Six questions for tennis star-turned interior designer Venus Williams

Clockwise from left: Venus Williams, One Thousand Ocean and the set of the “Tavis Smiley” show

Tennis star Venus Williams has won Wimbledon five times, taken home
three Olympic gold medals and has been ranked the number one women’s
tennis player in the world. But for nearly a decade, she’s also had a
second career in interior design — with her Jupiter-based V*Starr
design firm, where Williams and a four-person design team create the
interiors of residential, commercial and institutional properties, from
Howard University to the set of
PBS’ “Tavis Smiley” program, along
with her latest project at Boca Raton’s One Thousand Ocean condominium,
where she is designing a four-bedroom, four-and-a-half bathroom model
unit. Williams, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, talked to
The Real Deal about her start in
interior design, her design philosophy and taking cues from Philippe

How did you get involved in interior design?

I’ve always loved design and art, and I ended up studying fashion design [at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale], and it was a toss-up between fashion and interior design, because I wanted to do that. But at the end of the day, I still wanted to do interior design, so I started my company in 2002, and haven’t looked back since.

What is your design philosophy?

Well, in terms of our clients, we really do try to get into their heads and figure out how to best get them involved in the work. With my own personal style, it’s constantly changing. I’m constantly trying to push the envelope, and do something different — so it’s two different philosophies. It really just depends on each project you’re working on. If you’re working on a project that’s a little more conservative, you can’t decide to push the envelope.

Please talk about your work at the One Thousand Ocean.

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It’s a great property — the finishes, the attention to detail, how much light is pouring in through the windows. The general feeling there is just one of a happy mood, and it was really something that was a great opportunity for V*Starr to work on because of the quality of project that it is. It’s also in our backyard [in Florida].

You’ve worked on a variety of projects, from residential to commercial. How does your style change when you work on commercial spaces?

Well, the approach is a little bit different. The client is a little bit different. When you work on a commercial [space], the client is really looking to your expertise and wants your opinion; they really want you to lead the design, whereas residential is more about what the client specifically wants. The commercial client wants to see what you can dream up for them — so that’s what’s different. I definitely enjoy commercial design — it gives you the opportunity to do something very creative.

What are you working on right now?

Right now we’re working on a university project we do a lot of work at [educational] institutions with their gymnasiums, and are currently working at Howard University [in Washington, D.C.]. We also have some upcoming projects that I can’t name yet.

Who are your design inspirations?

I enjoy the design of Carolyn Parker — it’s something unique. A lot of people don’t use color, but she does, and has her own way of using color that a lot of people don’t do. I like Philippe Starck also — he’s just a genius in design, across the board in all sectors.