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Designers Corey Damen Jenkins and Rasheeda Gray on Finding Inspiration, Leaving a Legacy and Her Dream Design Project

The design vet interviews Gray about her "non-traditional" path to a successful career in the design industry.

Designers Corey Damen Jenkins (left)  and Rasheda Gray Andrew Frasz Photography (Corey Damen Jenkins)

To commemorate Black History Month, Robb Report is publishing a series of conversations between Black designers, thinkers and other creators whose work is shaping the luxury sector across generations. This is installment one.

From his studio in New York’s NoMad neighborhood, Corey Damen Jenkins crafts some of the most whimsically comfortable interiors in all of the US. Originally from Detroit, Jenkins got his start tending to the design needs of the city’s quietly-but-formidable social elite. Since then, Jenkins—who splits his time between Gotham and the Motor City—has not just become a design star, he’s become a television star as well with a spin (and win) on HGTV where has crowned a winner of the network’s design competition. More recently, Jenkins released his first book, Design Remix: A New Spin on Traditional Rooms in 2021 and has partnered with major brands such as Kravet and Left Bank Art.

Jenkins loves the work of Rasheeda Gray, the Pennsylvania-based lead of Grey Space Interiors, which specializes in cozy, practical and elegant interiors for high-end residential clients—especially families. Along with traditional home design services, Gray Space has also jumped on the digital design bandwagon made popular during Covid with a virtual design program straight from her studio to clients’ living rooms.

Corey Damen Jenkins

Andrew Frasz Photography

Corey Damen Jenkins: How did you get into interior design? When and how did you know you wanted to be a designer?

Rasheda Gray: I have had what some may consider, a non-traditional path into the design industry. I graduated with a degree in marketing and international business and later an MBA (master’s in business admin) with hopes to market in the fashion industry. At the time, it was the most creative, but safe career I could think of. Life happened and I landed in the role of AVP of Marketing in the exciting world of Insurance! It was an amazing career and after 15 years, I decided to pursue my true passion of design shortly after renovating my personal home. That was seven years ago.

CDJ: How many people are on your team?

RG: There are four of us in total and a host of trade partners and subcontractors.

CDJ: Why did you choose to call your company “Gray Space”, apart from your last name, was there any additional meaning to Gray?

RG: With my marketing background, I wanted to make sure our name was memorable and related both to my last name and the design industry.

Rasheeda Gray

CDJ: Why do you think clients come to you?

RG: I believe clients come to us for our contemporary, chic and classic design aesthetic. I am also very intentional with the help of social media and television, about making our brand accessible and personable. Lastly, our five-step design process and business first approach, is an important part of our brand.

CDJ: What have been some of the biggest rewards for you in the industry?

RG: In the industry one of the biggest rewards has truly been the impact that we have on the lives of our clients each and every day. When we can. . .not only transform our client’s homes, but their lives through our daily work, I consider it blessing. It’s why we do what we do.

CDJ: What have been some of your biggest challenges?

RG: Our biggest challenges are extended project timelines, mostly due to increased demand in the construction and furniture industries. Also finding the right trade partners. As a newer designer, it’s a matter of time, trial and error when it comes to building my dream team of partners like contractors, furniture vendors, artisans and more.

CDJ: How do you stay inspired? Who and what inspires you?

RG: My children Jacob (17) and Kennedy (12) and my husband, Jake inspire me. I am also inspired by travel, movies and music.

CDJ: Who are some other design talents that you admire?

RG: I admire, the business savvy of designers like Kelly Wearstler, Shea McGee and the heart and talent of designers like Adam Hunter, Darryl Carter, Kelly Hoppen and, of course, Corey Damen Jenkins.

CDJ: How do you connect with up-and-coming talent and pay it forward? Is this important to you?

RG: Yes! I am a believer in mentoring. Every step of my career whether in marketing or design has included mentorship. I currently have three mentors and serve as a mentor to three mentees.  

CDJ: What was your true “pinch me” moment in your career?

RG: Being honored as a House Beautiful Next Wave Designer, in 2021!

CDJ: What would be the ultimate design commission?

RG: A boutique hotel in my hometown of Philadelphia.

CDJ: What do you want your legacy to be?

RG: Legacy. . .I would like to quote the incomparable Maya Angelou: “… people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I want people to feel joy when they think of Rasheeda. Joy in their home through my work and in their hearts through my love. I want to positively impact the lives of others by spreading joy!

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