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 James Edwin Kilby

"Throughout my career as an interior designer, I never thought of myself as 'working' for a living ... with great clients, dependable suppliers and creative craftsmen, it has been a great life."

As a young man growing up in the cotton mill town of Canton in Georgia's Cherokee County, Ed Kilby had no dreams of becoming a cowboy, a railroad engineer or an aviator. He didn't know what he wanted to be until as a teenager he moved to Atlanta and took a job assisting one of the city's talented interior designers, Joe Barnes.

As a mentor, Barnes recognized the possibilities in the hardworking, personable young Kilby and gave him training and responsibilities. Together, they created home interiors for some of Atlanta's leading citizens. 

Edith Mansfield Hills, Ed Kilby, unidentified woman
Ed Kilby and the late Edith Mansfield Hills (left) check out some "extreme design" at a 1987 ADAC gala. 
Barnes, as an American Express executive, had traveled widely in Europe and was influenced by the fine furnishings, decoration and elegant settings he saw there. He shared this knowledge with Kilby, along with a keen sense of business. Among his tips: "If you are hesitant about asking for money ... don't get into this line of work."

After his tenure with Barnes, Kilby joined Ray Lange Co., a venerable interior design firm with a well-known staff that included Jonny Barnes, William Trapnell and Marie Warren. Among his contemporaries and friends was the late Edith Mansfield Hills.

Kilby left Atlanta for a brief stint with the California firm Cannell & Chaffin, but he missed Georgia. When he returned home, his growing roster of clients included Judge Thomas and Angie Marshall, the late Virginia Crawford, Mr. and Mrs. Ernie Brookings and Mr. and Mrs. Ed Smith

Smith was a bank president, and his wife developed her love of fine furnishings as a child living in "Woodhaven," the Robert Maddox home on West Paces Ferry Road where the Georgia Governor's Mansion now stands.

Kilby's growing fame reached its pinnacle when Prince Faisal of Saudi Arabia engaged him to furnish "Peninsula House" at 281 Blackland Road (below), one of Atlanta's most-photographed homes. It was considered by many to be among Kilby's most beautiful commissions. His expertise and diplomacy overcame client preconceptions and, with the assistance of long-time friend and client Joan MCGourty, Kilby created a stunning "palace."

"Woodhaven" was sold in 1963 to the state of Georgia. The state saved the carriage house and terraced gardens, but demolished the house and built the present Governor's Mansion. Woodhaven Road, which runs through land the Maddox family once owned, preserves the estate's name.
281 Blackland Road
281 Blackland Road was built in 1937 by Hugh P. Nunnally. It was designed by architects Charles Frazier and Daniel Bodin. In 1939, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard posed for photos there during the premiere of "Gone With the Wind." In 1977, it was bought by Saudi Prince Faisal. During renovation in October 2000, the house caught fire and partly burned. It will be restored.
With his contagious laughter, warm persona, keen sense of humor, and photographic memory, Kilby numbered among his friends and admirers not only the well-to-do, but also the upholsterers, drapery workroom personnel and showroom staffers who assisted his magic.

This reporter once returned to his office to find Kilby hidden from sight and his desk chair occupied by Jo Jo, Kilby's faithful canine companion (named in honor of Joe Barnes), erect and wearing horn-rim glasses. Another favorite site for conversation and laughter was the second floor office of designer Jane Marsden at 2300 Peachtree Road.

Interviewed recently at his Campbell-Stone apartment on Pharr Court, Kilby, now in his 80s, was still surrounded by friends. He also retains his love of fine automobiles. Friends remember early Packards and a more recent Rolls-Royce convertible. His current choice is a Jaguar roadster (which he garages, but doesn't drive).

This talented Renaissance Man is quick to give credit to others. Without his long-time business manager Sue Kasten, "I couldn't get along at all," he says. All-around-installer and man of many talents Johnny Sharp also remains a faithful supporter.

Ed Kilby was born Nov. 7, 1918. Birthday and other greetings can be sent to him at:

Ed Kilby
Campbell-Stone/Buckhead, Apt. 305
2911 Pharr Court South
Atlanta, GA 30305

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