This month’s Hue of the Month is Shandra Ward. She’s an African American interior designer and event designer with over 20 years of experience in the industry. Read about her sophisticated Signature Style below.
Current City: Houston, Texas
Business Name/Website: Shandra Ward Signature Design Studio
Design Specialty: Interior Design, Event Design, Art Consulting, and Prop Styling and Real Estate Staging
Professional Associations and/or Certifications: American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), International Interior Design Association (IIDA), and NEWH – Hospitality Industry Network
Tell me about yourself (family, hometown, hobbies, interests, personality, favorite quotes, etc.).
I’m 45 years old, a native Houstonian, a single mother and a passionate designer. I own my own design business, Shandra Ward Signature Design Studio and Couture Confections Stylish Candy & Dessert Buffets. Most of my design projects are commercial projects. I also write design articles for Examiner.com, Bread & Butter magazine and EXALT Houston magazine. I am the editor and writer for my blog site, Signature Style. I love shopping, dining with family and/or friends, crafting, creating mood boards, designing new ideas for candy/dessert buffets and martinis.
Why did you decide to become an interior designer? How did you get started in the industry?
When I was a teenager, I would always rearrange the furniture in the house at least once a week. My mom would come home from work shaking her head and smiling “Lord have mercy, this child has changed the house again.” But she never interfered whenever I had a “creative tantrum”, even when I painted some of the furniture. I grew up having art, design, fashion and architecture influences all around me. With a structural engineer and entrepreneur for a father, a crafty mother and a very stylish grandmother, I was continuously exposed to design.
In 1989, I entered the interior design program at the Houston Community College, while I was studying art history at Texas Southern University. I later received my Associate’s degree in Interior Design. Soon after, I began designing interiors for friends and family. At the same time, I began working with my father at his structural engineering firm. He taught me the business and I was able to assist him on site visits and construction meetings. Working with commercial clients made me realize, the big money was in commercial design. So, I enrolled in the Art Institute of Houston and received my Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design. I continued to work with my father and began to incur commercial clientele. I have worked in the industry for over 20 years.
Interior design is a very competitive industry, how do you set yourself apart from other interior designers?
What sets me apart from other designers is that I believe that everyone should be entitled to good design. So, I create spaces that reflect form, function and fusion. These spaces are inviting and not intimidating. I want my clients to use their space all of the time not just when company comes over.
Describe your first design project.
My first design project was refurbishing an old end table. I was 15, it was the summer and I was in a creative mood. We would spend many summers at my grandparent’s house and sometimes there was nothing to do. Well, one day I was in the garage and saw this small end table that my grandmother was throwing out. With the help of my grandfather, he showed me how to prep the table for repainting. The paint color I selected was red for the table top with green legs. My grandfather used it during the Christmas holidays as a stand for a large plastic, lighted Santa.
How do you define your personal style? What era in history has influenced your design style?
Dramatic Modern is what I describe as my signature style. My definition of Dramatic Modern is cultural and stylish with an appreciation for classical forms and well-made functional objects. I’m inspired by good design and quality craftsmanship. I like to liven things up with bold color and theatrics.
Watching old Hollywood movies and being inspired by the sets and the fashion gives me much motivation to create livable and stylish spaces. My background in design has been cultivated with various design influences, but my favorite design era is Mid-Century design. The clean lines, organic forms and natural finishes just give me goose bumps.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I find inspiration everywhere and in everything. I have found inspiration in water, food, toys, nature, fashion, old Hollywood movies, my Grandmother’s photo album, a box of crayons and the list goes on.
How did you get into event planning? Tell me about the projects you have worked on in the past.
I have been planning and creating events for over 15 years. I started event planning while I was in college. I would plan social events for my family and friends. And they would refer their friends. I have planned conferences, corporate meetings, reunions, concerts, weddings and all types of special events. I have also designed VIP spaces for concerts, open houses, opening night events for theatrical performances, and the list goes on.
I have stepped back from planning events to focusing on designing events. I like to create the look and mood of a special occasion by designing the invitations, the complete décor including floral arrangements and candy & dessert buffets.
What is your dream design project? If you had the money, resources and a ready and willing client what would you create and why?
My dream design project is to create an arts complex that would encompass visual art, performing art, culinary, design, music, and dance. Actually, this is a project that I designed in college. Now I’m seeking the ready and willing client.
Who is your favorite interior designer/interior decorator? What are some of your favorite design vendors, stores, books/magazines, and websites?
My favorite interior designers are Candice Olson and Sheila Bridges. My favorite vendors are Kravet Fabrics, resale shops, and discount department stores, such as HomeGoods. My favorite books/magazines are RUE, Architectural Digest, ELLE DÉCOR, Dwell, Martha Stewart Living, Better Homes and Garden, House Beautiful, and Style at Home (Canadian).
Favorite websites: www.shandraward.com, www.portehousedesigns, www.sheilabridges.com, and www.kravitzdesign.com owned by rock star Lenny Kravitz, he is definitely a designer for rock stars. I love his work.
What do you find most rewarding about your job as an interior designer? What do you find least rewarding?
What I find most rewarding about being an interior designer is when my clients are happy about the results and when my 11 year old son tells me that I’m the greatest designer in the world. What I find least rewarding are indecisive clients.
What advice do you have for other aspiring African-American interior designers reading this interview?
My advice to aspiring designers is to get your education, soak up all the knowledge you can about design. Develop your skills and be prepared to do a lot of grunt work and starve, but know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and the rewards are great.
What is something you would like the world to know about you or your ideas?
I will not tell you what you want to hear, I will tell you like it is.
Where do you see yourself as a designer 10 years from now?
Ten years from now I see myself hosting my own online design show, Signature Style. I will have opened my bed & breakfast, totally designed by moi and I will have my own line of housewares, accents and accessories, Signature Style Home Accents & Accessories.
Learn more about Shandra’s signature style and her design services at www.shandraward.com.