February 29, 2024

Q&A with Palazzo Co-Founder Venus Williams: Accessible Interior Design

"Your space is the story of your life, right? The story of your personality, your wants, your desires, your memories, the photos and the pieces you collect over time. At Palazzo, we want people to be able to create that story and give it a professional touch. Everyone should have the opportunity to make their space their own and to make it beautiful."

- Venus Williams

Tennis champion and entrepreneur Venus Williams discusses her passion for the arts and interior design, the importance of making your space reflect your story, and her new company, Palazzo.ai.

When you hear the name Venus Williams, you likely think of a revolutionary tennis player. She’s won three Olympic Gold medals and has earned 7 Grand Slam singles titles over her career.

What you might not know is that tennis is not Venus’s only passion. She has multiple degrees in fashion and interior design, and she founded a South Florida-based full-service interior design firm in 2002 called V Starr. Her extensive background in the arts and interest in technology recently led to the next stage in her design journey: co-founding a new company called Palazzo.ai. We sat down with Venus to discuss her newest venture.

Can you share your background and the journey that brought you to interior design?

Venus Williams: “I have always loved the arts. It's my place outside of the court.

My parents started me playing tennis at the age of four. I don't remember learning how to play - that's how long I've been doing it. Tennis has always been my life and feels very innate and instinctual. I'm so grateful my parents chose it, because I think I was meant to be a tennis player.

Photo by Aaron Doster, Getty Images

The arts are something that I chose for myself. My parents always encouraged us to know who we were off the court. They wanted us to get our education. When I was 18, Serena and I decided to go to art school together to study fashion. That was my first foray into the arts. Eventually, I ended up going back to study interior design and started my own interior design business, V Starr.

The reason I love design is because I wanted to do something off of the court that was similar to tennis. Tennis captured my attention because it's always changing. Every point is different. Every opponent is different. The wind could be blowing, or the conditions could be tough. You could be having the worst day, and it's just never a dull moment.

It’s the same with design - there's never a dull moment. Every design solution is different, and you have the opportunity to continuously re-invent yourself.”

Photo by Dave Kotinsky

What makes you feel at home in a space?

Venus Williams: “I like designing all kinds of spaces. However, for me to live in a space, it has to reflect my own style. It can't feel austere, but I love things to be clean and orderly. I wouldn't live in a minimalist space, but I also don't want to live in a maximalist space.

I was 18 years old when I moved out of my parents' house, and Serena and I lived together. We chose our space when I was such a kid, so of course I outgrew it. After a while, I started to feel like our space didn't reflect who I was as a person.

When Serena got married and started a family, I finally moved into a space that felt like me. It’s so powerful to be in a space that reflects who you are and how you feel. You get to come home to your own environment that you've created. It's your cocoon.

What makes me feel at home is having that choice, but we don't always know who we are in a space. A tool like Palazzo helps you to visualize who you are. It can be that 'aha' moment: this is my style; this is my space.

If you've seen pictures of spaces that you love, but can't really articulate it in a room, Palazzo can help you find that moment.”

How would you describe your personal design aesthetic?

Venus Williams: “My personal design aesthetic trends toward mid-century modern no matter what I do! When I build a house, it's going to be mid-century modern mixed with Island British colonial since I live in tropical places. It’s an interesting combination! I already drew an elevation of the exterior of a house and everything – I just haven't pulled the trigger.

My style is very eclectic. I like mixing styles. I'm the person who definitely is not going to buy the matching dresser and the matching bedside tables, or the matching top and bottom to wear. It's just not my thing. The more that it doesn't match, the more it becomes in sync for me.”

Venus's one-of-a-kind style from Palazzo is Opulent Eclectic Oasis! An opulent blend of rich, dark hues and plush velvet upholstery, paired with traditional furniture and bold decor. Symmetry meets abstract art and geometric shapes, creating a luxurious yet comfortable space.

What is the story and mission behind Palazzo, and what inspired you to co-found this company?

Venus Williams: “The mission of Palazzo is clear: make design easier, make sure it's fun, and make sure it's accessible. Let people have the opportunity to design their own space.

Your space is the story of your life, right? The story of your personality, your wants, your desires, your memories, the photos and the pieces you collect over time. At Palazzo, we want people to be able to create that story and give it a professional touch. Everyone should have the opportunity to make their space their own and to make it beautiful. My longtime friend, Edward Lando, reached out to me alongside his trusted Penn classmate and former co-founder, Raffi Holzer, when they recognized this transformative opportunity in the AI and interior design spaces.

Not every person is able to visualize a space. We want Palazzo to help people see what their space can look like beforehand, and then be able to act upon that. We also want to provide a community of people and designers to interact with, learn from, and do something you love together.

Palazzo is a place for people who love design, and as we grow, we’ll include all kinds of design. There is no limit to what design can be and how it can manifest itself.”

A living room designed by Venus in Palazzo using her personal Aesthetic DNA quiz results: Opulent Eclectic Oasis

Can you share a story about a space that is incredibly special to you and the inspiration behind it?

Venus Williams: “Like many people during the pandemic, I rearranged my home. I live in an older house, and I decided to work with what I had and make the best of it. I have pickled walls, and I even have two dolphins on my fireplace made out of cast stone - it's kind of crazy!

I decided that I didn't want to change too much, because what if I want to build a house one day? But I had inherited all my furniture, my appliances - even the blenders! - and I was just living with it. I was thinking about maybe building a house, maybe talking to architects, but not really doing much. It's interesting - I find that when you're the designer, everyone else's space comes first, and yours can sometimes come last.

So, I finally ended up changing out the furniture from my old house. I took my art out of storage and brought it into my home. I love the arts, and I collect art. Being able to live with art in my home is super powerful to me.

It's not just about collecting; it's actually being able to wake up to it and enjoy it. It's super, super special to be able to do that. Some of the more prominent pieces I love are by Rinus van de Velde, Ben Sledsens, and Hank Willis Thomas.”

The stairwell in Venus's Florida home, featuring The Two Morning Bathers by Ben Sledsens

What advice would you give to people looking to make their space more personal and reflective of their journey?

Venus Williams: “For me, this is the most important thing. When you're looking at your space, look at all the spaces holistically. Don't just say you want a new living room and maybe you want other rooms designed later. Look at the whole space, look at each room, and then design the rooms.

Even if you don't buy the pieces now, you already know what the whole space looks like. There is nothing more difficult than designing one room, and then realizing that you want to go in a different direction. It’s so easy for the rooms to become disjointed.

That’s my advice: design your whole space, even if you're not going to act on it yet. Then you've made that whole journey and whenever you're ready to pull the trigger, you know where you're going.”

About Palazzo

Palazzo combines cutting-edge AI with a focus on personal style, making interior design accessible and unique to each user. It's a tool where your design ideas come to life, tailored to reflect your individual taste. Simple yet innovative, Palazzo turns your vision into a reality, creating spaces that tell your story.


© 2024 Palazzo. All rights reserved.


© 2024 Palazzo. All rights reserved.

© 2024 Palazzo. All rights reserved.