Howard University is a Division I sports program, yet Burr Gymnasium was not a Division I–worthy venue. Desperately needing to upgrade its façade, entryway, classrooms, bathrooms and locker rooms, the university called on Venus Williams to help. Yes, that Venus Williams. Turns out when she isn’t busy dominating opponents on the tennis court, her time is occupied with her own interior design firm, V Starr Interiors.
It is hardly a surprising venture for the former number-one women’s tennis player, who in the past has launched a clothing line and penned a selfhelp book. Despite the constraints even a light WTA tour schedule puts on Williams’s time, she takes the commitment to V Starr seriously. “I realized I had the eye for creating environments that offer solutions in creative ways and give the experience of calm, pleasure, joy and peace,” Williams says of the inspiration behind the firm. “I have a very talented staff of interior designers.”
V Starr offers a wide range of services, assisting with anything from choosing color schemes and accessorizing to hands-on service with the architects and builders. Describing her design aesthetic as “timeless that meets presentday,” Williams ensures her clients’ happiness is a priority. “I make it a point to meet every client,” she declares. The company also favors using sustainable or recycled materials for projects where budgets allow.
The changes to Howard’s gymnasium, while thorough, respected the existing architectural elements to showcase, in their own way, the history of sport at the school. “Howard University is a historic landmark in Washington, DC, and is an important institution in black history,” Williams says. Other projects the firm has undertaken so far include residences and businesses in her hometown of Palm Beach, Florida; the set for Tavis Smiley on PBS; and the athletes’ residences for the New York’s ultimately failed 2012 Olympics bid. As for the future, Williams isn’t ruling out a return to the nation’s capital. “I would love to design a restaurant or hotel in downtown DC,” exclaims Williams. Here’s hoping.