When Ronda Carman graduated from Clements High School 30 years ago, she had no idea what her career would look like. She major-hopped from fashion merchandising to elementary education and psychology all within her first year at UH, finally landing on a marketing degree. Carman’s resume is just as diverse as her freshman year experience: The Houston-born entrepreneur bounces from published author, speaker, and co-founder of Ronda Carman Fine Fabrics all in a day’s work.
Carman has always been interested in interior design but, she joked, she “can’t draw a stick figure to save her life.” When she and her husband relocated to Glasgow, Scotland, she decided to share her passion for design through writing with her blog, All the Best. The blog gained international attention from outlets like Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Vogue Living, Domino, Home Scotland, and Fox News.
Carman’s book Designers at Home: Personal Reflections on Stylish Living was her first foray into publishing. As a lover of festivities, she's currently completing her forthcoming book, Entertaining at Home: Personal Reflections from Seasoned Hosts, set to debut in 2019. The coffee table book will take readers into the homes and parties of prominent names in design, including Houstonians like Caroline Harper Knapp of House of Harper and Ruth Davis of FOUND to name a few.
Between running her fabric company and penning her latest book, Carman sat down with Houstonia to share stories and inspirations behind the many hats she wears.
On the evolution of her blog:
“I always felt like that movie, ‘Julie and Julia,’ with two people reading my blog … it was my aunt and my mother. Then one day I had like 2,000 visits, and I thought there was something wrong with the stat counter. I realized it was coming from Domino. I reached out to Rita Konig, who's a designer now in London, and thanked her for featuring my blog and asked her if I could do an interview with her. At the time, a lot of the blogs didn't have really original content; we were just repeating what we saw in the magazines and expanding on it. I did the interview with [Konig], and she suggested I reach out to Kelly Wearstler and all these big names. My blog went in that direction of interviewing designers, and that's what gave [me] a different slant at that time. It led to a lot of really amazing opportunities and opened a lot of doors.”
On her new book:
“Honestly, above and beyond interior design, entertaining and cooking are probably my [biggest] loves. I was always that geek child who would go to the library and read Julia Childs. The first real book I ever bought was Martha Stewart's entertaining book that she wrote in the '80s. In this day and age, having done this first book, Designers at Home, and seeing how people live, you realize they're real people.
"It’s not a 'how to entertain' book at all … however you want to open your home to people is entirely fine; there are no rules. It’s a peek into people’s real life and how they invite people into their home … my hope is that it’s inspirational and aspirational. You may never do it, but it’s still fun to read about and pretty to look at.”
On her aesthetic:
“Traditional furniture and modern art. … There's something about that tension between the modern and the traditional credit juxtaposition. I always think where that tension is between two things is where the interest lies.”
“One thing I've learned later in life is don't wait. Don't wait until it's perfect. Don't wait until you think you have the right table, the right china or anything. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today, especially when it means having people who you love and friends and family around you.”
On her favorite type of parties:
“For me, it's just fun to plan and create a really fun, pretty, and special place for people that mean a lot to me. Just to have them around me and around the table to create memories. Something I always say to my kids is that we've got to deposit good memories in our memory box, and having people around the table is a good way to do that.”
On the design icons she'd love to meet:
“Kate Spade was a girl crush that I always had and one person that I always had on my list to interview on the blog but never had a chance to meet. I just thought she was so amazing. It was so sad to lose such a creative, intelligent person. And obviously, I'm crazy about Jackie Kennedy. She would definitely be on the list with Babe Paley and Eleanor Roosevelt. If I could just throw [in] a crazy person for good measure before he lost his mind, I'd probably say Truman Capote!”
On her favorite place to travel:
“Majorca, Spain. It's a little island by itself. You just feel like you're in the middle of nowhere, which you are, but people are so friendly. There's just this old-world charm, and it's not pretentious.”
On advice for being successful:
“I'm just a big believer [that] if a door opens, you should at least walk through, look around, and see what's on the other side. If you don't like it, you can always leave. I always try to just stay really true to what feels right.”