The Design Difference

New Trends by Arkay-Walker

Now more than ever, people need their homes to be not only sanctuaries from the outside world, but spaces that can function well as offices and classrooms. Many designers are finding themselves called upon quite frequently to address these issues. 

“One of my friends, who’s a psychologist and works from home, told me that I really had to get into people’s houses and decorate them for Zoom calls,” says Cathy Walker, co-owner, along with her husband, Rick, of Arkay-Walker Paint & Interior Design in St. Clair Shores. “We’re so tired of the bookshelf; we need  to rearrange the shelves or regroup that background or straighten out that door or whatever is behind them.” 

Right now, she’s working on two new kitchens where she’s been asked to include desks. “Years ago, people decided they didn’t want a desk and file cabinet in there, but now the kitchen is becoming the office again,” she says.

“If someone gave me carte blanche with an office space, I would make it a wide open space with a big screen television so you could move, talk, and walk while on a virtual call, or put a treadmill under the desk. Something that’s not ordinary. The space would have to be dedicated for work; I would not make it my living room area. 

“And kids!” says Cathy. “I feel like they’re the ones that are really not thought about enough; they need space to grow. I've seen some really cool designated areas that are now treated like classrooms, where they have interactive boards and toys.”

There are now paints that can be used as dry erase boards, she adds. There are a lot of things that you can do with decals, which are, she says, like explosions of color and pattern and creativity. 

“I think these are all just such a fabulous approach to decorating,” says Cathy. “I also can get so excited about murals because I just love creating spaces using murals of scenic views or those that look like windows.” 

Her assistant, Nicole Kristitch, is a talented artist who is also a muralist. However, if someone can’t afford for one to be painted by hand, wallpaper or vinyl coverings can also be used to easily change a space.

Another consequence of people working from home is that they notice a lot of things that may need updating, like the faded paint or worn out furnishings. 

“Being home has created this hyperawareness of our spaces,” says Cathy. “Maybe it’s that molding or that problem with the floor. The wall colors are closing in on you. 

“We used to be able to take vacations, and escape to fabulous hotels or the beach. I think this is why the big trend now is blue and white. I think people want to bring that beach, that outdoor vacation feel, into their homes. You're finding more who want that sunny yellow room.”

Others are staying with neutral paints, but bringing in pops of color by using pillows and other accessories.

“I have a couple of clients that are very neutral, but revel in changing out their accessories,” she says. “You know, they just can't wait for the spring accessories to come out. I have another who has a totally white kitchen and she brings out these ceramic orange dogs for part of the year, and other items with red and turquoise, and it’s really fabulous.”

Cathy always knew she wanted to do something with an artistic flair. Her undergraduate degree is in graphic design and she also attended Parsons School of Design. When she married her husband, Rick, in 1982, she started working in his parents’ store. Soon after, they took over the business when his parents, Art and Katherine (Kay) Walker, retired.  

Originally the Tracy Paint Company, it was renamed Arkay-Walker Paint back in the 70s when Art and Katherine took over the store. Today, what started out as a small paint and wallpaper store has expanded multiple times under Rick and Cathy’s ownership to include a design showroom. Shoppers can come in and pick out fabrics by designers such as Ralph Lauren, tiles, outdoor furniture by Brown Jordan, gift items, lighting, and other items to decorate a home. 

“We have a kind of home store,” says Cathy. “People can come in and look at tile, finishes, paints, fabrics and wall coverings. We also have samples of flooring, so we kind of cover everything.”

Their son, Morgan, works in the business as well, mainly in the industrial paint side of the business, which also supplies paint to the industrial aerospace industry.

“He's very talented and helps us with our IT and deliveries and in a number of ways,” she says. “We hope he’ll take over the business someday.”

Cathy’s real passion is designing a house from the ground up. “I can take it from the blueprints to the setting of the table. I love finishes, tiles, appliances, and cabinetry right through to the final accessories.” 

Another one of her strong interests is restoration. She focuses on the history of the home and keeping the integrity of the house. Cathy’s been able to create some beautiful and interesting designs in older homes. 

Hiring a designer is helpful for many reasons, and one of the biggest is to avoid costly mistakes. “It actually can save you money,” she says. “People can get so much inspiration from the internet, but I think they're looking at pictures of home designs that don’t really fit their lifestyles.” For example, if you have four children, you really can't have that white sofa, or that all-white room, which is what everybody seems to want right now. 

“I like to look at what people already have, and that I think is my strength as a designer,” says Cathy. “I try to get them to embellish their theme, to embellish their home to be their home, not just a magazine picture.”

Arkay-Walker Interior Design is located at 27112 Harper Avenue in St. Clair Shores; 586-772-5295 ext. 4, or go to

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