Interviews

Take my word, keep charging ahead and don’t give up – A Conversation with Jamaican designer Taj

A Conversation with Jamaican designer Taj
Written by Yvette N. Harris

Jamaican Taj Hunter Waite is a designer in the areas of interiors, graphics and events with a deep passion for art and culture. Her practice is best known for her design-savvy approach to combining global influences with modern luxury. Taj’s distinctive design sensibility is modern, with a fresh approach to incorporating texture, color and pattern with timeless pieces that result in a unique design aesthetic. Also, Taj is the Creative Consultant for Art Africa Miami Arts Fair that is held in Historic Overtown during Art Basel and Miami Art Week.

Over the past 15 years, Taj has designed and curated industry conferences and cultural events. She has completed design projects both internationally and within the United States. In 2005, her passion for sourcing unique objects led to her co-founding The Urban Collective — a lifestyle boutique that showcased limited-edition crafts and objects d’art sourced globally with an emphasis on the continent of Africa, sustainability, and social consciousness.

In 2010, Taj was honored with the Success South Florida 40 Under 40 Leaders of Today and Tomorrow distinction. Her talents and work have also been featured in several publications such as WE Magazine for Women, Sun-Sentinel, Lioness Magazine, South Florida Caribbean News, Lonny Magazine, Domaine and many others. For the Art Africa Miami Arts Fair, we are proud to have Taj as our Creative Consultant to curate a unique in gallery experience, special programs for community engagement as well as logistics management.

Truly a women entrepreneur who created a platform to bring ideas to life in a creative, purposeful way. Here is our conversation with Taj.

When did you first know that you wanted to become an interior designer? What was that moment like?
I knew my entire childhood but I thought it would be fashion.  I never knew of Interior Design as a profession growing up, there was no HGTV back then.  The most we had was Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous with Robin Leach…I know I’m dating myself with that reference ☺  Even for fashion, the family support wasn’t there so my bachelor’s degree is in business.  After I graduated, one of my best friend’s father – who knew of my creative dreams – referred me to a colleague who is an architect.  I was hired in their marketing department.  It was the most exciting experience of my life just to work with other creatives.  I was heavily involved in the projects, preparing proposals, engaging with clients and soon found myself in design school.  Everything came full circle.

What does your company do?
My design practice provides full interior design and renovation services.  We take your project from design development through completion; including full gut jobs for kitchens, bathrooms and more.  We also offer e-design services to work with clients around the country and abroad.  With e-design services, we partner with the client in the execution of the project.  As a result, the client saves on the budget significantly.  Since we’re not in the same location, the client sends pictures and measurements of the space they want designed.  We guide them in this process with what pictures to send and how to capture all the measurements we need.  Our role is to develop the design and source all items for purchase.  The client purchases the items at their own pace and does the installation, all with our guidance.  We provide a complete package including a furniture plan indicating exactly where everything goes from ceiling to floor.

What is your creative process like from start to finish?
The design aesthetic of All Things Taj is one that is modern with global influences.  Our process is to tell a client’s story through the implementation of culture and casual luxury.  Long gone are the days of the “untouchable living room”.  We want to enjoy our homes, we want our homes to be our retreat – however we individually define that – we want our home to reflect us in a chic and elevated way.  It’s a special process…we not only simply sleep and entertain in our homes but we also work, we create special memories with our loved ones and, we also want to feel we have a comforting place to just chill.  So, the creative process for each client is to learn these special elements that are dear to each person in the home and heighten that reality in a beautiful and endearing way.

And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I give credit for my entrepreneurial drive to my maternal grandmother.  In her heyday, she always instilled the value of having my own dollar as a young woman and that I can always do more.  She set strong examples, it was how she lived.  She was always in search of how to create work.  Her mind constantly turned with these thoughts and, most impressively, she waited for no one.  If she needed a ride somewhere and you weren’t moving fast enough for her, she would be out that door walking.  I have several memories jumping in my car and pulling up next to her laughing.  We have a special bond.  She’s 92 now and still with me, still pushing me to do more.

How do you balance motherhood and your career?
It has been both a blessing and an intentional family decision with my husband that I’d have a home office and remain flexible.  When I had my son 12 years ago, we had a ton of help because I was working with a firm and on that rigorous corporate grind.  I’ve had my own practice now for over 4 years and each day is different.  Mommy duty doesn’t wait, but I make sure I carve out “me” time as well.  The husband needs some focus as well, LOL.  It’s truly a mastery of time management and organization while maintaining your sanity.  Sometimes it doesn’t go as planned but I have help.  I take care of the food and laundry, thank God hubby loves to clean!

What advice do you have for other aspiring women who want to get into the interior designing space?
Seek a mentor.  If you don’t know anyone in the industry, you could intern with an interior designer.  Design your home and take before/after pictures and blog about the process.  If you can’t do that, there are so many free tools to use to prepare a digital portfolio of your design style so it’s ready if someone asks.  Find established designers in your area on social media and reach out to them for that internship.  You have to go for it.  I’ve been teaching a design certification course in South Florida for almost 3 years now and mentor many students long after they complete my class.  I also founded “The Designer Compound” where I teach the business of the industry.  We don’t learn the business aspect in design school.  My next 2-day Designer Compound bootcamp will be this Spring and by the time you leave there, you have a personalized roadmap to move forward.  I got my M.B.A. years ago which gave me a strong business foundation and that was supplemented by mentors throughout my journey.  If I were just starting out today, I think my process would be different as a result of the internet and the access to experts in every field.  There are so many paths in my industry one can pursue.  Take my word, keep charging ahead and don’t give up.

Learn More about Taj by visiting her website – https://www.allthingstaj.com

About the author

Yvette N. Harris