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Season 1 / Episode 3
Memphis-based interior designer Carmeon Hamilton found her passion in an unorthodox way. She started as a physical therapy student at the University of Central Arkansas. It didn’t take her long to figure out that was not the path she wanted to take.
“Early on I realized I hate everything related to the body and science,” Hamilton said. “Anything that involves reading more than three pages at night – I couldn’t do it.”
What she did enjoy was decorating. As a resident assistant (RA), she had a dorm room to herself. Her best friend and fellow RA told her she should look into UCA’s interior design program, which was newly accredited at the time. Hamilton signed up and was the only Black person in the program at the time.
“I was used to being around white people. So it wasn’t anything where I felt estranged or alone. And then also being at UCA, which is a predominantly white school anyway, it didn’t feel abnormal,” Hamilton said. “So in the beginning, it was perfectly fine. I fascinated a lot of the girls in the class as the only Black girl in the class. But I think I fascinated my professors a lot more because I was one of the only students who completed my work. I was not going to join this program and half-ass it.”
Doing the work paid off for Hamilton. Twelve students in the program were required to give a project proposal. The professor had invited a colleague who happened to be vice president of an interior design department for a health care company.
“None of us knew she was coming. And I was the only person in the class who had a completed presentation. So after my presentation, my professor’s colleague offered me a job right there on the spot. So that was how my interior design career began.”
Hamilton started her new job in Fort Smith, Arkansas, two weeks after graduation. The company owned 300 health care facilities across the country, sending her to 42 states during the four-and-a-half years she worked there.
In addition to being able to travel, Hamilton learned a lot about commercial interior design, including reviewing facilities; developing design plans; and working closely with project managers, architects, construction managers, and the clients themselves. Eventually, she was laid off from her position and found herself at a crossroads. In addition to that, Hamilton had just married her husband. Her mother had recently passed away.
“I found myself trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. My husband and I lived in Missouri at the time in the middle of nowhere away from family. So that’s when I picked up blogging and building furniture. I had to fill my time with a few things.”
Hamilton knew she had to make money. She used the blogging and building furniture as a launching pad to enter residential interior design. She is now a social media influencer and the owner of Nubi Interiors.
“That’s the wonderful thing about design. I can love the things that I love. And you can love the things that you love. And we can both agree to disagree but also be happy in beautiful spaces,” Hamilton said.
Her design aesthetic melds Black culture with various designs and textures that are central to African-American design aesthetics.
Finding Beauty in the Space You’re In
Hamilton has two tips for sprucing up your space even if you don’t have a budget for an interior designer.
- Bring life into your space. Plants, Hamilton says, add life. They not only make a space pretty but also elevate the quality of the air in that space. The pothos, ZZ plant, and the snake plant are all beautiful additions to any space. And they’re easy to care for.
- Surround yourself with things you love or things that inspire you. “When someone asks me where to buy art, I tell them you don’t. Yes, support a local artist, if you can, but don’t run out to a big box store and buy the first thing you see. Make your own art. If your child draws something, actually buy a frame and hang it on a wall. Don’t just stick it on the refrigerator. Surround yourself with images you’re connected with, whether it’s something you created or a photo you took on vacation or something that you have a soul tie to.”
Hamilton recently participated in a collaborative makeover project for a three-story townhouse in Brooklyn, New York as part of the 2019 Real Simple Home makeover. She and fellow designer Shavonda Gardner were tasked with designing the home office. You can find the before and after at realsimple.com along with their tips on how to add character to a boring space.
Get the latest from Hamilton by following her on Instagram at @carmeon.hamilton.