by Whitley Adkins • photographs by Amy Kolo
Born in Hawaii, Whitney Yellow Robe Yates and her parents came to Charlotte to be close to family. Her uncle was the chief radiologist at Mercy Hospital (now Atrium Health Mercy). “We followed [his family], and my sister subsequently moved here as well,” says Yates, a former model whose mother is from Kentucky and father is a Lakota Sioux Indian of the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.
A friend introduced Yates to her husband, Doug, president and CEO of Roush Yates Engines, at the NASCAR All-Star Race in 1998. The couple got married in December 2000 and have four children. “I have a stepson who is 25, a son who is 20 and twin girls who are 14,” Yates says.
The Yates family lives on Lake Norman, where Whitney recently built the closet of her dreams, a two-story stunner with an elevator and spiral staircase. Assisting with the project were interior designer Melissa Godwin of Crown Design Group of North Carolina, Erick West from Erick West Construction Management, and Dale Bullock, a custom cabinet-maker from Covenant Building Services Inc. “It was all a vision, and they made it real,” Yates says.
Comments have been edited for length and clarity.
This is all so spectacular. How did this closet come to be?
I’ve always wanted a two-story closet. The opportunity arose to purchase some land next to us, which gave us the ability to add on to our house. We opted for a new master suite, office and guest bedroom, as well as a larger bar area downstairs and the patio outside.
And then there is the elevator.
I use the stairs to go up and down to grab a piece, but if we’re moving seasons from one floor to the next, I’ll use the elevator. The bottom floor is for the current season, and my off-season clothes are upstairs.
What about your shoes?
The shoes upstairs are mainly for winter, and others I don’t wear as often. The first expensive pair of shoes I bought are upstairs. They are Jimmy Choo — I bought them in London, at Harrod’s I believe. This pair of shoes started it all for me — my love of shoes and bags.
How do you describe your personal style?
I am all over the board. I started modeling when I was 19, so I was a late bloomer, but it showed me that I could wear anything. I’ll wear whatever I feel good in. I don’t think that you have to wear certain things to certain places. You don’t have to wear jeans and a T-shirt to go to McDonald’s. Just wear what you feel good wearing on that day, and wherever it takes you, it takes you. You might be a little over-the-top, but it’s better than being underdressed.
You have a pretty impressive bag collection. Is there a first bag?
It was a Louis Vuitton, I can tell you that. Louis Vuitton is probably my staple — I love the work, I love the craftsmanship, I love the look. I usually buy one bag a year — same with luggage. I have a set of Louis Vuitton luggage that I’ve been building for years that I want my children to have. I’ll get one piece for Christmas.
There are some pretty spectacular clutches here as well. Do you have any favorites?
This white cocktail bag is an Alexander McQueen, and it’s one of a kind. It’s never been used. They called me from the store in New York and said “We have this bag, it’s the only one. Would you like to have it?” And I said, “Of course I’d like to have it!” I originally went to the store for another bag — I built such a rapport with [client specialist] Nadine, she would start sending things I might like, and the next thing I know I got the call about this one. SP
THIS OR THAT
Clutch or tote? Tote — but it could be both! There’s a purse that I carry every day, then there’s the bag that holds the purse and all the other stuff that you need.
Summer or winter wardrobe? I’m a winter girl.
Heels or tennis shoes? Tennis shoes, definitely.
Dress or skirt? Skirt — because I can put it on with a T-shirt and wear my tennis shoes, and I’m done. I love that look right now.
Sweatpants or jeans? Sweatpants. For sure, sweatpants.
Favorite everyday clothing designers: Alice + Olivia, Zimmermann, Ulla Johnson and Sundry.
Favorite evening wear designer: The look is more important than the designer. Am I feeling sporty? Am I feeling evening? Am I feeling a dress? A little sexy? I pay more attention to that than the designer.
Favorite bag designer: Louis Vuitton is my longtime favorite. Running a close race is probably [Alexander] McQueen. You don’t find McQueen bags on everybody’s shoulders. It’s very edgy and it keeps me young.
Favorite places to shop: I typically go straight to the designer’s store or website, or I will go meet with the designer in person if I’m seeking a specialty piece. Online, lately I’ve gotten a lot of sundresses from Anthropologie. I’ll hit Zara sometimes, and Revolve.