Design Work by and Photo Courtesy of Lady Katie Creations, 107 Main Street SW, Knoxville, August 2023
I walk around downtown almost daily. I watch for new businesses. Even with that, in 2023 downtown Knoxville, missing a new business is easy. 107 Main St SW, Suite 203 (can you find that?) hosts both Patterson’s Luxury Appliances Design Center (did you know that?), as well as Lady Katie Creations, owned by Katie Simpson. It’s just a block off Gay Street. I stopped in to meet with Katie to learn what the business offers and what brought her downtown.
She launched the business in March 2021 after impacts from the pandemic prompted her to leave her previous job. Being a new business owner while navigating the strangeness of time and its impact taught her to “conduct business behind a screen.” She said the expanded skill set has helped her with clients who can’t readily meet her in person.
Born in Cleveland, Tennessee, Katie moved with her family to Knoxville at an early age. Her mother, a real-estate agent, is from New York, while her father, from Kingston, Tennessee, is a retired state trooper. In her teens she moved between west Knoxville with her mom and Lenoir City with her father, graduating from Lenoir City High School. She attended Pellissippi State where she obtained her degree in residential Interior Design in 2013.
Struggling to find employment with a design company at first (they all wanted two years’ experience), she bartended “to make ends meet and pay off student loans.” She eventually got a job with a flooring company in their design department after stopping in on a whim. She worked there for two years and made plans to move to Charleston where her mom was now living, with plans to launch her company there.
She stayed in the area instead, deciding on a friend’s suggestion, to get a different kind of experience. She worked with a custom cabinetry company for the next two-and-a-half years. The company sent them home during the pandemic and she felt she would be more secure working for herself and decided, despite the pandemic, that was the time.
The new business gathered momentum, as previous clients sought her out, networking she’d done for the last years began to pay off, and word spread. In a strange way, it was a good time for the design industry. Instead of moving, given the difficulties of the housing market, many people started renovations. “I’ve been busy non-stop since I launched, which has been a wonderful blessing.” She described being terrified, but jumping in, and it’s all worked out.
Customers walking into the Patterson’s Design Room see the fruits of one of her design jobs. They hired her to design the showroom before she launched her business. As the business grew, she knew she needed a location outside her home. Patterson’s contacted her to see if she might be interested in working in their showroom, but she’d launched her business by then. Instead, they agreed to a lease of office space within their leased space.
She can meet clients all over town at a range of showrooms, but she can use her current location as a home base, making design presentations there for potential clients. She has an office and a meeting room, both of which are evolving as she has time to work on them. She’s hired Anna Wiggins, former owner of Loveliest Bridal on Sevier Avenue (it has new ownership) to assist her.
Katie offers “full service interior design, but we specialize in kitchen and bath.” After an initial design consultation, clients receive a detailed “design process” packet to help them clarify what they want. “We’re like your design BFF from the start to the end.” After clarifying what the client wants to change, Katie develops an “elevation drawing.” They work through custom cabinetry, placement of appliances, electrical and plumbing layouts. She helps with selection of cabinetry, tile, and any other design elements, all the way down to the grout.
Once that work is done, Katie helps direct the client to a construction company from her curated list of those she’s worked with in the past or works with the company the client has found. Once chosen, the contractor is given “the design Bible,” a complete book filled with details for them to follow on the project. “We can do something as small as a laundry room or power room, up to a full home renovation.” She has a complete list of vendors from landscape architects to roofers, or anything needed. She offers project oversight to the end.
The struggles seen through the pandemic in terms of supply chain and labor. She said it’s still not back to pre-pandemic normal, but it’s better. “Right now, most of our custom cabinetry lead times are eight to twelve weeks. They were sitting at twenty-four and at the beginning it was even worse.” She said she had to quickly learn to deal with frustrated customers due to the delays which were out of her hands. “Lead times are dropping. We’re able to get things a lot quicker. The joy is coming back.”
She said she’d been told in the past that she treated clients too much like friends and “this is business.” “I said, no, the two should go hand-in-hand. Why not be a friend and someone who’s helping them complete a job? It makes sense to me.” She said she works with a wide range of people and tries to match their aesthetics. She focuses on listening to and learning the client’s needs, including details like right or left-handedness and the height of the clients, all of which can influence design.
She’s worked all over the city, but ironically, hasn’t worked as much downtown. “I’d love to get my hands on “an urban loft. I love industrial, brick, mixing metals and like that aesthetic even though I can go light and bright. The location is by appointment only and for folks from outside of downtown, there is lots of parking right outside the door. If you might be interested in Katie’s services, the best way to initiate contact is via the website. There you’ll find a very brief contact form. Complete that and you’ll be on your way. She’d love to work with you.