An inspiring conversation with Emmy Nominee Tyka Pryde Edwards, who wears multiple creative hats as an Art Director and Interior Designer for major production companies including HBO Max & Netflix, plus her own journey as an Interior Designer. Tyka shares invaluable insights on building a compelling personal brand, and how she leveraged this to open her own design firm. Learn how she defies the cookie-cutter mold in both design and media, and what prompted her to shift from being behind the camera to taking center stage with her expertise.
Tyka is a visionary television art director and interior designer. She has worked across the globe with top networks such as HBO Max, Netflix, Amazon, Discovery+, HGTV, Fox and VH1. In 2022, Tyka launched her own design firm, where she embraces both private and commercial projects, as well as television production design. This year, she is nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Production Design For A Variety Of Reality Series.
Interior design is so important to your brand and your mental health and just where you live every day is super important.– Tyka Edwards, Art Director and Interior Designer
Here’s what you can expect to hear in this episode:
- Tyka’s journey with her personal brand & TikTok
- How she decides what content to create
- How to shift out of a buying mindset
- How to create a space you are connected to
How did you get to this point? What led you to interior design, production design, all of the incredible work you do and starting your own business?
So I originally went to college for business school in Valdosta, Georgia, and I hated it. I just did it because, what do you do when you’re 18 and you don’t know what you’re supposed to do with your life?
So then after like a year and a half I actually dropped out like mid-semester, moved to Atlanta, was working at a restaurant, completely lost, didn’t know what I was going to do with my life.
Then I met this girl who was in film school in Atlanta and she was working on a Lana Del Rey music video, something huge at the time and I was like, oh, you can actually be a creative person and make money and do cool things.
And so, meeting someone who is actually doing something cool in the creative industry made me want to pursue that. It wasn’t encouraged growing up in the creative arts at all. So I got the courage to sign up for film school, went to film school in Atlanta.
And then I got my first job in TV on a home makeover show, it was called Home Free on Fox and I just loved it. It was the perfect combination of all my skills and interests with TV and film and also interior design.
So it all just kind of came together and I was like, this is it. This is what I want to do. And it’s been on the road ever since.
What does your personal brand mean to you? Did you have a plan for it when you started out on TikTok?
I really didn’t. I was an active TikTok user, but not a content creator by any means. I was big on interior design TikTok, that was what my feed was all the time. But I found a lot of people sort of saying the same thing and regurgitating the same tips and tricks.
And also telling people how to carbon copy something that they’re doing. I just saw a lot of repetition. And so I felt like I had something new to contribute to the conversation and to the space.
So I was like, I’m just going to upload one video and just see what happens. I had no expectations, I wasn’t trying to go viral or anything like that. I was just thinking, let me upload for a couple of weeks and see what happens.
I posted my first one, and it got way more than I was expecting and then the second one had 300,000 views and then the third one had 500,000. I just posted every day for two weeks and gained like 30,000 followers in the first couple weeks. It was crazy.
And then it’s doubled plus some since then and I didn’t set out to be like a content creator. I’m actually pretty shy and never really wanted to be in front of the camera.
But I found this community on TikTok and the TikTok community is actually really kind in terms of all the other social media commenters and stuff. So I just have so much love and support and people who genuinely need help.
I get lots of messages and I have my DMs open, so I just answer messages all day and try to help as many people as I can. And it’s been so fulfilling and really warm and kind.
How are you balancing the two businesses? Are they two separate things, your design agency and your personal brand?
At this point, they’re two separate things. So through TikTok and all these influx of new people wanting my services, I launched my own interior design firm. And I would say 95% of my clients are from TikTok and have found me through TikTok.
But it is super challenging to balance the career and the television stuff with this new chapter of my journey. I’m at a very weird point in my career right now where I’m thinking, do I stop taking TV jobs and fully dive into my own brand and my company?
I’m kind of playing it safe right now, I’ve still got my hands in here and there and I need to kind of make a swing one way or the other. So it’s a tough balance.
But it’s been nice too, now with my business, I do have the freedom and ability to be way more choosy about everything, which is beautiful.
How are you deciding on what to make? Do you have something that you always come back to when you’re thinking about what you’re creating and putting out there?
I really just have a message and what my message that I wanna share is, as cheesy as it sounds, really truly be yourself and be unique. You can express yourself through interior design and it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
You can have a nice space that’s not something you found exactly on Pinterest or got everything from Studio McGee. I just want to give people the tips and tricks and tools to basically know the rules of interior design, because there are some rules to stick to, but then really infuse their own style and personal expression.
I think interior design is so important to your brand and your mental health and just where you live every day is super important. It’s not a superficial thing that a lot of people treat it as.
For me, I have anxiety as most people do in this day and age, but, my space has a lot to do with that. So if it’s cluttered or if I don’t have enough storage or certain colors I don’t do well with.
So having a space that’s my own, that’s beautified, that’s functional, that helps me be more productive, it helps me feel more connected to myself. It can get really deep designing with people.
I think in today’s day and age, we’re being influenced constantly and told what to buy and TikTok shop now is like taking it to a whole other level that I just am not happy with. But I want to kind of counteract that constant influencing that’s happening and say, you don’t have to buy that.
You have cool stuff in your house. And if it’s this size, it can go over here. Or if that’s too small, try it over here. We don’t have to constantly be buying stuff.
How do you switch out of the mindset of buying because someone is telling you to versus creating a space that is connected to you and makes your life better?
Take Studio McGee. I’m only using it as an example because it’s just so readily available and well advertised and it’s in Target. That is great because it makes good design accessible for people, where it wasn’t before, so that’s beautiful.
But the problem is everything is the same now. And it’s kind of like this blanket, this white blanket that’s gone over the uniqueness that people would normally infuse into their space.
People didn’t used to treat their apartments in this way, trying to make it aesthetically pleasing, white, just all the same. And so I feel like I don’t want people to lose a sense of themselves in this sort of environment that’s being created.
I want to teach people how they can design their space and it still feel like them. I feel like it’s really important that your space reflects who you are and if you have guests over or you like to host a lot, you could have a nice space where everyone’s like, oh, that’s beautiful.
Or you can have a space where people walk in and they’re like, whoa, that’s sick. Where’d you get this? Or this is so you, oh my gosh. And I think that’s a more exciting place to be in. So I kinda wanna push people that way.
How do you help push people in that direction?
For me, I think having references that are all across the board really helps. I think a lot of people have too few references. So Pinterest is their only reference for their home or a designer is their only reference or one influencer.
So then you’re just like copying. It’s a carbon copy. It’s like a machine of the same stuff. So I have a lot of influence. I do a lot of movie screenshots in my mood boards for interiors. I do pictures of nature,I do like pictures from my grandma’s house.
I mean literally anything and everything that speaks to you, album covers, food, any of those imagery you can put them on a design board as your starting place and it’s more abstract but from there you’ll start to see a pattern.
You’ll start to see like, oh, I guess I really like curvy, organic shapes or, there’s a lot of ruby velvet in here. You’ll start to see a pattern and in comes your identity and what you’re actually drawn to without looking at Pinterest and being like, that’s pretty.
And then I try to get into the psychology of a person. And sometimes they just need help picking out a tile and they’re thinking I don’t know why you’re asking me what my favorite movie is. It helps and it takes us somewhere new and exciting.
And also working in TV, like for example, on Queer Eye, we don’t ever personally meet the hero, the person’s home that we’re making over. We just have them fill out a questionnaire and it’s a lot of psychological questions.
And then from there, we feel like we know who this person is and what they need and what they like. And every time we’ve had nothing but success and them walking in and being blown away, like how did you know?
So you can totally create a perfect place for someone from all these random questions that don’t seem to matter, but they really do. They really inform the design.
Does this help people avoid the feeling that they constantly have to buy and shift what their space looks like?
That’s actually one of the big things people from TikTok message me about.
Some of them are truly in distress from the money they’ve spent on their house and just constantly being on the internet and feeling like they’re not good enough or their space isn’t good enough or like their bathrooms out of date or they need to update their countertop appliances.
For some people, it really is like a big money suck thing for them. And if it’s you and your personal style and you made those decisions from a deeper place than Pinterest, you won’t want to remodel your kitchen every two years.You won’t need to do that.
Can you talk a little more about connection within a space?
For me, I love to entertain and I love to have friends over. And my favorite thing is when people come over and like every piece feels a little interesting and unique and there is a conversation around it, especially with artwork.
You can have really interesting artwork that people are like, what does that mean? And then I love when people take their own interpretations of it. It’s like walking through a museum and you can just talk about pieces for hours.
Or if you got a really cool vase from somewhere when you were traveling, then you end up talking about that trip for an hour. So that’s what makes your space feel special and unique is when you really have things that are special to you in the space.
You can’t talk about a target base for more than five minutes. It’s not going to happen.
I think I’ve gotten way more clients now that that’s important to them. They’re home all the time now, or a lot of people have made the switch to homeschooling their kids, and a lot of people need an office that’s also multi-purpose.
So that is a whole new ball game, and I just try to encourage people to take their time when they’re designing their office spaces and think about functionality, number one, but also how are you going to be the most productive?
For me, I need bright colors and I like vibrant music and I like to be around plants and that keeps me focused and feeling lively. But some people just want a really soft blue, like a very minimal contrast, and they just need to focus on the thing in front of them.
So I really encourage people to think about how they work best and just take their time and don’t make any rash Pinterest decisions.
Lighting is huge too. If I’m somewhere, like if I’m at an Airbnb and the lighting is bad or there’s not enough light, I’m running around trying to flip on lamps and I’m thinking there’s no light in here.
It really starts to make me feel anxious and panicky if I can’t get a room to be bright enough.
Desk placement is also important. I just helped this girl I met from TikTok, her name is the workout witch and she’s also a TikTokker and she’s 10xed her business through TikTok.
In her office, she was like, just leave my desk right here, this is where I want it. And it was in a corner against a wall.
She went out of town, I worked on her house, and I was saying to my team, I really want to show her that her desk can be in the middle of the room facing outside, she has beautiful windows facing her gorgeous pool.
So when I was showing her house, I told her, I know you said you wanted it against the door, and I’ll fix it for you if you don’t like it, but she walked in and she was like, oh, duh. I’m going to work so much better like this.
But yeah, people think you should have your desk against a wall so the back of your monitors will be hidden so that’s a big one too.
Where should people start when they are considering space design around their work?
First I would start with the abstract and think about all your references and what speaks to you and what the office needs to mean and how it needs to function.
But then, start with your paint colors and I definitely encourage people to swatch their paint on their walls because paint looks different throughout the day and you don’t want to just pick a color that you see online because it will never look like that.
And then you may think you like one and you get on the wall and you don’t and it’s a costly change so definitely swatch things.
Then I think the thing that people who aren’t designers maybe struggle with is space planning, like how big does my rug need to be for this size room? Or having the right scale of different furniture, like a desk that’s too small for the two club chairs that are across from them.
There’s things like that a trained designer would know and make things look better, but there’s so much information online.
So I would just Google the square footage of your space and then figure out what size rug is best and try to figure out scale for those things.
Once you kind of have the scale down and you know what you want the space to look like, I think then you can start picking things that are your taste and it’ll all come together.
What shifts did you make that made it easier for you to build your personal brand?
I feel like for me personally, from my own experience, I wouldn’t have had a successful business if I didn’t put my face out there and start trying to connect with people. I wouldn’t have ever launched a firm. No one would have cared or known who I was.
So for me, being someone who didn’t want to be public facing, I just had to work past the anxiety and know that there was probably a very positive outcome that could come from it. The worst thing that could happen is it’s not for you. You didn’t like it, it’s not for you, okay.
So that’s what I told myself, just try to make a video. And I think the connections that I’ve made with people has made it so worth it.
And I’ve had all these experiences that I would have never had if I had not gotten over it and put myself out there. So there’s a huge reward to putting yourself out there.
You’re going to get way more followers, you’re going to connect with people way more, you’re going to build trust, you’re going to build your brand identity in a whole new way that you couldn’t if you didn’t do this.
So I highly encourage people to just try because you never know what’s going to happen.
And for me, a lot of people feel called out by what I’m saying or things like that, but so many people have felt a sense of relief from what I’m saying. They’re thinking, oh, okay, I don’t have to make my space look like what I’m seeing online.
And so those are the kind of people that I’m trying to reach. I’m trying to relieve anxiety from people and connect with people and encourage self-expression. And I’ve found this really amazing community, but they also funnel back into my business.
It’s become my brand identity and it feels powerful and I feel like I have a message and something to say and I’m not just doing it for no reason. I feel like once you find your purpose with your brand, you really take off.
I started before I really found my purpose, like the messaging. I was passionate about design, but the sort of messaging around it came later as I was reading the comments and responding to people and kind of had this open dialogue with my followers that kind of helped shape my business.
What is your take on space connected to your brand?
For your space and your brand, I think it kind of depends on the business that you have, but I’ll say, if you’re a content creator, for example, your brand and your brand identity should definitely be consistent throughout your home and your spaces.
Especially if you have people over or if you have a Zoom background or things like that, I think having a common thread throughout your brand and your home really helps connect to your brand more and this sense of self that you have.
I’ve sort of subconsciously started doing it too, like when I built my website and I started using sort of earth tones and cinnamon spice colors and then I would be shopping for my home and be drawn to that.
Then I was thinking oh my gosh my home kind of looks like my website, my website looks like my home but it was kind of this cool Tyka-verse, you know, of my brand and my home. And I think that can be really special and cool.
Tyka is a visionary television art director and interior designer who has established herself as a style icon and trendsetter. With her innate flair for innovation, she continues to captivate and inspire audiences through her work on acclaimed television series, private commissions, and high-profile brand collaborations.
With 8 seasons as Art Director on the Emmy-winning show “Queer Eye,” Tyka has also worked with top networks such as HBO Max, Amazon, Discovery+, HGTV, Fox and VH1. In 2022, Tyka launched her own design firm, where she embraces both private and commercial projects, as well as television production design. With a collaborative spirit, Tyka sees no project as too big or too small. Tyka’s love of set design and interiors was first cultivated in film school. Expanding upon her technical skills, she parlayed her love of composition, color theory and lighting into television production design, quickly gaining momentum in the art department and interior design world.
Since entering the world of home makeover television in 2015, Tyka has transformed hundreds of homes, restaurants and television sets across the globe. Tyka curates her clients’ homes to reflect who they are inside and exemplifies that a successful interior is, above all else, a personal reflection of how one wishes to show up in the world.