Venus Williams Pays Very Close Attention to Hotel Design

The superstar tennis player and interior-design mind shares her pursuit of the “wow” effect.

An overall love of design was my motivation for starting my firm, V Starr Interiors, in 2002. Obviously, I’ve been traveling the world for a long time as a professional tennis player, and so hotels have naturally been a constant part of my life. I’m always looking for inspiration on these trips. When the design is great, it motivates and excites me. Once something wows me—and I feel like I’ve learned from it—then I begin looking for that next wow.

I’ve gone through a lot of different phases in terms of the kinds of hotels I’ve wanted to stay at. There was a phase when I only wanted to stay at boutique design hotels, and I’m currently in a phase in which I simply want comfort and amazing service. I don’t know what my next phase is going to be.

One of my favorite recent stays was at the Baccarat Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. It’s quite beautiful. Even though its aesthetic is rather traditional, its execution isn’t. A lot of the time, I’m just looking for quiet and no disturbance. I once stayed at an unbelievable, dreamlike hotel in northern Thailand with outdoor showers and rice paddies surrounding it. Those kinds of trip don’t happen so often, but a semblance of that experience is what I’m after.

Because I’m traveling almost every week, I find that I’m very critical of the places I stay. For me, a down pillow is super important. Actually, it’s probably the most pivotal thing in a room. From a design standpoint, I’m always looking at not only the lighting, the chairs, and the bed frames, but also how and where things were installed, the construction, and the quality of materials used. Sometimes, you look at something and say, “Oh my god. That’s insane! I can’t believe this hotel spent so much money on this.” Other times, you see something and say, “Why did they do this so cheaply?” My favorite thing is to examine the ceilings and the floors because they are so important to understanding the thought that went into a room. You have to pull the ceiling and the floors together to make the whole story sync.

My own style is very eclectic. I like to take nontraditional things—like an unexpected color—and apply them to an interior. For a remodel of a suite at the Intercontinental Miami, for example, I looked to the first newspaper in South Florida, called The Metropolis; that room has edgy lines and elements that are reminiscent of a city grid. For another suite there, I was inspired by the state’s orange groves; that one is rich and warm, and incorporates lush splashes of orange. A lot of my designs have a midcentury influence; sometimes, though, I throw this out the window in favor of what my clients want. At V Starr, the team likes to have a style that’s at once timeless, beautiful, and playful. And also thought-provoking. If someone’s going to walk into a room we designed, hopefully it creates an environment that makes them stop and say, “I’m really enjoying this” or “Wow, I never expected this.”

The author is a professional tennis player and the CEO of the firm V Starr Interiors, based in Jupiter, Florida.

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