Katherine Cook

An Eye for Design

   Katharine Glendinning Cook grew up in Savannah, Georgia in an extremely social family. "Six nights out of seven, my parents and their friends had a social engagement of some kind," she said. She had her debut surrounded by Savannah's finest families and went on to major in art at Finch College, a baccalaureate women's college located in Manhattan that began as a finishing school for wealthy young women and later evolved into a noted liberal arts college.
   Kitty started her schooling in first grade at boarding school in Palm Beach, Florida near the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Center, where she developed a lifelong love of horses. "Polo ponies are wild, you know," Kitty said. "I fell off quite a bit. It didn't bother me. I just kept getting back on." Kitty's passion for horses could easily overshadow her talent as an interior designer if only a barn manager position paid better wages. Kitty never planned to be the owner of one, let alone two successful businesses on Hilton Head Island. "I was brought up to be someone's wife and to give beautiful parties," she said.
   Fortunately, for many homeowners on Hilton Head Island and numerous others outside our area, Kitty is also passionate about helping clients enhance their interior environments with casual, upscale yet comfortable furnishings.
   Kitty works well with her business partner and son, Robert Glendinning Williamson. "It's a perfect fit," Kitty said. "Robert's inclination is to let me do the decorating, and my preference is to let him do the paperwork."
   Together they operate two businesses, Katharine Cook Interiors and Glendinning Home Collection, both located on Arrow Road. Their 12,500 square foot retail space features several distinctive furniture collections. Kitty meets with her clients in an office above the retail store. Both businesses are about lifestyle. "I'm not about everything being perfect. I'm about getting it right," Kitty said.
   In order to find out how her clients really live, Kitty spends a good bit of time asking her clients questions. How many dogs and children do you have? Does someone in the family have a messy hobby? (Some people should not get a white couch, no matter what.) Are you the type to ask people to take off their shoes? (High-heeled shoes can wreak havoc on hardwood floors.) "Decorating comes naturally, whereas cooking is more like a nightmare. I can do it, but I really have to think about it," said Kitty.
   So who was the person who influenced her to pursue interior design? It was Jim Williams, the infamous Savannah art dealer whose life was the basis for the novel and film, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
   At thirteen, Kitty found herself spending time with Williams, a close friend of Kitty's mother. Williams talked to Kitty as if she were an adult when they discussed subjects such as Chinese porcelain and fine art. Kitty, a voracious reader, was thrilled to read the books Williams provided. It was during this time she learned about and started experimenting with faux painting. Apparently, she was good at it and was surprised when people started to pay her for her work. The last time Kitty saw Williams was at a birthday party held for her here on the island.
   "I absolutely love what I do," Kitty said. "Every day is different. Every job is different. I meet the nicest people, and I get to travel to wonderful places with my clients, many of whom I now call dear friends." For now, the barn manager job is on hold. Kitty Cook is fully engaged in designing fabulous interiors.

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Hometown: Savannah, Georgia Hilton Head Island resident: since 1972 First Job: babysitting, age 13; earned $.25 an hour Dream job: barn manager Passionate about: horses Family: Sons, Reid Williamson, Savannah attorney, and Robert Williamson, business partner; daughter, Catharine Cook; seven grandchildren