Interior designer Rick Jenkins is a Louisville treasure. His world-class design talent is only part of what makes him special - just as important is the way he treats you as a guest.
He says, "It's all about comfort." As a guest one afternoon in his St. James apartment that he shares with longtime friend Virgil Vaughn and their dachshund Chili, comfort encompassed me with the warmth of his home along with Jenkins' personal warmth.
Jenkins' house is a balance of beauty and comfort, while his graciousness is from an era long gone. My water with lemon arrived in a wine glass on a linen cocktail napkin along with an assortment of cookies and dates mirroring Jenkins' slightly formal lifestyle.
Passing through the foyer to the living room I was drawn in by an overwhelming pull leading me straight to a large painting hanging on the wall. The painting dominates the room. It is by Fred Miller. It shows a family - mother, father, and young son - in the nude. In fact it is of the artist's family. Jenkins says the painting has good soul, and although it is not the most valuable piece he owns, it is his favorite.
Listening to Jenkins talk about the piece it became obvious how important art is to Jenkins. In fact, Jenkins says, "It's all about the art, and the design can be damned." Coming from a designer with a degree from the University of Louisville in fine arts with a minor in photography, perhaps he is serious. Although, hard to believe when his house is so well thought out.
After graduating from UofL , Jenkins sought out one person. "There was no question in my mind who I wanted to work for," says Jenkins, referring to Scott Tichenor, one of Louisville's most talented interior designers. Of the three years Jenkins worked for Tichenor, he says, "It was an amazing experience. Scott had some of the very best clientele. Unfortunately those people don't exist anymore," says Jenkins. "I really don't feel people want to make that kind of statement. Maybe people want it to be less obvious as to what they have. It's not the same now. There is a lot of 'do it yourself.' " Although times have changed, that rich experience laid a strong foundation for Jenkins' career.
The other big influence for Jenkins was working with the very lavish (cost is no factor) New York and Louisville interior designer Dottie Cherry. "The amazing thing about working with Dottie Cherry is her eye, her sensibilities." Jenkins likens his partnership with Cherry to the famous design partners Sister Parish and Albert Hadley (1960-1990). He describes them as a combination of severity and pretty - Sister Parish loving pretty things (and a lot of them) paired with Albert Hadley's more severe, pared-down look. Together they made a great team, as he felt was the case with he and Dottie. "She loves beautiful things. She loves French furniture and she loves fabric," he says. However, "she is like a kite string. I'm always reeling her in with the thought being less is more." Yet Jenkins is also
aware that Cherry is elevating him as well.