Keith James is something of a legend in the Little Rock design scene, having created amazing interiors for houses across the state, not to mention Palm Beach, San Francisco, Dallas and Washington, D.C. Despite their varied nature, he says, “they were each unique and fulfilling.” Today, he runs his design firm, along with his custom lamp operation, from inside Dauphine, his home design and antiques retail business. With everything from fine linens to one-of-a-kind furnishings and antiques, Dauphine is a longtime shopping destination on Kavanaugh Boulevard in the Heights. “I’ve been in three locations, all of which have been within three blocks,” he says.
As a young man, Keith was asked to decorate his first boss’ office, and he quickly acknowledged that he’d found his passion. “I just realized that this is what I wanted to do,” he says. In the spring of 1973, he opened Dauphine as a small gift store and began offering interior design services, quickly gaining clients by word of mouth. “Most of my first projects were very conservative with a touch of whimsy,” he says.
Designing his exclusive collection of lamps seemed a natural next step. “I was so tired of being limited to the lamp selections that were available, that I decided to use that as a business venture and a way to create,” he says. In his travels, Keith began collecting unusual antique pieces, from candelabras and vases to urns and statuary, to transform into custom lamp bases. He paired these with luxurious, hand-sewn silk shades with exquisite trims, and a phenomenon was born. Highly sought after, his lamps are sold exclusively through Dauphine, becoming a conversation piece wherever they are displayed,
Today, Keith is most often inspired by color, and the myriad of combinations that can quickly change the look of a project. He approaches each new project as an opportunity to utilize the client’s existing pieces with select additions to make the entire space look fresh and complete. He begins with an extensive consultation, to determine the client’s present and future goals for the home. “After we learn the client’s likes and dislikes, we begin to pull samples,” he says. “We have hundreds of in-house resources such as fabric, wallpaper, lighting and custom furniture to offer.” The process is a collaboration not only with the client, but with his staff as well, who each bring unique talents to the table.
At the end of the day, however, Keith endeavors to create a space where his clients will feel fulfilled and at home, helping them to make decisions reflective of their own tastes. “The most important thing I can offer my clients is guiding them through the entire job,” he says.