Kimberly Ward is a name known across the country in the world of interior design. The Abbeville native was an innovator and activist within her industry.
Ward established the Black Interior Designer’s Network. She ran her successful design blog PinkEggshell and operated a design firm with her nephew called Kimberly and Cameron.
She also had breast cancer.
Ward was diagnosed with the disease a few years ago and she fought. She fought hard and for a while, it was enough. She was beating it. But over the last several months, her health began to take a sharp decline. She died August 1. She was loved.
The week before she died, Ward was honored by the mayor of Atlanta and the governor of Georgia for her work with the Black Interior Designer’s Network. Their annual conference was held in Atlanta. This year’s took place from July 27 through July 29 and featured designers from around the country. They held workshops and meetings and discussed how to further the profession. The 2017 conference focused on assisting designers in their work to create a strategic business plan for their own companies that would help them excel.
At each conference, the organization honors what they call the African American Top 20. These are 20 interior designers from across the country who are doing an exceptional job and whose work is standing out from the rest. In addition to being recognized at the conference, the selected individuals also provided guidance and mentorship during the conference.
Lolita Gregory and Ward have been close dating back to their college days. Gregory attended the University of Mississippi while Ward was down in Hattiesburg at the University of Southern Mississippi. Gregory’s best friend at the time was dating Ward’s brother, and they all met up a party. Turns out the two women were both in the same sorority. They had rushed for Delta Sigma Theta in the same semester of the same year. They stayed friends, and Gregory said she was grateful for that. She said that there was a lot to admire about Ward beyond her professional life.
“She truly loved everything she did,” Gregory said. “She wanted everyone to work and do what their heart desires. Her goal was for everyone to have a job they’re passionate about. She encouraged that in everything she did. She was that person.”
One of the moments that spurred Ward’s calling to graphic design dates back to Hurricane Katrina. In the aftermath of the storm, she was in the Superdome volunteering. She looked around and saw families who were using whatever provisions they walked into the shelter with to make their own space. She saw moms laying out shirts and blankets and backpacks so their kids would have something be comfortable on. She the basic human need to arrange a space and make it your own and it stuck with her. At its core, this is what interior design is all about.
“When we think interior design, we’re more inclined to think over the top and fancy,” Gregory said. “When really, it’s what we do everyday. People were taking the time to try and even make those spaces homey and comfortable for themselves and their children. She said that was very impactful for her.”
Gregory said she always counted herself lucky to call Ward a friend. There was just so much to admire about her.
“I loved her compassion,” Gregory said, her face breaking into a smile as she remembered her friend. “She was very compassionate. I loved her faith, the faith she had in God. I think she knew a few years back that she wouldn’t be here a very long time, but she never veered. She was more concerned that we got it right, that the people around her got it right. She loved family and friends and empowering people. I’ve always felt that she was a woman well beyond her years. She was always so full of wisdom.”