On Twitter, Queer Eye Culture Expert Karamo Brown identifies himself as a father, a fiancé, a TV host and a cat meme lover. But what many don’t realize about the man one-fifth responsible for giving us Queer Eye viewers a healthy ugly-cry is he has a now not-so-secret talent: home decorator. So, no, Brown doesn’t only have an uncanny and unrivaled ability to give truly transformational emotional and mental makeovers with his words on the hit Netflix show; Brown has a way with home décor, too.
Brown recently partnered with HomeGoods to flex his home decorating muscles, transforming a student lounge at none other than his alma mater, Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida.
“The Gibbs Hall student lounge is a very popular communal space for the students at FAMU and the first stop for most first-year students before they even check into their dorms,” Brown tells SheKnows. “My goal was to create a space where the students would immediately feel comfortable, whether it be decompressing from the day, gathering with friends or rallying together to let their voices be heard, like I did when I was a student there.”
For the FAMU project, Brown explored HomeGoods’ wide selection of affordable back-to-campus merchandise to transform the lounge into a creative and inspiring space for the students. In the end, the space, which includes a “zen nook,” a game area and multiple study spaces, looks a lot like his own, sleek fashion style: modern, yet traditional — and exuding a whole lot of class.
The FAMU space is fully functional, too, as students and teachers will be able to utilize the brand new space to foster their creativity, interest and strengthen productivity throughout the year.
We spoke with Brown about how and why he transformed the FAMU lounge, his unique style, tips for home decorating and how this isn’t the first time we’ve seen his home decorating skills; he helps his Queer Eye co-star and home designer Bobby Berk all the time on the show.
SheKnows: What’s so exciting about this collaboration with HomeGoods is we’re able to see your design aesthetic and design skills, while we’ve really only seen your co-star Bobby Berk’s on Queer Eye. Did Bobby give you any advice when you signed on for this collab?
Karamo Brown: It is exciting! What people don’t see on the show is that Bobby and I work together so closely! How you set up your space directly and truly affects your mental health and well-being; Bobby and I are always bouncing off each other in that way, so it was really great to do something new while also giving back to my alma mater, Florida A&M University, with the help of HomeGoods.
Bobby and I generally share the same principles: how to be the true you and how to be the better you. His advice to me on design is to always push to reveal and reimagine spaces in ways that you may have been scared to try, but that you gravitate towards. Usually we know what we want or what we want to change; we just need the freedom to express it!
SK: Let’s talk about FAMU and the newly transformed student lounge. Why was it important to you to not only take on this project but to also show fans this side of you?
KB: College is the time to discover who you are as well as who you want to become, and for me, FAMU was where I found my passion to help others. That’s why I was so excited for this partnership and to be able to go back to my alma mater and give students a new creative space to inspire them to be their best selves!
SK: How would you say the freshly elevated space fosters the students’ interests and increases productivity?
KB: With the new layout, I wanted to bring students a better balance of work and fun. When you’re in college, you work so hard, it’s important to remember to give yourself a break! I was excited to find some unexpected classic board games — perfect to update the game area.
We were also able to bring in a few different study surfaces from HomeGoods, including three personal desks, a sturdy high-top table with wooden stools and a versatile dining table that seats up to eight. And when it’s time for tests and exams, each “study area” is stocked with plenty of notebooks, pencils, pens, chargers and more for classmates to host study groups or meet one-on-one.
SK: How would you describe your personal design aesthetic?
KB: My personal design aesthetic is a mix of traditional and modern. In our new home in L.A., it’s all about setting up each space so that we feel relaxed and at peace in our home.
In terms of color, I like to use soft, cool tones like blue or grey, to make my space feeling calm. Something that is also important to me is keeping my home organized because, if not, I can feel stressed and anxious.
SK: What’s the biggest mistake people make when home decor and home furniture shopping?
KB: I think so many people approach decorating with a narrow image of what they want. My advice is to keep an open mind and let the shopping journey inspire you.
SK: What’s your No. 1 piece of advice regarding revamping one’s home?
KB: Be sure to make your home feel authentic to you! I’m all about being on-trend when it comes to fashion and design, but be sure you are setting up your home so it reflects who are you as a person — and you love being there.
SK: What two or three specific items do you have in your home that are most representative of you and your personality?
KB: My favorite piece in our home right now is the couch in our living room. We currently have an oversized sectional made of this buttery, soft tan leather. I also love to have a ton of pillows and throw blankets on the couch.
Lastly, I like to leave little reminders throughout my home of all the people in my life. I have pictures frames everywhere with my favorite photos of family and friends.
Note: This interview has been edited for style and length.