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Collected Style

Cindy Gambrell of Kittie Kyle

Article by Amy Birdsong Golden

Photography by Sarah Bell, Sélavie Photography

Originally published in River City Lifestyle

Cindy Gambrell, a venerated style icon in Memphis, does not conform to ubiquitous design. As owner of Kittie Kyle, she curates the women's store with smaller American and European designers. Cindy appreciates representing brands where there is a real person behind the line, with a name.

“Working with smaller designers – I am drawn to their individuality. It feels like they are telling a story better,” she says. “After all, fashion is storytelling. And it starts with someone’s personal history.”

When she began planning the recent downsize from her family home to a condo, Cindy gave herself the time and space to manage the move. 

“Not quite recent,” she laughs. “It took me a long time. My husband was a collector.”
So she became one too. Collecting only the best from their family home and life together.

And in her new condo, filled with antiques, art, heirlooms and decorative objects, each piece tells a story. The best ones are about her late husband, David.

For years, Cindy’s husband and son, Matthew, would gift antique books for Christmas. One year they came home with something a little bigger – two giant antique columns from a building facade.

“I didn’t know what to do with them after David died, but my designer and friend, Lisa Mallory, expertly turned them into a bed with a beautiful tapestry from her workroom,” she says. “Lisa has an amazing gift of knowing a client’s style and meeting them where they are.”

The elevator opens to a bright foyer with a spot for seating and storage. Her grandmother’s apothecary cabinet houses an array of things from sunglasses to playing cards. Atop the cabinet sits a storied boot box of her father’s.

Entering the living room, several vignettes, well dressed like an outfit, are all anchored by antiques. An Italian Regency chair with hand painted fabric, that used to be in her mother's house in the 60s, sits next to a vintage secretary. "I was with my grandmother in Brookhaven, Mississippi. It was the first nice piece of furniture I bought," says Cindy. 

"My son used to ask if we were 'taking the long cut home' if I brought him on errands," she says. "One 'long cut' we bought this painted chest. He said he liked it, but he was probably just ready to go home."

A ruby red cocktail shaker and glass set rests on the chest. “When David became sick, he used to sit in his comfy chair and order dozens of sets from all over as a distraction. One day I’ll have a party with them,” says Cindy.

Overlapping rugs of different sizes, textures and colors adjoin each room. She collected them with David for years. “I love textiles,” says Cindy. “So much that I have them on my floors and chairs,” she adds, referring to the antique chairs upholstered with a vintage Oushak.

David didn’t just love antiques. “Oh he collected everything! Everything from baseball cards to loose change. I am still keeping the Coinstar in business,” she smiles. He was also an artist and a woodworker.

“We joked he would have been a painter in Jackson Square in New Orleans but the area was taken over by tarot card readers,” says Cindy. Beautiful watercolors fill a gallery wall in the keeping room off the kitchen. She went through stacks before deciding which would be framed. “You’ll notice the white voids that jump off the paper. They’re unfinished but make me so happy.”

“When I eventually moved to a smaller home, it felt cozy, like having pants that fit just right—no wasted living space,” she says. She kept precious tangible objects that tell the stories of family and friends. “Heirlooms will always relate to a room,” says Cindy.

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