Women Who Inspire Us
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting a few of the incredible women in the home design and build industry who continue to inspire us with their hard work, ambition, and undeniable talent. We had the amazing opportunity to talk with six trailblazing women (learn more about them below!) who shared about their personal experiences, moments of empowerment, and much more. It was such an honor to hear their insights into what it means to be a woman in the field today. Keep scrolling to see what they had to say!
Kim Vargo is one-half of the team behind the Chicago-based blog Yellow Brick Home. On any given day, you’ll find her and her husband, Scott, course-correcting their way through their 130-year-old house. They’ve taken down walls, turned a kitchen into a bedroom, and love any reason to wear their tool belts and get creative.
Morgan is a co-founder and one-half of the lifestyle brand construction2style, alongside her husband, Jamie. For 10 years, they’ve been tearing houses apart and creating new dream spaces–not only for their clients but for themselves. Morgan oversees all of construction2style‘s content creation, manages brand partnerships, is the writing guru, and lead designer. She also heads up their online education courses and workshops. She’s a forward thinker, risk-taker, and nothing makes her happier than when she gets to play a small part in making people’s dreams and lives thrive.
Rashida Banks is an interior designer and home decor content creator based in Washington, DC. She prides herself on creating high-end, functional designs for her clients, all the while teaching her audience how to be designers of their own homes.
Kelli Fontana Vogelgesang
Designer Kelli Fontana Vogelgesang is known for her timelessly bold, inviting interiors and custom-built luxury homes. Starting her interior design career in Florida in 2003, she became a founder and creative director of West Bay Homes based in Minneapolis in 2014. Kelli believes that a home is an extension and expression of the individuals who inhabit it. Always nurturing and functional: the beauty of her projects is brought forth through her sense of what her clients consider beautiful.
Schannon Yodice is an accountant-turned-tile setter, known online as That Tile Chick. After working as an accountant for nearly a decade, Schannon realized she was unhappy and unfulfilled in her career. In 2020, she left her 9-5 accounting job and started working full-time setting tile. Since then, she’s had incredible career growth and is happier than ever in her hands-on role.
Carmeon Hamilton is a Memphis-based interior designer and lifestyle blogger behind the brand Nubi Interiors, winner of HGTV’s Design Star: Next Gen and star of HGTV’s Reno My Rental. Her work, story, and content around design, branding, and elevating the everyday are featured and referenced in Architectural Digest, Southern Living, Essence, Domino and more. Carmeon utilizes her design education and vast experience to discover the beauty in all things and help others find beauty in what surrounds them every day.
Why do you think it’s important for more women to consider working in the home design and build industry?
Rashida: Diversity is so key to keeping the industry fresh and innovative. Women have a much different life experience and see things from a different lens. Therefore, inventions and best practices can be refined and discovered simply because of varying perspectives. Women of different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds who desire to be a part of this industry should feel welcomed because their perspective can answer issues that have never been solved, or invent new and efficient ways of doing things.
Kim: When we see ourselves reflected in any industry, it’s the boost that young women need to know that they can do this, too! As an Asian American, I’m especially inspired when I see an Asian woman putting in the work and making magic in her/their home. In a male-dominated society, it’s important for us to lean on each other in every sense of the word, from inspiration gathering to comfort to encouragement and design execution.
Morgan: There is a huge gap in the diversity within the home industry. Bringing more women into this industry is one of many ways we can help bridge that gap. I also believe there’s been a handful of stigmas around the construction industry, one of which is its reputation being that it is male-dominated – a man’s world. But we’re making strides! And as we all know, there is a huge labor shortage and looking at the construction industry it’s typically conveyed as blue-collar, boots to the ground, getting your hands dirty, and not necessarily for someone with an educational background. Which is not the case at all.
Schannon: I love proving myself to myself. Every project is a new challenge and overcoming that challenge reminds me of what I am capable of. I think if a woman is interested in this line of work, they should expect to be challenged mentally and physically but I believe everyone is capable of it.
What advice do you have for women joining the industry?
Kelli: Do! Learn and expand your practice. The more you do the more hours you spend, the more experience you gain. Don’t let anyone talk you out of pursuing your passions and your goals, and pursue them with fierce determination.
Schannon: Many people in this industry will try to sway you towards thinking inside the box they think you fit in. Never listen.
Rashida: Find your expertise and really go all in. There are so many sectors of the industry, and while it’s great to be known overall, I do think it’s important to find your “genius”. Whether that be building furniture, painting, construction, upholstery, a certain design style, whatever it may be, operate in your genius and make it loud enough so that everyone watching knows!
Carmeon: I want more women to study ALL aspects of this industry and consider infiltrating spaces where we are rarely seen: architecture, furniture and product design, manufacturing, production and set design, general contracting and building trades, etc. You are needed. Your voice is needed. Your talents are needed in those spaces.
Can you recall a specific experience in your career when you felt particularly empowered as a female?
Morgan: When one of our employees left our company, and after informing our current clients about this transition, one of our clients sent me an email saying how proud I should be for the woman that I just created. And how cool it was to see from an outside lens how we were empowering and uplifting her to go out on her own. To be honest, I had never looked at it that way and it was so cool to be reminded of what we have worked so hard on creating at construction2style. It goes far beyond designing and remodeling homeowners’ homes.
Kim: Nothing fills me with more pride than when my 4-year-old daughter watches what I do and asks to help with a DIY project.
Rashida: There was a moment I felt particularly empowered. It was after spraying my kitchen cabinets. That task was more daunting than some of the laborious build projects because of how much cabinet paint finish matters. And I really wanted a factory smooth finish. When I was done, contractors saw it and wanted to hire me because of the finished product! My answer was no, but it definitely felt good!
Kelli: When I realized I was bringing hundreds of individuals with me on my creative journey. That’s when I knew that I had stepped into a place in my career that took years of experience hustle and failures to come to. It was a moment that I realized that I had done it. Then I set my sights on bigger goals.
What is one thing you wish more people knew about women in this industry?
Kelli: Woman balance so much. Working, career-minded women have to make decisions that are difficult ones. In the end, I feel like my children see me trying and being excited and truly passionate about my work. My daughter has told me that she is proud of me. Her acknowledgment truly means the world to me. I want to show my daughter that she can have a family and a career that brings her much happiness. I tell her all the time that her opportunities are limitless. She knows that what she sees for herself she will become. We are all becoming all of the time. That is a beautiful thing about life. That is a beautiful thing about a creative career.
Kim: Please don’t look at us and think, how do you create work/life balance? We’re not ‘doing it all,’ rather, we’re prioritizing our passion. Some days that might look like cleaning the house and finally putting that recipe to good use, and other days it might look like sawdust and nail guns. Like everyone, we have to put in the hard work.
Morgan: Women are good at multitasking, and that is no myth. Which is a trait that is so desirable and needed in the design and construction industry. Beyond the demands of home, work/life balance – women work so hard behind the scenes with clients, internal and external teams, subs, co-workers, and more. Beyond work, they are good at managing expectations, emotions, processes, organizations and growth. We know how to get things done effectively and efficiently, and don’t tolerate much because there is no time for it. We’re good at switching activities quickly and meeting the demands of deadlines.
Carmeon: Women make up over 60% of the working designers in the industry, but very few of us, less than 30%, are in positions of power and leadership. We still have work to do.
Who are some other women in this industry that inspire you?
Schannon: A few women in this field who inspire me are Cecilia Leger – a tile setter in Nebraska, Anna of The Plumbing Princess, and Morgan Venetos of The Home Collective, a design/build real estate firm.
Morgan: Katie from @jkath_designbuild, Mercedes from @mercedesaustinart, Stephanie from @thedivinelivingspace, Amanda from @henriinterors, Danielle from @clarkandaldine, and so many more. Beyond the incredible work they do and the businesses that they have created and grind at daily, I know how hard each of them work to change this industry and take part in other acts of service to help change the world. They are confident, determined, and are there for other like-minded entrepreneurs, such as myself, to lift us back up off the ground when we continuously fall short. They are women who show up and will drop anything to help others overcome any obstacle they might face.
Kim: My peers in the influencer world are the ones that inspire me the most. To see that anyone can pull up their bootstraps, so to speak, and create a home they love is awe-inducing. While I love to examine the pages of an Architectural Digest magazine, I connect most to those on a similar level to me — i.e., moms with an idea and a tool bag.
Kelli: There are truly so many women I look up to and admire. A few of them include: @kellywearstler – a waitress and graphic designer, Kelly immersed herself in the world of interior design. She took on small jobs at first… word grew! Kelly is a fearless creature with so much to give. Always creating in limitless modalities is very inspiring to me. @windsorsmithhome started as an antique dealer with a distinct eye for purposeful combinations of furniture, layout and architectural impact. Smith’s homes truly interact with the people that inhabit them. Her personal home caught the attention of Gwyneth Paltrow and the rest is history. @elainwelteroth is a journalist with a vision and a tenacity to go for her goals and her dreams. Now an activist, a brand partner, a writer, or a TV host, the list goes on and on, oh, and the editor of Teen Vogue magazine at 27 years old!
Carmeon: Other women in this industry who inspire me include Shavonda Gardner, Nicole White, Erika Ward, Ajia Monét, Nike Onile, Jen Talbot, Leanne Ford, Kelly Wearstler, and Athena Calderone.
Rashida: I’m inspired by Albie of AlbieKnows, Carmeon of Carmeon Hamilton and Nubi Interiors, Shavonda of SGardner Style, Lydia of Drywall Shorty, Ashley of SmashingDIY, Heidi from Heidi Caillier Design, Julia from Chris Loves Julia, Emily of Style by Emily Henderson, Brigette of Romanek Design Studio, Athena of Eyeswoon. I feel like I’m missing so many, but those women–among many others–inspire me daily!
We truly hope you enjoyed learning more about these lovely ladies and each of their unique experiences! We are so inspired by all of the women who enter into the home design and build industry and continue to make it a more inclusive and diverse space.