She admits that her design style is “maximalism” — mixing lots of patterns, colors, and things with meaning — but Veronica Solomon actually grew up on the island of Jamaica with very little. After moving to the United States at age 24, Veronica taught herself everything she needed to know about the world of interior design. Find out more about this Houston designer’s fascinating journey and how she’s helping others reach their dreams, and you’ll quickly understand why she’s our latest interior designer crush.
What was life like growing up in Jamaica, and what is your earliest interior design memory there?
Growing up in Jamaica was hard from an economic standpoint, but we are people known for our ingenuity and hard work. We worked (and thrived) with what we had. My earliest interior design memory was adding on a room to my mother’s home and designing the furniture for it with my own money. I worked at a financial institution in Jamaica and was maybe 18 or 19 years old. I was tired of sharing a room with my siblings, so I had my mother hire a tradesman and added on a room I paid for myself. One of my brothers was a furniture maker, and I designed the bed and dresser for the room. I remember going to the hardware store to pick out the pink paint color and the bedding and curtains. My humble beginnings remind me to always be grateful, remain generous, and of course, from a design standpoint, I can see the influences of my colorful homeland in my work.
Your life has taken some turns most people might not know. How did you make the journey into interior design, and how did you teach it to yourself?
I didn’t have an awareness of interior design growing up in Jamaica. I moved to the United States (Florida) when I was 24 years old to be with my then-husband. Shortly after arriving here, I became pregnant with our daughter Courtney. I didn’t have a job at the time and spent a lot of time watching HGTV — and I fell in love immediately. I learned a lot about mixing patterns and choosing colors from those shows, and then I started to experiment on the small apartment I had to get when my husband and I separated. The painful separation made me seek out a creative outlet, and decorating my small apartment was like therapy to me.
Fast forward a few years, and I moved to Texas. I landed a job as a project coordinator for a big home builder. After only a year — at the first sign of an economic downturn — they laid me off. I tried to find work in the industry, but no one was hiring due to the recession. I was down to the wire with money at that point, and I decided to launch my business in 2007.
How did you teach yourself about design?
Because I knew I lacked the formal education, I was motivated to make up for it in other ways. With two kids in a strange city, going back to school was not an option, so I went online and sought out interior design courses. I found Ashworth College. I learned some important things, but I felt there was more I needed to learn, so I bought interior design textbooks, coffee table books and magazines — and I dove in cover to cover. I took a course on how to read blueprints, subscribed to Furniture Today, followed High Point Market’s website and anything I could get my hands on to teach me not just the creative side but the business side, too.
What do you call your design aesthetic? Have you ever met a bold color or an animal print you didn’t like?
I call my design aesthetic “classic maximalism.” I love the idea of surrounding myself with things that are meaningful to me, and because I see meaning in everything in life, I end up with a lot of stuff. Maybe it’s an excuse for my never-ending collection of books, blue and white pottery, and whatever I am into these days. This meant I had to learn how to arrange them in a way that was pleasing to the eye and not overbearing or cluttered.
And no — I love every single color. I truly believe there are really no bad colors. It’s just how you use them. Bold color, for me, is almost neutral at this point. I am more comfortable working with bold colors. And every room needs a touch of animal print. It gives the room a bit of attitude, and that is always a good thing.
How has your background in banking (and economizing as a child growing up) helped your business?
The biggest impact my banking career has on my business today is the customer service aspect of it. I also learned how to manage other people’s money. I saw how hard people worked to be able to afford certain things, and that meant I had to be a good steward of that money. And of course, growing up without a lot of money has driven me to want to accomplish big things for myself. I remember owning a car at 20 in Jamaica. It is not a big deal here in the United States, but back then in Jamaica, it was a huge deal. I have always strived for greater things, and working in banking helped me see my potential.
Who are your design idols, and why?
I know the obvious answer would be the big-name designers — and I have a few who have definitely influenced my career and design aesthetic, like Kelly Wearstler and Miles Redd. But these days, my real design heroes are everyday designers like me, who are doing their thing despite the changes we are seeing in the industry. Designers like Jeanne Chung, Yelena Gerts, Cheryl Clendenon, Claire Jefford, Erika Ward, Nicole White and Rachel Moriarty. They are my real heroes because they inspire me every day. They each have been successful at defining their brand message and are dedicated to giving back to the design community.
What is your mentoring program, and why did you start it?
My mentoring program — Veronica Solomon University — is all about reaching back and helping someone else achieve great things in their business. I started it because I saw so many young designers who reminded me of where I started and had no real help or support. I wanted to be that support for them. I wanted to save them from the many years of struggles I went through to finally achieve success.
The program itself takes many forms, one being a free Facebook group with over 3,940 members from all over the world. We share ideas, resources, best practices, and everything and anything you can think of, but we focus mostly on the business side of design. I also have a member subscription group, and I also do one-on-one mentoring sessions to dive deeper into helping someone resolve a pressing issue they are facing. My mentoring store is where designers can purchase templates of important forms and documents. And finally, a yearly Mentor Shadow Day done locally in my studio entails an entire day spent with a group of designers and running through the specifics of how I run my business daily.
What’s been your toughest project, and what did you learn from it?
It was working for a repeat client. I made a mistake in assuming things would have worked exactly the way they did the first time we worked together — which was very successful. This time he was in a different place in his life and a different mental state, and a few issues came up that had it been a new client would not have. I ended up losing thousands of dollars on the project and even felt a level of betrayal. I learned business is business … always! It doesn’t matter if you have a great history with a client. The processes I established for my business were created for a reason — to protect myself and my clients.
What are the three home decor items you can’t live without?
I cannot live without florals in a room — they can be faux or real. I also can’t imagine a room without pillows, and books are also a must — I collect them and use them in every room.
If you could be the interior designer for any celebrity, who would it be?
That is a great question. I would want to design for Kanye West. I like a good challenge. But if I could add one more, it would be Mark Wahlberg, because I have an everlasting crush on him. Although, I’m not sure if that is good for business.
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