“Why would you want to move to Memphis?!”
That’s the frequent question that perplexes Chicago native and recent New Orleans transplant Katherine DeLacey, who usually laughs it off.
Asked as a joke or not, there’s still curiosity in how Memphis is viewed by a newcomer, especially by one with a designer’s eye. Katherine is a graduate of Tulane University’s Master of Architecture program and now works as an architectural designer with Looney Ricks Kiss Architects
“Memphis has great bones. Downtown Memphis has domineering buildings that could rival those of any American City. While the handsomeness of the city was instantly obvious, its dynamics were not. Memphis operates differently than the other cities I have lived in, it has a small town feeling in a big city, and that is extremely charming to me,” Katherine says of her first impression of the city.
A downtown resident of only five months, she has already been a part of one of the most anticipated redevelopment projects in Memphis – the Tennessee Brewery.
“The Brewery is an opportunity to set up an anchor for South Main. South Main is wonderful as it is, but this will be the landmark that is talked about and desired,” she observes. While in the early stages of design, the conceptual plans and programming were recently disclosed — 142 residential units, a 280-space parking garage, and 8,000 square feet of commercial space.
There isn’t much more that can be revealed about the Brewery yet, but there are a few details that Katherine personally finds intriguing as a key design production member of the architectural project team.
“Within the Brewery, there are 58 units and 30 different unit types. While that makes our work more time consuming, there is something wonderful in providing potential tenants with so many options. To me, that’s a selling point. Not only do you live in the sexiest building in town, but within that building your unit is like no other. Also, some of the walls are 3 feet wide. I don’t know if that is interesting or not,” she says.
“My grandfather was an architect, and my mother was a graphic designer. She had a fascination with architecture and made a point out of bringing me to pretty much every Frank Lloyd Wright building open to the public when I was a kid. She guided my path towards the field and enjoyed every minute of it,” she says.
Beyond just the Brewery, Katherine sees lots of great assets in Memphis that might get dismissed. “What might surprise me the most about Memphis, in particular downtown, is that there are not more people here. Living in downtown Memphis has been incredibly convenient. I walk to work, walk to grab a bite to eat, and walk to bars. When friends visit from Chicago, they cannot believe how much I have at my disposal in walking distance and not in a polar vortex.”
Living in a downtown apartment with a large dog can feel a little cramped. She pulls out a photo and remarks that he’s bigger than me. “I would love to see a great dog park downtown since they are such a pleasant way to meet your neighbors and spend time outside. There is this dog park in Dallas called Dallas’ Mutts Cantina that allows people to grab drinks and eat while watching their dog play. Something like that would be amazing and create a fabulous energy.”
An Understated Style
Bag and Coat, Zara / Shirt, SWABY - Shernett Swaby / Shoes, UAL (United Apparel Liquidators) in New Orleans
The all-black modern attire may scream architect or at least someone in the design field, but there’s more to Katherine’s view of style that her clothes can’t say for her.
“I was raised as a bargain hunter. My mom taught me to see potential in the rejects on the sale rack. I think that relates to my interest in architecture. It gives me pride to think that I can imagine what a reject could look like, or what could accompany it to make it work. I love the classics, especially when they have been rethought in a subtle modern way. To me, that is more interesting than something that is 'in-style' or a brand new building. I can always do without a bad trendy print.
“About one-third of my wardrobe is from thrift stores or consignment stores, one-third from stores like Zara, and the other one-third is from my Grandma, Grandpa’s, or mother’s closet. Yes, I wear my grandpas old clothes. I love wearing grandpa’s old raggedy silk shirt with crisp black skinny jeans.”