Preparation Opens Doors for Design Star
Memphis-based interior designer Carmeon Hamilton’s ’08 premiere focus in her work is the psychology behind the design.
Hamilton’s childhood home in West Memphis was always pulled together beautifully. She remembers her mother was fashionable and had a natural knack for decorating and creating spaces that felt warm, inviting and peaceful.
“I know what our home felt like. When I would go to other homes, it didn’t always have the same feeling. My mom was very particular about the details – from the plants she had to the types of dishes we ate from. She even put up multiple Christmas trees every year.” It wasn’t until several years later that Hamilton could put words to those feelings.
Excelling in the classroom and on the basketball court in high school, Hamilton received several academic and athletic scholarship offers. She decided the University of Central Arkansas would be the best fit for her. “I chose not to play basketball, but I didn’t want to stray too far away from the environment of sports. Physical therapy seemed like a good fit for me at the time,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton lost her academic scholarship after her sophomore year. “I was overdoing it,” she said. Some semesters she enrolled in several intense and time-consuming classes, at times totaling more than 18 credit hours. “I wanted to make sure I didn’t become a professional student. I was aiming to graduate within four years.”
The setback would lead to a new journey from which she never looked back.
“Design found me,” she said.
Entering her junior year, Hamilton applied to be a resident assistant to cover some of the cost.
She was assigned to Carmichael Hall and would have her own room. The space and autonomy served as a blank canvas for the future designer. “It had cinder block walls and VCT [vinyl composition tile] floors. I don’t remember if it was white or gray. It just felt cold, and I wanted the opposite of that. I wanted it to feel as much like a studio apartment as possible.”
Hamilton told her mom about her vision which would have a hot pink and zebra print theme. Together they found a plethora of hot pink and zebra items, including fabric they used for pillows, curtains and lampshades.
“My mom, who was a teacher, was big on inspirational sayings. She printed several quotes on hot pink construction paper and laminated them to hang in the room. There was a lot of hot pink and zebra in that room.”
Hamilton no longer has photos of the space and struggles to remember all the details, but she remembers being very pleased with the results. One of her friends encouraged Hamilton to look into UCA’s interior design program.
“I didn’t know interior design could be a career, let alone something you could study at a university,” Hamilton said. “The next day, I went and talked to the dean and decided to change my major within 10 minutes of talking to her.”
Hamilton says everything that affected the way her life is today happened the week of August 6, 2006. “I started my RA job. I met my husband, and I changed my major to interior design within three days of each other,” Hamilton said. “At the time, I knew I was smart and capable, but I never saw myself as being where I am today.”
Hamilton’s first opportunity to be a professional designer came during one of her senior seminar classes at UCA. The professor had invited a colleague who happened to be the vice president of an interior design department for a health care company.
“I was the only person in the class that had a finalized presentation by the deadline. My professor’s colleague offered me a job on the spot. She told me, ‘I love what you did, but I am more impressed that you were prepared.’ Being prepared has been what I lived by ever since.”
Hamilton started her new job in Fort Smith, Arkansas, two weeks after graduation. She learned a lot about commercial interior design, including reviewing facilities, developing design plans for dementia units and working with clients. That experience shaped Hamilton into an even more thoughtful designer.
“I started gaining a deeper understanding of how certain colors affect moods as we designed around people’s favorite memories,” Hamilton said. “Witnessing how the environments were aiding their health and a better existence helped me understand how important the role of an interior designer is. It is not just to make a space pretty, but it is also to transform how people feel in the space.”
Knowing how interior design can affect an atmosphere, mood and overall well-being has been a driving force for Hamilton for the past 12 years. That, she says, is one reason she did not enjoy working in retail.
“I got fired as a design consultant because I stunk at sales,” Hamilton said. “I would tell clients not to buy certain things because it wasn’t worth their money. Going from the sales side to the environmental side – making sure people felt something when they walk in a store – was more my style. The way we feel in an environment can affect how much money we spend, how our food tastes, how much fun we have.”
Today, Hamilton is an interior designer and lifestyle blogger who has created and grown her brand, Nubi Interiors, into a successful business.
“I didn’t go after being on a design show or having a TV show. I didn’t strive to be a lead buyer of a retail brand, but I was prepared when those opportunities came along. Learning and absorbing as much as possible keeps me prepared. It’s that ‘if-you-stay-ready-you-ain’t-gotta-get-ready’ mentality that I subscribe to.”
In 2020, Hamilton was named a rising star in the design world by “Architectural Digest.” In 2021, she participated in and won HGTV’s competition show “Design Star: Next Gen.” She also hosts the HGTV series “Reno My Rental,” which began streaming in 2021 shortly after her husband of ten years, Marcus Hamilton ’07, was hit and killed in a motorcycle accident by an intoxicated driver. She shared on social media he would have wanted her to keep pursuing her dreams.
“Nubi is a nickname my husband gave me, which was short for Nubian princess. He is actually the person who named my company. We also liked the play on the words ‘Nubi’ and ‘Interior’. You hear ‘Nubian’ when you say it,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton wants people to recognize the beauty that surrounds them in everyday life.
“If I can open your eyes to something that you see every day and may have ignored – like a houseplant – and convince you about how much of a difference they make in a space, that makes me happy. That is the influence I want to have: enlightening people to see the beauty of the everyday.”