Karen Booker - Living the DeZign Diva lifestyle
It is not every day that you meet people who seem to have great taste without even trying. Beautiful spaces don't generally just happen. They usually are created, and interior designer Karen Booker, known as the 'Dezign Diva' understands that her job is more than just creating a visual or ambient enhancement of an interior space. She goes all out to apply creative solutions to the areas she designs.
Booker has an innate flair for colour, spatial arrangements, architecture, and textiles, and over the years, has received accolades on her design styles that have created beautiful and comfortable spaces.
According to Booker, as an interior designer, it's not just about picking out colours and fabrics to make a space more beautiful. She says that interior designers also have to concern themselves with everything that needs to take place in order to meet a client's needs and make the client happy.
"We work with strict deadlines and make sure all of the work is completed on time. We have to facilitate all aspects of a project to ensure success, and we must work with a number of very key people in order to accomplish what the client originally set out as important goals to be met in creating a new design," Booker said.
With an adventurous sense of style, Booker's designs seamlessly marry contemporary influences, blending high and low and old and new with soulful sophistication and grace. She credits her mother, Hyacinth Simms, for her interest in interior designing and states that she was her first teacher.
"It was born from the concept of us always recreating and re-imaging things around the home. We had to 'tek we hand make fashion' and basically make lemonade out of lemons. I was lucky to have had a mother with great style. We learnt the deep value of things and didn't throw away something unless we had to," Booker said.
"I learnt to transform a pipe into a curtain rod and a bedside table into an entrance foyer. I have made a footstool out of tyre and rope, and the legs were flapper balls out of the toilet and used a glue gun to transform the piece into something that looked like it was imported from Indonesia. I have looked at things differently from then," Booker added.
Unexpected influences, it seems, define her spirited and distinctive aesthetic, a dynamic that makes Booker one of the most sought-after interior designers in the business. "I draw my inspiration from everything around me and I am always learning. When you know what is out there, you tend to improve the options that are available to enhance your client's designs," she said.
However, Booker's successes did not happen overnight. Against her mother's wishes for her to become a nurse, she began what initially seemed to be an unforgiving journey, venturing into the world of interior designing in the hustle and bustle of New York City.
While completing her fine arts degree in interior designs from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Booker utilised every opportunity she had to work for different design entities free of cost and read every interior designing book she could get her hands on.
Booker was energised and determined to gain as much practical experience as she could, and after a few setbacks she became the director of interior design at Bloomingdales and the first black woman, and Jamaican, to have attained that position. "I was constantly on the go and having to prove myself. It definitely was the ideal job opportunity, but it also had its challenges," she said.
It was after several trips to Jamaica after a hiatus of more than 17 years that Booker decided she would relocate to the island. It was not an easy decision for her to make as she was stepping into unknown territory, but after spending an extended time in Jamaica, she found creative ways of marketing herself.
"I saw the programme The Anchor and decided to enter the competition. It was a good experience, and from that exposure, I got called for an opening at CVM Television and I did two seasons of CVM At Sunrise," Booker said.
"It was a rough start but then I got the job as the lead designer for the then Runaway Bay Heart Hotel, now Cardiff Hotel, and got the opportunity to renovate everything there. It was a proud moment for me," Booker said.
Her weekly television programme on TVJ's Smile Jamaica started after that exposure and the rest, as they say, is history. Booker's enterprise has now expanded significantly with the Karen Booker Design Group that includes DeZign Diva and DeZign Diva Lifestyle.
Booker is confident that persons who are genuinely interested in interior designing, with the right mindset, can become successful. "You have to have the right training and with certification. Persons who adhere to industry standards and keep abreast of the current trends can create their own brand," she said.