewarding to walk away from a project knowing that you’ve helped create a beautiful home where a family will make countless memories with the pieces you put together. It takes a lot of thought and scheduling and patience to make it happen, but it’s so worth it in the end.

What is the style you prefer in your own space?
I would describe my personal style as eclectic. I like to blend antiques with modern pieces, and mix different textures and materials to give an overall bohemian mood. I love and respect so many different styles that it’s hard for me to pinpoint my own at this stage of my career.

Where is your apartment? What do you love about it?
I actually found this apartment on Craigslist. When I walked up to the front door for the first time, its location in the West Village was persuasive enough. Once inside, I totally fell in love with the tall ceilings, large street-facing window, and the recessed brick wall. I met the broker there with a tape measure already in hand and immediately began measuring every square inch. Right away I could see myself and my things living there and knew it was going to be home. I began drawing furniture layouts, trying to see just how much I could physically squeeze in this little studio and it still be livable. It’s been a challenge, but so rewarding adjusting to life in a small space. Once you begin paring down, it actually becomes refreshing to live without all the extraneous stuff we acquire. The scale of furniture is a major factor that makes it possible to make the most of limited square footage. Even though it’s only about 250 square feet, I think it’s so important to make the most of the space you call home and enjoy it. My mom definitely instilled in me the notion of living in a beautiful space and loving what you look at every day.
The West Village of New York is so different from what most people imagine when they think of Manhattan. Since it was one of the first residential areas settled in the city, it is filled with narrow streets lined with townhouses and dotted with stop signs. Aesthetically, it is gorgeous and reminiscent of Europe. While you can still sometimes feel the subway rattling below if you’re close enough to Seventh or Eighth Avenue, the village is a totally quiet escape from the bustle of Manhattan. It has a long-established local lifestyle of mom-and-pop restaurants, barber shops, and corner stores. It truly feels like a neighborhood, and I couldn’t love it more.

How did you bring a sense of your roots to this small living space?
I’ve slowly collected lots of art and little treasures that make me happy. They remind me of the places I’ve traveled or of my Mississippi roots as I look at them every day. I have a large Hayden Hall painting of a cotton field under a hot pink and dark blue sunset. It brings me joy every day, as Delta sunsets are one of the main things I miss about home. I also have a watercolor treeline landscape by Chelsea Fly that I love––it reminds me of driving down flat roads and looking out at the blurred turnrows that pass––and a watercolor by Martha Winters of the New Roxy—my favorite juke joint in downtown Clarksdale. I love to host and entertain small groups at my apartment to show friends both my personal style and give them a little taste of the south. While New York is full of amazing restaurants, bars, shopping, and such, it’s important to me to have a place that feels like my own.

Talk a bit about your furniture and the layout of the place, how you made choices on utilizing a small space?
I knew I needed to have a seating area to have friends over and visit over a glass of wine before venturing out into the city. So, first I arranged a small sitting area to promote conversation. I placed my poster bed in front of the window, to maximize the light the window brings in and to help make the space seem more open. I also found a reclaimed demi-lune table that hangs on the wall opposite my bed and serves as a place where I can pull up a chair to sit and work. Hanging art in the kitchen behind the stove and on the fridge helps the apartment feel unified and cozy, rather than easily feeling cramped with a stove six feet away from a bed! I added a faux painted mantle to bring an architectural anchor to the space and painted it off-white, for a little contrast on the white brick wall.

I know there are many Southerners, and Deltans in particular, who have made New York their home. Do you socialize with many of them?
I’m so thankful to have the network that comes with being a Southerner in the city. Southerners are always fast friends, and it’s so lovely to hang with friendly people and compare stories of our upbringing and how it has translated to life in the city. But it’s also amazing to meet all the new people I’m exposed to—learning about their cultures and teaching them about mine.