Each fall and spring, 20 interior design influencers are selected to participate in the widely anticipated One Room Challenge, in which the chosen designers document the process of transforming a singular room while also sharing their sources and professional advice in weekly progress posts.
Anyone following along on social media is also invited to be a guest participant, flooding social media with seasonal interior design inspiration, ideas, and encouragement each week. Now in its 20th season, more than 5,400 rooms have been transformed to date through the One Room Challenge.
One such room is a bathroom Chicago-based interior designer Joy Williams created this spring—a design that led to Williams being selected by Better Homes & Gardens magazine home editors and One Room Challenge creator Linda Weinstein as a “featured designer” for the One Room Challenge iteration this fall.
Inspired by her travels to Morocco, Williams melded cultural influences from the African diaspora and the Mediterranean into her design.
That wasn’t always the goal, though. She had initially planned for the room to be more subdued than it is today with just a standout, electric blue shower. Instead, she had to swap out the soft gray tiles she wanted, which were delayed, for a bold geometric Fireclay tile that became the centerpiece of the space.
“I just went for it,” says Williams. “I did a diagonal stripe on the ceiling that juxtaposes with the graphic tilework and puts a finer point on it. The black-and-white stripe reminds me of the Mediterranean, and the blue tiles feel like Greece. It’s a true mix of ancient cultures. I almost always include pops of color and cultural references in my design work.”
Williams uses her love of travel and sophisticated design to serve her clients’ design needs and believes that form and function can coexist to create beautiful and well-appointed interiors. Her full-service firm, Joyful Designs Studio, works with both residential and commercial clients nationwide.
After becoming an unintentional landlord in 2008—she had to rent her Washington, D.C. home to move back to her hometown in Chicago during the housing crisis—Williams fell into the world of interior design. She renovated that house to maximize its appeal, then invested in a few more properties once back in Chicago. Fast forward to today, and the self-taught Williams now has a robust rental portfolio, a signature design aesthetic, and a steady stream of interior design clients spanning from Chicago to D.C. to Georgia.
“What my clients always expect from me is a focus on culture and color,” says Williams. “And my spaces must function well. Designers like Kelly Wearstler elevate the interior design community with an artistic perspective, a perspective which I love. I want the homes I design to feel livable and adaptable as well. Function is key. However, I like a bit of whimsy in my design work and love to incorporate elements from my travels, African culture, and historical references.”
Take, for example, another recent project that had Williams redesigning the former home of American composer, pianist, and jazz orchestra leader Duke Ellington for a client who wanted to transform an ancillary space into luxurious guest quarters for visiting family and friends.
“They wanted it to feel like a hotel,” explains Williams. “I researched how Duke Ellington had lived on the block and learned he’d often visit speakeasies. I interpreted that as a way to do something that felt a little more bespoke and British with tons of character.”
For the historically significant home, Williams divided the main spaces into two bedrooms, a living room, and full kitchen. For the smaller of the two bedrooms, which connects to the living room, Williams installed a sliding barn door crafted from glass to allow natural light to pour into both spaces.
In the living room, she used a graphic wallpaper by Chicago-based Mitchell Black Wallpaper & Textiles, a Black- and women-owned wholesaler, that adds volume to the room even though there’s not an abundance of furniture. A convex mirror by Ballard Designs, a swinging arm lamp for extra lighting, and a CB2 sofa in a custom red hue all add Williams’ signature quirk.
“The wallpaper brings the room together and highlights my maximalist tendencies,” says Williams. “The client had wanted a black sofa, but it did nothing to complement her favorite color palette of blues and grays. I knew we needed to make a statement to separate the living room.”
In the kitchen, Williams made a big impact with just a little bit of paint. She refinished the cabinetry, added new hardware, and installed a backsplash but kept the original countertops and layout the same. The result? A highly considered space that is just as beautiful as it is functional.
For the fall One Room Challenge, Williams has yet to decide between redoing a bedroom or a living room. Either way, she has her eye on a few design trends, including a return to maximalism and the emergence of bold and saturated color.
“When I think of maximalism, I think of a comfy room with lots of things that you love,” says Williams. “I think earthy colors will be big. Think tones like cinnamon, deep reds and browns, mustard, and burnt orange. I love the deep saturation of Farrow & Ball colors. The Brits have been doing this fantastically for years, of course, and now we’re seeing it stateside.”
And soon, we’ll be seeing it all come together in the latest One Room Challenge.
For more information, visit joyfuldesignsllc.com.