Venus Williams quietly working as interior designer

Tennis star Venus Williams talks about a luxury condo in Boca Raton, Fla., designed by her interior...

Story by Cindy Kent
(Sun Sentinel/MCT)
Fri, Mar 16, 2012
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Creating interest is something Venus Williams has not had to worry about.

Tennis fans have been hooked for years. She turned pro in 1994, has held the world No. 1 ranking and won 21 grand slam titles in her career.

So, when Williams launched Jupiter, Fla.-based V*Starr Interiors in 2002, her on-court celebrity drove instant name-brand recognition to the company.

And a recent commission to design a new model residence at luxury oceanfront condominium One Thousand Ocean in Boca Raton, Fla., marks her growing success from an entrepreneur to an interiors expert.

Still, Williams is planning to play in a tennis tournament at the Sony Ericsson Open next month on Key Biscayne in Miami.

While Williams’s coming of age on the tennis court has played out publicly, her growth as an interior designer has been more subtle. “It’s been one of the best-kept secrets,” she said.

Only, not really.

The V*Starr portfolio has a steadily growing clientele that includes the Florida homes of NFL and NBA players in Davie and Miami, model residences in Delray Beach and Palm Beach Gardens; a hotel chain in Miami; Burr Athletic Facility at Howard University in Washington, D.C.; and the Tavis Smiley show set in Los Angeles.

Williams acknowledges the huge learning curve she faced, and she likens the pressure of proving one’s ability on the tennis court to one’s ability in the boardroom.

“You start at the bottom and learn along the way. That still doesn’t mean they believe you can do the job,” she said. “But I enjoy the process. I enjoy the battle.”

That’s good news for Jamie Telchin, president of development for LXR Luxury Resorts & Hotels, who oversees a variety of marketing strategies for One Thousand Ocean: broker networking, charity events, luxury fashion and jewelry shows; and tapping Williams to design a residential unit.

In a push to sell the remaining 12 of 52 units, Telchin’s team has worked to keep the property “fresh and new to prospective buyers, and Williams is a good match at this point,” he said.

Developers broke ground on the residences in 2007, sold their first unit in 2010, and have closed on 40 units since. Several contracts are pending.

One Thousand Ocean is garnering star power of its own: It was featured on HGTV’s reality TV show, “Selling New York;” and portions of the movie “Parker,” featuring Jennifer Lopez, were filmed on site.

High-profile meets high-profile, says Telchin. “With Venus’ fresh vision and her celebrity, we felt she could open doors to a new market.”

Designed models help people see potential, which also helps to sell unfurnished units of the same configuration, says Telchin. Two other designed furnished models provided similar results.

V*Starr’s project is the property’s third design model.

Williams’s design reflects what a luxury lifestyle in South Florida looks like; and for those who aspire for sun, fun an active lifestyle and elegance, Telchin said.

Muted blues, greens and yellows flow throughout the rooms like subtle balmy South Florida breezes, on palates of tan, beige and white.

“We began with a great base,” said Williams. “And we wanted to continue inside what’s going on outside.”

“We’re being very selective in how we create interest,” said Telchin. “So is Venus. She’s putting herself out there, too.”

“Interior design is a business of trust,” said Williams.

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