Keynote Speakers

6 May 2022

Ashley Whittaker

Described as a “neo-traditionalist”, Ashley Whittaker reveals her fresh and modern perspective on traditional design and architecture in all of her work. The New York City decorator’s hallmarks are distinctively classic taste and chic sophistication. Characterized by tailored rooms that incorporate charming detail and engaging play on color and pattern, Whittaker’s signature style is immediately evident.

Listed on Elle Décor’s A-List of top designers, Ashley’s work has been published in The New York Times, Veranda, Southern Living, Coastal Living, Domino, and most notably, on the cover of House Beautiful on six separate occasions. Achieving instant and renowned respect from the industry, Ashley shows a natural and effortless ability to create flawless interiors.

A Florida native, Ashley received her bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University. Ashley credits her training in the design industry to legendary decorator, Markham Roberts, for whom she worked before starting out on her own in 2006. Her work includes projects in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Florida, California and Montana.


Christopher’s iconic ceramic lamp designs draw inspiration from classical forms and traditional gem-like glazes. He began his career in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. where he worked out of an old schoolhouse near Dumbarton Oaks. Shortly thereafter, his work received critical acclaim and his reputation as a noteworthy ceramicist began to emerge. In the summers, he worked from Mecox gardens in Southampton as an artist in residence and such designers as Albert Hadley, Richard Keith Langham and Suzanne Rheinstein began to commission his work.

Since 1996, Christopher has been concentrating his efforts on his unique lamp designs. In the fall of 1999 after outgrowing his Washington studio he moved to New York City where he now creates his one of-a-kind lamps with his crew of skilled artisans. The lamps are of timeless appeal and luxurious quality. Beautiful classic forms are drenched in bold vibrant rich glazes. Each one-of-a-kind lamp is set in a hand turned hardwood base, which is water gilt with 23k yellow gold or 9k white gold for a silver finish; Currently, Christopher is expanding his designs to table ware and other ceramic accessories.

Christopher’s work is often featured in celebrated publications such as Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Departures, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He has had the honor of making lamps for the current Oval Office, the past two White House Administrations, as well the Blair House and other distinguished American Homes.

When not in the Studio, Christopher can be found at his farm in Millbrook, NY gardening, bee keeping, making jam, cooking for friends, or tending to his flock of heritage-breed chickens. He also enjoys the pleasure of giving back to the community by serving on the board of the local time-honored Lenox Hill Neighborhood House and as the Vice Chair of the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club President’s Dinner.


Frances Schultz

Wayfinder, writer, speaker, artist, and seeker, Frances re-directed her life and career during the pandemic of 2020 to become a certified Martha Beck Wayfinder life coach and master coach-in-training. Ever the enthusiast on decoration and design, food and entertaining, travel and style, Frances hosts workshops and retreats in creativity and personal development at her home in California and around the world. Her mission is to bring light to the world and to guide others to do the same in whatever way that brings meaning, purpose, and joy.

She is author and co-author of several books, including The Bee Cottage Story – How I made a Muddle of Things and Decorated My Way Back to Happiness, and California Cooking and Southern Style. Frances is also the West Coast contributing editor for Flower magazine and a contributor to Veranda magazine. Frances has written also for House Beautiful, The Wall Street Journal, Town & Country, Indagare, and others. She was for six years on-air host of the award-winning cable television show Southern Living Presents, with numerous other TV and video appearances to her credit as well. She was named to the 2019 Salonnierre 100 top party hosts in the country, and she very much hopes there will be a new list, whether she is on it or not.

Born and raised in the small town of Tarboro, North Carolina, she graduated from St. Mary’s School in Raleigh, NC and from the University of Virginia. Frances is the proud aunt of four, a step-mother and grandmother; and she serves on the board of the Horticultural Society of New York and the Advisory Board of the Empower Africa foundation. She lives with husband Tom Dittmer and dog Alice, and divides her time between the Santa Ynez Valley of California, New York City, and everywhere else.

29 Apr 2021

Thom Filicia

From his start at renowned design firms, Parish-Hadley, Robert Metzger and Bilhuber & Associates, Thom Filicia launched his acclaimed enterprise, Thom Filicia Inc. and emerged as one of today’s most influential and respected interior and product designers. His projects range from residential, hospitality and commercial interiors all over the world.

Gaining fame on the Emmy-winning “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”, Style Network, HGTV, and most recently Bravo’s Get A Room with Carson & Thom, he is a best-selling author and has been praised as a top designer and international tastemaker.

He is also the driving force behind the Thom Filicia Home Collection, which includes furniture, artwork, bedding, textiles, wallcovering and more, and has a flagship showroom, called Sedgwick & Brattle, at The New York Design Center.

Robert Gurney

The office of Robert M. Gurney, FAIA is dedicated to the design of modern, meticulously detailed and thoughtfully ordered residential and commercial projects that are sensitive to site, program and budget. Materials are employed with honesty, integrity and ecological awareness. Interior spaces are active and intricate, tranquil and minimal. Regardless of project size or budget, our office is committed to producing buildings and spaces that strive for design excellence.

Whether working in complex historical districts or on a vacant site, the design process involves an understanding of site specific issues of location, landscape, history, availability of materials and construction methods, while including considerable client interaction.

Design solutions arrive through the thoughtful manipulation of light, color, texture, form and geometry, culminating in architecture that is simultaneously complex and distilled. An understanding of current technology, attention to detail, and awareness of location, landscape and history, lead to design solutions that respect historical, topographical and regional context, without being revivalist.

The office of Robert M. Gurney, FAIA has created a body of work that has won more than three hundred thirty local, regional and national design awards, including two National AIA Honor Awards, six National AIA Housing Awards, six American Architecture Awards and three National AIA Small Project Awards. The office’s work has been published in numerous local, national and international magazines, books and periodicals, and is the subject of two monographs, “Modern Order: Houses by Robert Gurney” and “Robert M. Gurney Architect”, part of Images Publishing Master Architect Series.

30 Apr 2021

Foster Reeve

Foster attended Woodstock Country School in South Woodstock, VT, Marlboro College in Marlboro, VT where he received a BA in Fine Art (classical sculpture) along with a Mathematics minor. Moving to NYC in 1984 Foster worked in construction to support his art, and in 1988 enrolled in Parsons School of Design to pursue his Master of Fine Art (classical painting) in the Beaux Art style atelier program lead by Leland Bell and Paul Resika. The focus on history, materials, and old master techniques married well to Foster’s growing knowledge of the building trades, and it didn’t take long for him to start experimenting with the medium of plaster as “art in construction”.

Foster had an eye-opening experience in 1989 when working for a contractor who was also an historian of the building trades in NYC. When he applied some basic plastering techniques he had learned while working summers for a builder in VT, this contractor/historian commented on how rare it was to find people who can do this sort of work. Foster was perplexed that in such a populous city, this would be a rare talent. He was summarily taken out for a beer after work and told the sad story of the demise of the plaster trade, which began in earnest after WWII. Thus, began a journey into the understanding of the materials and techniques, and a commitment to the renaissance of this amazing trade via modern methodologies.

After 30 years of exploration and executed work, Foster has amassed a group of standard products and practices that he feels embody the best and most beautiful aspects of plaster. Foster never tires of expounding on the health benefits, the green environmental aspects, and the maintenance free nature of plaster products. Add to this the almost unlimited design potential, for both classical and modern buildings, and you have the foundation of a career that continues to inspire Foster and the many whom he has touched with his passion.

Foster and his amazing team have been the recipients of the Trumbauer Award, the Mizner Award, and the Bulfinch Award, all for excellence in craftsmanship. Foster is a board member of the Institute for Classical Architecture and Art, and is on the preservation committee of Old Westbury Gardens, where he helps oversee the restoration of the Phipps mansion. Foster dedicates much of his time to educating craftsmen, builders and designers in the modern techniques and uses of plaster.

Celerie Kemble

Celerie Kemble’s priority is always to express the personality and sentiment of her clients through gracious interiors.

Celerie is known for her professional versatility in terms of budget, location, and style. She’s full of clever solutions that deliver a mix of pragmatism and beauty. Never one to dismiss nuance or drama, Kemble seamlessly engages both forces to create dynamic and comfortable rooms. Over the past twenty-two years, her work has included homes and commercial spaces across the United States and the Caribbean, many of which have been featured in Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, Veranda, Elle Decor, Traditional Home, Luxe, Florida Design, Better Homes and Gardens, Country Living, The Wallstreet Journal, the New York Times, and more.

Celerie is the author of “Island Whimsy” which will publish with Rizzoli in March 2021. She has also published “To Your Taste” and “Black & White (and a Bit in Between)” with Clarkson Potter. She has been included in Architectural Digest’s AD100, House and Garden’s 50 New Tastemakers, House Beautiful’s Top Designers, Elle Décor’s A-List Designers, Luxe’s Gold List, and more.

Her licensed product lines include fabrics, trims and wallpaper for Schumacher, lighting and occasional furniture with Arteriors, outdoor furniture with Lane Venture, decorative accessories and bar furniture with Maitland-Smith, decorative wood flooring with Mirth, drapery hardware with Classical Elements, tufted, broadloom, and natural fiber rugs with Merida, and mirrors with Mirror Image. All of which aim to provide designs that delight Celerie and eliver the utility she believes must always be present in any item purchased for the home.

Celerie received a B.A. from Harvard in 1995 and graduated with Cum Laude honors.

Past Events

2021 Dialogues on Modernism and Maximalism

In the spring of 2021, Design NC embraced the conveniences of modern-day technology and conducted its program virtually! The audience and presenters gathered in an online forum to share enthusiasm about a beautiful range of design styles. Thom Filicia entertained us from his New York apartment as he shared his projects, philosophies and product development. Modernist architect Robert Gurney signed on afterward to offer us a fascinating perspective on his new constructions and historic renovations in the DC area. On Day two, master plaster craftsman Foster Reeve ushered us into the world of maximalism as he discussed opulent interior flourishes such as custom ceiling medallions, curved crown moldings and historical restorations. Last but not least, Celerie Kemble took us on a virtual tropical vacation to her Dominican passion project, Playa Grande, while offering us the inside scoop on her new book, Island Whimsy. While an in-person gathering was not permitted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we greatly appreciated everyone's participation and enjoyed learning from these wonderful designers and craftsmen.

2019 The Language of Design: Inside and Out

Design NC’s inaugural fundraising event for CAM, The Language of Design: Inside and Out, took place in May of 2019. Celebrated New York interior designer Alexa Hampton presented her keynote address followed by Greensboro-based landscape architect Chip Callaway. Honorary Chair and renowned interior designer Marshall Watson led a panel discussion about designing a seamless flow from the indoors to exteriors. Attendees gained a bountiful amount of inspiration and enjoyed many laughs. We look forward to when we can gather in person again at CAM and thank everyone for their support along the way.

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