Create a sanctuary – Memphis magazine

“I like being too busy,” says Laquita Tate. By any measure, the Memphis native has lived a full life. She and her husband, Nathaniel, married young and have two sons, Trey and Kaleb. “I’ve always loved children,” she says. “And I’ve always liked to learn. As a child, I played at school.

While raising her two sons, she attended the University of Memphis, earning a degree in education, and then continued to pursue higher education even as she ran her own classrooms. “All the time I was teaching, I was also in school,” she says.

The Tates moved into a new two-story home in Bartlett in 2005. They watched the neighborhood grow around them while raising their children, while Nate built his trucking business.

“I used to browse Pinterest,” says Tate. “I used to go get magazines from home and look. I don’t even know if at the time I knew interior design was a thing. I just liked how the houses looked when people put the right pieces together. I used to rip some pictures out of magazines, because I was so drawn to what was going on in those spaces, but I never thought about it, other than that it was nice. Because I was so busy with school and trying to raise my family and my career, all of that, I wasn’t really focusing on my home. But once I got out of it and saw all those bare walls — I mean, that whole house was beige — I decided to start making changes.

She started small, with things like repainting a table to bring some color to an otherwise drab room, and buying new art to spruce up a bare wall. She found inspiration on Instagram (@quitaate) and created her own account, posting photos of her projects and connecting with like-minded people. Her projects became more elaborate and she began to receive positive feedback. Then a friend asked if she would help remodel her college-aged daughter’s room. “I did it for free,” she says, “because I wanted to feel and see if it was something I really liked.”

When this project turned out just as she had imagined it, Tate decided it was time to get serious. She contacted local designer Carmeon Hamilton, creator of the Reno My Rental interior design show on Discovery+, which was featured in that magazine’s October 2021 issue. “I met with Carmeon and told him what was going on with me, what I was thinking, what I was feeling and some of the things I had experienced while working in people’s homes.”

Tate asked Hamilton if she should try opening an interior design business. “She was like, ‘What are you waiting for? Come on, do it. You got it. Start now.’ I asked, ‘Would you be my mentor?’ I didn’t take “no” for an answer. I need my mentor. Because we were friends, she said “Absolutely”. So I started my business [Laquita Tate Styling and Designs] in October 2019.

Color and Texture

The Tates house reflects the overflowing energy of its owner. Like most designers, she uses her space as a place to test new ideas. “I love art. I love plants. I love natural wood tones,” she says. “And I love textures. Looking at a tile, there’s a pattern there. There’s something you can rub in and you can feel it – it’s texture, I usually bring that into all my designs.

Tate says there was one feature that immediately drew her to her home: a round breakfast nook surrounded by six windows, which allows light to flood the kitchen and fireplace. “We went to several houses around here, and no one else had this roundabout,” she recalls. “I saw it and I said, ‘This is my house. This is what I want.'”

Tate kept the colors of the breakfast nook light, except for the ceiling circle, which she painted a forest green. The shape of the area is reflected in the round glass breakfast table and radial patterned rug, which defines the dining space. “I like things to stand out,” she says. “I like that it feels like an organized space.”

Above the table is an asymmetrical modernist chandelier that Tate acquired from his friend, Alvin Wayne, a designer and visual curator from New York. “I built this community of interior designers where we talk to each other, we encourage each other, we support each other,” she says.

Tate says she is drawn to mid-century modern-inspired furniture. But where these pieces are typically deployed in a minimalist environment, in Tate’s home, they often serve a more maximalist purpose. In the nearby fire pit room, where the Tates like to hang out, a pair of red chairs provide pops of color. The leather seats are some of the few remaining pieces of Tate’s original furniture, and she is very fond of their weathered texture. “I love aging,” she says. “It doesn’t bother me at all, because I don’t like things to look new.”

More texture is provided by the coffee table, which started life as a braided rope bench. “I believe things don’t have to be used the way they’re meant to be used,” she says.

The table rests on a gray rug, similar to that in the dining area. “I wanted to anchor the space,” she says. “I already had red chairs, so I didn’t want to invade that area with a colorful rug.”

While spaces at the back of the house use mostly light hues with dramatic pops of color, the high-ceilinged living room is painted with Sherwin-Williams Tricorn Black. “I love the color black because everything stands against it,” says Tate.

Texture is paramount in the living room, where the furniture lines are simple – mostly circles and squares – but the patterns are not. The round coffee table sits on bronze legs and features thin black and white stripes, a pattern echoed in the more subtle gray chevrons of the rug. “I also like a moody space,” says Tate.

The large wall space means plenty of room for art. Two large, colorful canvases on opposite sides of the room are by Memphis artist Danny Broadway, while a print by George Hunt with a similar palette hangs nearby. A number of smaller black and white abstracts by Monica Lewis surround the larger works of art.

Amidst all of Tricorne’s vibrant black art are natural wood grain textures, like the dark floor and lighter wooden chairs. Again, the lines are simple, but the textures complex. High windows flood the room with natural light. “Even with the dark wood floors and black walls, it’s not dark here,” says Tate.

The buffet table that greets visitors near the front door is another example of great wood textures. Bold geometric carvings on the cabinet doors bring a touch of modernism. “I absolutely fell in love with it when I first saw it, and I had to have it, and now it’s here,” Tate says. “I keep things grounded by having a similar, neutral palette; blacks, creams, tans, browns are all kind of in the same family.

Turn a corner of the living room and you’ll find an old dining room that Tate commandeered for a home office. “When we ended up closing in March [2020], this is where I lived, right here in this space,” says Tate. “I am often here afternoons and weekends for my work.”

The piece reflects her interests and the material she has gathered for new design projects she has on tap. Michelle Obama’s autobiography shares shelf space with tomes about superstar graffiti artist Banksy. “I love coffee table books, so I had to have these picture ledges for space to display books and things I might be working on for my clients,” says Tate.

When she’s not educating young minds, you can usually find Tate here. “I get up at 4 a.m. every morning and start my design business,” she says. “I take care of the things I need to do, whether it’s answering emails, creating design boards or making to-do lists that I might need my assistant, or what I have to do… I have a very supportive husband who has no problem with me sitting in my office working. You need to have a team that really supports you in the work because you can’t do everything on your own.

New school

Tate honed her delegation skills while in the demanding job of elementary school principal. In 2019, she had a unique opportunity to shape a whole new learning environment when she was asked to join the leadership team at New Alcy Elementary School. “I was literally there shoveling dirt with the school district for the groundbreaking,” says Tate. “I was there from start to finish. Even though I was still manager of Ford Road, we were planning New Alcy.

The new school was under construction during the first wave of the pandemic, so it had to wait to accommodate students. “It’s the second state-of-the-art school in Tennessee,” says Tate. “It’s beautiful. It’s like a college campus. It’s in South Memphis, so it’s a beacon of hope for these kids…I designed the interior, so I managed to combine my two passions!

Tate, who has worked on residential and commercial spaces, was eager to seize a rare opportunity to create a space conducive to learning. “I knew it was a 21st century school, so I knew it didn’t take anything but top of the line. Plus, these kids deserve to come into a clean, brand new building, and be able to manipulate the furniture. Kids need to swing, so I got things where they could move.

“If they didn’t want to sit on a seat,” she continues, “we had these little circular cushions with cushions. We have stools that you can rock back and forth on, because people don’t like to sit still, especially children, and especially not our black and brown children. This is the population that I serve in the most needy and poorest areas. That’s what my passions have always been. I come from this same neighborhood. Some of the parents of these children were my students.

Design your future

I thought I would never go back to school after I got my doctorate,” says Tate. But since deciding to take her interior design business seriously, the educator decided she needed some formal training. She is currently preparing for her interior design certification at the New York Institute of Art and Design. “I want to know that I am an expert. I know books don’t necessarily make you an expert, but I wanted this knowledge of interior design history.

“I will say, do what you think you should do for your home,” she says. ” Do not hold yourself back. Thinking about this black coin, most people would say, what about the resale value? Blah, blah, blah. It’s my house. I live there now. If someone else comes along and wants to change it, that’s fine. I’m paying that mortgage, you know? If you’re going to live in a space, even for a limited time, make it yours, because you want to be happy to come home. It is your sanctuary. I like my house. It’s not a place I try to run away from, it’s a place I run to. »

For more examples of his work, visit

instagrama m: @quitatate

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