She has four Olympic golds, been listed on Forbes’s Celebrity 100 and Power Women lists, and has a successful fashion label, Eleven. But tennis great Venus Williams is on our radar these days because of her design firm, V Starr Interiors. Her first project was a Miami condo for Carlos Boozer. After, she completed hospitality projects around Florida, too. But now, the firm’s work is expanding outside Williams’s home state. The renovated Midtown Athletic Club and brand-new Hotel at Midtown Chicago opened September 21 featuring a tennis lounge and a guest suite by the V Starr team. In between practices and palettes, Williams squeezed in a conversational rally with us.
Interior Design: What sparked your interest in interior design?
Venus Williams: Growing up, my mom pushed me to explore my creative side. In 1999, I enrolled in fashion school and was immediately drawn in by all types of design. Interiors have always been my favorite.
ID: Does being a professional athlete help you be a good designer?
VW: I travel a lot, so I find inspiration in all the places I visit. Plus, tennis and design have similar challenges. Things move rapidly and you need to think on your feet, whether working with a new client or facing a new opponent on the court. And there’s a shared sense of camaraderie, whether working with my V Starr Interiors team or a doubles partner.
ID: What are highlights of your spaces at the Midtown Athletic Club and the Hotel at Midtown?
VW: In the tennis lounge, there are beautiful diagonal lines and striking shades of green and blue that together create energy. The V Suite is more relaxed. The pure white bedroom is like sleeping on a cloud! I competed at the club in 1997, so working with them again in this capacity has been surreal.
ID: A recently downloaded app?
ID: What’s a cherished artwork?
VW: A little-known fact about my sister Serena is that she is an artist. She paints great oversize abstracts that are very color-focused. One hangs in our conference room at V Starr. And I have a Henry Taylor piece in my home.
ID: A favorite paint color?
VW: Benjamin Moore’s Twilight Zone 2127-10. Since it’s both elegant and sultry, it can be a feature or a complement.
ID: What do you do to relax? (If you ever do!)
VW: Play with Harry, my Havanese.
ID: What do you collect?
VW: Olympic gold medals, haha!
ID: Upcoming projects?
VW: Residential projects in Austin and Florida and the Waterstone Resort & Marina Boca Raton. And two projects in New York, one a residential building in Harlem, of which a percentage of the units will be affordable housing.
ID: Speaking of NY, will we see you at the U.S. Open in August?