Tamarra Younis is an interior designer and owner of the firm Union of Art based at Mt Washington and Sayida located in Highland Park California. Tamarra is a world traveler, having lived in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. She has seen interior design styles from all different cultures which have influenced her own unique style.
Creation, art, and design run through her veins having worked in a wide variety of industries. After studying theater production at Central Saint Martins and fashion design at FIT some of Tamarra’s work includes fashion, set design, fine art, and furniture design.
Tamarra’s most recent project was for Kate Jackson, a business owner, mom, and wife of Foo Fighters bassist. She was able to transform their second-floor garage into functional multi-room work and home space. Kate and her children occupy the space making it essential for the design to complement both work and play.
Tamarra transformed the room while still complimenting both function and beauty creating a livable space with showroom quality. Like the age-old saying in fashion, money cannot buy you style Tamarra believes this also applies to interior design. It does not need to cost a fortune to create a chic space. In an interview with House Tipster Industry Tamarra tells her story and gives readers tips and tricks on how to save big and create child-friendly elegance.
House Tipster Industry: How did you break into the design space, and what were some of your first jobs?
Tamarra Younis: I started my design journey in London studying Theater Design at Saint Martin’s College but I ultimately hopped on a plane to NYC to study Fashion at FIT. After graduating, I began my career as a designer under James Coviello. Little did I know, this would also be the start of my love affair with Interior Design! One morning, I came into the studio to find a little note on my desk that read, “this one is all yours, make it pretty!” and the challenge was set for me to develop a fabulous home goods line that would represent the Coviello name. At about the same time, a good friend of mine was building out a restaurant in Nolita and asked if I would like to consult on the Interior Design. He wanted a modern feel with a vintage twist, all of which was music to my ears. After the opening of the restaurant, one of the investors was so impressed that they hired me to help him and his fiance design their home in the Hamptons. As a newfound Interior Designer, I fell in love with the challenge of finding a way to marry his New York modern bachelor vibe with her classic southern bell elegance was quite difficult but it was this chance opportunity that opened the door for me to cross from Fashion to Interiors. Since then, my journey has continued to be colorful and winding. Proof that life is full of surprises as long as you stay open to the chances that arise along the way!
House Tipster Industry: How would you describe your personal aesthetic?
Tamarra Younis: I would say I’m a curator of unique and wonderful things from all over the world! My little house in Los Angeles has gained the nickname Marrakesh in Mount Washington as it mixes modern and 70’s vintage with a world-traveled Moroccan flair. I love to surround myself with furniture, art, and textiles that remind me of all the people and places I have visited over the years. I have a major passion for vintage lighting. For some ladies it’s shoes, but for me, it’s all about finding that unique, one of a kind lamp I just can’t live without. In my own home, I typically opt for a neutral color palette. This way, I can showcase all my colorful treasures, my lamp collection, and experiment with new arrangements as often as I like. My friends often joke that my house is like a living jewelry box but comfort is always my utmost priority. Nothing is too precious that it can’t be used (especially seeing as I have two small dogs that I can’t keep off of anything). I truly believe that our homes are a direct expression of who we are and how we live. Right now with COVID, our wings have been clipped and travel isn’t really feasible so it’s important to make our homes feel like our own personal oasis.
House Tipster Industry: What drives your design decisions? What are some of your biggest inspirations?
Tamarra Younis: Without a doubt, my biggest inspiration would be my mother. From an early age, she dragged to just about every art gallery, museum, and antique store from London to the Middle East. It wasn’t until much later that I would come to appreciate the long-lasting effect those days would have on me. My childhood home was a showcase for my mom’s passion for art, her keen eye for antiques, and a fabulous sense of color. She managed to mix her classic English style with love and respect of my father’s middle eastern heritage, all with the mod 70s twist of their time. My mother inspired a foundation and understanding in me that there is no limit to life’s inspirations. She taught me to appreciate all forms of art and culture. All you have to do to keep things fresh is to take a look at the ever-changing world around us.
House Tipster Industry: You have lived all over the world; the Middle East, Europe, and North America how do you feel that has shaded your design style?
Tamarra Younis: Through my travels, I have developed a great appreciation of cultures around the world and their unique craft traditions. I love exploring my client’s family histories while developing their design aesthetics. From re-framing one of their grandmother’s watercolors to designing a whole room around an heirloom rug, I strive to bring a sense of the past to my client’s home that honors family history while incorporating it into their own modern style. It’s one thing to design a pretty room and another thing entirely to capture the essence of the people who live inside it.
House Tipster Industry: How do you typically start your design process?
Tamarra Younis: For me it all starts with the client and how they want to feel inside of their home. I typically start with an initial consultation to discuss their aspirations and develop an understanding of their needs and aesthetic preferences. I’m a big lover of Pinterest and usually have the client collaborate with me to pull together some initial imagery that defines the overall design feeling they want to achieve. From there, I begin to bring their visions to life with targeted inspiration boards for each area they are looking to design. No matter what the budget, I want my clients to feel like their dream home is achievable and I work closely with them to develop and implement plans that will bring their inspirations to life and create spaces that are a direct reflection of their individual style.
House Tipster Industry: What is your best advice for creating a stylish space on a budget?
Tamarra Younis: When designing on a budget – no matter how big or small – it’s important to think critically about the ultimate goals for their home. It doesn’t have to come together overnight if you can’t afford it all at once but you do need to have a plan for the space. I also find that it works best to take on the project one room at a time. You’ll get the most of your money if you take the time to put together a cohesive aesthetic plan with a corresponding purchasing list. When you do this, you end up with a tangible vision to work towards. This plan can adjust as your space develops and be completed in phases.
Determine and select the most important piece of furniture for each room first and then build around it until that room is fully completed. Keep your shopping list short and be critical about the things you really need to build a strong foundation (the fluff can always be added later). And most importantly, remember it’s always better to spend a little more on something of high quality that you really love than to fill your home with cheap items that won’t stand the test of time. You may have to extend your timelines and wait for the holiday sales but believe me, it will save you money in the long run.
House Tipster Industry: Do you find cutting costs has to mean compromising on style?
Tamarra Younis: I truly believe in the old saying that money can’t buy you style. Of course, every designer loves a project with a big budget but I often find that when you have to get a bit more creative with your spending, you end up coming up with the best ideas. The most important thing is to find your style and really own it. Just because you can’t afford to run out to the nearest high-end furniture boutique and clear the shelves doesn’t mean you can’t have a fabulous and inspired home. If you’re open to a bit of hunting and have patience there are many wonderful places you can find treasures on a dime. I’m a big lover of vintage stores, flea markets, and thrift stores. With a bit of restoration and a good upholsterer, you can bring just about any old piece a new life and make it your own. Other places, like HomeGoods, have end of the season or last of the collection finds and if all else fails, there’s always Black Friday.
House Tipster Industry: Especially in spaces occupied by families, how do you as a designer combine function and beauty? Giving a home a showroom feel with comfort and function.
Tamarra Younis: Here is a quick list of some of my favorite tips for stylish family living! Here goes…
– Quick cleanups and storage is a key! Hunt for pieces that are stylish and dual function such as ottomans with removable tops or a sleek console table with room for baskets underneath.
– Navigating sticky fingers and spilt juice cups is serious business. Consider a slipcover or hard-wearing fabrics such as commercial or indoor/outdoor grade (especially if you just can’t resist having that dreamy designer white sofa you’ve always wanted).
– Use rounded corners anywhere you can and explore the idea of an upholstered coffee table instead of one with hard edges.
– When selecting a sectional make sure it’s deep and cozy with enough room for the whole family to bundle up on.
– Look for a rug that has a soft and cozy texture, color, or pattern that will be great for playtime on the floor but also disguise any accidents. You may also consider an indoor-outdoor rug for added durability.
– A cozy nook with a rocking or a large accent chair is a must! Find a corner and pair it with a great lamp and side table with storage, the perfect spot for cuddles, and a book.
– Don’t forgo that fabulous piece of art but do hang it high enough that it’s out of the kiddos reach!
– Rather than sticking your kids art on the fridge with a magnet, have the most sentimental pieces framed professionally and dedicate a wall in your house for family memorabilia.
– Invest in a large can of Scotchgard, apply often and liberally
House Tipster Industry: How do you best achieve getting the most out of a small space?
Tamarra Younis: Don’t let small spaces curb your big ideas. Avoid over cluttering, ultimately you want to try to maintain as much open floor space as possible. Dual-purpose or modular furniture pieces are ideal so that you can get the most function out of every item in the space but specific about what furniture you really need. Pick a fun accent color but keep the overall color palette in neutral tones. You’ll want to use height to as much as possible create the illusion of more space by hanging window treatments at the highest point to the ceiling as possible. If you’re a plant lover, curate them on your wall or make a fun hanging feature in a corner! A large statement piece of artwork or a fabulous light fixture can be used to draw your eye to a focal point in the room and add a bit of grandeur. Having said all that… If you stumble across something fabulous that you just can’t live without, don’t be afraid to bring it home because there’s always a way to fit in the things we love, no matter how small the space is!