How an Interior Designer Draws Strength From Her Grandfather’s Former Church

Ronda Jackson

Magazine Contributor

I remember Sunday mornings, growing up on the west side of Chicago: the streets quiet, the air still, my grandfather’s pocket change jingling while he opened the doors to his church. Reverend Johnnie Jackson was a Baptist preacher — rousing, animated and moved by the spirit. Whatever your troubles were, Reverend Jackson preached, if you remained steadfast and trusted God, everything would be taken care of. I am very proud of the stability and hope that he and my grandmother offered the community.

After moving away to Los Angeles in the mid-’90s, I enrolled in college and studied to become a pediatrician. I worked my way through school designing window displays for a home-goods store. One day a woman came in and told me that I was in the wrong business, that I needed to consider becoming an interior designer. Hesitant to abandon my dream of becoming a doctor, I took an introductory design class as an elective. I was hooked. It was a wonderful balance of science, art and ingenuity, and it spoke to my passion for helping people. I learned everything I could about the business, and in 1997, with help from a $100 Christmas gift, I opened my own firm, Decor Interior Design.

A decade later, in 2007, a year after my grandfather passed away, I was home visiting my parents. My father, my uncle and I went over to his church. It had fallen into disrepair. When I say “fallen,” I mean it literally. The floor had caved in, so whatever had been in the church was now in the basement.

As I scanned the room, I noticed a wooden acorn sticking out of a pile of wreckage. I couldn’t make out what it was. My uncle climbed down to investigate. It was my grandfather’s pulpit chair; a pair of them. We hoisted them up and out of the hole in the floor. They were mangled, barely standing. But they inspired an idea.

At the time, I had been selected as a featured designer for the Beverly Hills Greystone Mansion showcase house. This was a big deal, an opportunity to demonstrate my talent to a wider audience. I believed the chairs could be a meaningful addition to my design. I packed and shipped those bad boys to California as fast as I could to have them restored, and I used them. They added such grace to the showcase, and I was proud to display a piece of my family’s legacy for the whole world to see.

Today the chairs have a special place in my home, where I can share memories of my grandfather, my grandmother and my father with my sons. Our family culture has always been about helping people, pushing through obstacles, having confidence and resiliency. My personal and professional lives have been a testament of that. Decor Interior Design is in its second decade and going strong. When times get tough, sitting in those chairs centers me. I hear my grandfather’s encouragement to be a Proverbs woman. He’d say, “Everything that you put forth with hard work and faith in God will be blessed.”

Amen, Reverend Jackson, amen.

Ronda Jackson Creates Commercial Designs That Increase Workplace Happiness

A native of Chicago, Illinois, Ronda Jackson is a third-generation entrepreneur, a mother, a licensed contractor, a certified interior designer, and no stranger to hard work. Ronda Jackson, IIDA, CID is the founder and Chief Workplace Stylist of Décor Interior Design, an award-winning commercial interior design firm. Despite the challenges of raising a family and growing a business, Ronda models the successful balance of both.


What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?

I come from generations of women who embrace their individuality and push past barriers. The idea of owning my future and designing a life that allows me to pursue my passions seemed like the next best move.

I seized the opportunity to investing everything I have in myself. I left my 9-to-5 to launch my business. It has been an amazing journey.

Tell us about your business.

For the past two decades, Décor has dynamically evolved into a commercial design firm specializing in workplace happiness. We deliver comprehensive design solutions that increase talent retention, optimize space utilization, and maximize productivity.

List awards/certifications/accomplishments.

I have been honored with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Blue Ribbon Small Businesses Award, U.S. Small Businesses Administration’s Minority Small Business Champion, Black Business Association’s Outstanding Entrepreneur Award, and National Association of Minority Contractor’s Contractor of the Year.

I also made Los Angeles Business Journal’s Top Minority Firms and Women Making a Difference Lists and earned a spot on the Inc. 5000’s list of the fastest-growing private companies in America, and Inner City 100’s fastest growing businesses.


  • 2018 Enterprising Women of the Year Award
  • 2018 Women’s Business Enterprise Star
  • 2017 Supplier of the Year
  • 2016 Minority Contractor of the Year
  • 2016 Inner City 100
  • 2015 Inc. 5000
  • 2015 Top Minority Firms
  • 2015 Blue Ribbon Small Business Award


  • NCIDQ Certified 022450
  • Licensed Contractor CA C-33, C-61/D-34
  • CCIDC Qualified


Where is your business based?

Décor is based in Los Angeles, CA with a design innovation lab in Canoga Park, CA.

What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?

The first thing I did was run out and have business cards printed. No name or address, all the card said was Décor Interior Design with my cell phone number. I was soon to realize all the things I didn’t know about running a business.

So, my real first step was finding a mentor. It gave me perspective on what it takes to run and manage a business. I have learned a lot by surrounding myself with successful people.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?

Do good work, get involved, be memorable.

Do good work.

First, live up to what your brand promises. I love Coco Chanel’s quote, “Keep your heels, head, and standards high.”

Get involved.

Second, build a community in your industry, peer groups, or mastermind. These are the people that not only become (potential) clients; more importantly, they are your cheerleaders and brand ambassadors.

Be memorable.

Finally, remember that people never forget how you make them feel.

What have been your biggest challenges so far?

Owning a business is an ambitious endeavorwe know that. My biggest challenge has been me: developing the discipline and mental stamina to show up every day ready for whatever that day has in store. It was a process, and it is a journey that I am still on every day.


How did you overcome these challenges?

I sought out the business training I lacked.

Several education-based programs like Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, Tuck-WBENC, UCLA Anderson, and University of Foster’s enhanced my knowledge in marketing, finance, and leadership.

It taught me to step out of my role as interior designer, create milestones, and implement a strategic plan.

One of the best decisions I made in my business was to fire myself. My new position allows me to be the visionary I was born to be. We can’t do it all on our own.

To stay in this role, I had to build a team. I have a wonderful, supportive, knowledgeable, and agile team. My team knows I’m crazy, but they are willing to grow and learn with me.

How do you keep motivated through difficult times?

Instead of doing an ugly cry, I like to celebrate the small wins every chance I get. I remember my why: namely, that it’s not just about me. I think of my sons. I’m making a difference in the communitycreating jobs. I am grateful for the opportunity to explore and engage in my entrepreneurial endeavors.

How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?

What makes our firm unique is our integrated approach to design. We understand our planning and implementation impacts the way people feel. We think of our clients as partners and work closely to identify work habits and lifestyles.

We listen to what clients want, and we reflect that. Every project is different, so we offer solutions that are as unique and individual as our clients.

What is the best advice you have received recently?

It was in a Robin Sharma article, “Live Fully Now.” The title alone, heightened my consciousness to stop holding back and make time for all the things I say are important, but never seem to get around to doing. It is a reminder that there is no better time than the present to do, be, give, have, see all the things I love.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

Be intentional about the way you live your life. I believe that when you are present and purposeful, you will be successful.


What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?

Pen, paper, and a sense of humor are my favorite business tools. There is never a shortage of either. No battery to run out, I can always find the back of something to write an idea on. Laughter is like a reset button, life’s eraser.

What is a good article or book you have read recently?

I recently read the The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right, by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider. A lady boss can’t live in business alone. (Wink)

What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?

I believe in systems. I am currently investing in optimizing my operations via technology, process mapping, as well as client and talent retention. It’s really important to me to keep growing, learning, and evolving as a business owner and a business.

What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?

  • To put one stiletto on at a time
  • Wear only the colors that make me feel good
  • Stop buying bags and buy a building
  • Continue my journey to becoming world class

What social media outlets do you use? List them below.

Twitter @designsbydecor
Instagram @designsbydecor
Facebook @designsbydecor
LinkedIn @designsbydecor
Pinterest @designsbydecor

Nothing spoils the mood like smelly garbage


A simple, inexpensive way to hide garbage cans is to put them behind landscaping buffers, such as tall bushes or shrubs.

Few things on a residential property are as offensive to the eyes — as well as the nose — as a bunch of dirty, smelly garbage cans and lids strewn across the yard. Within close proximity of your backyard barbecue, swimming pool soirée or other outdoor gathering, unsightly rubbish receptacles can ruin the mood and create a bad first impression on guests.

All the more reason to creatively camouflage these waste containers, according to the pros.

“The main reason to conceal outdoor garbage cans is simple — it improves curb appeal,” said Ana Cayeiro, an interior designer in Florida. “It’s about improving the overall beauty of your home’s exterior, which cannot happen with the eyesore of garbage cans left out on the side of your home.”

Cayeiro said three options can accomplish your concealment goal: either screen-in your cans, place them in covered storage or use live landscaping buffers to hide them.

“Outdoor privacy screen panels are a cost-effective solution,” she said, noting that many home improvement stores carry vinyl or resin screen panels in various colors and styles (like woven or trellis designs) that can be snapped together and staked into the ground with steel posts. “Or, wooden screen panels can be painted in the same color of your home’s exterior or a contrast color that complements the existing exterior paint.”

A more secure and view-proof strategy is to purchase or construct a small enclosed shed or lean-to placed alongside the house or garage. This option completely hides the cans and prevents critters from infiltrating them and winds from blowing trash across the yard.

“Ready-made, prebuilt rectangular structures have come a long way. They’re stylish and are available in many designs, materials and colors,” said Kristin Davidson, an interior designer in Texas.

Building a custom garbage can shed can be a worthwhile investment, too.

“Just be sure the structure is wide enough for at least two full-size garbage cans,” said Joshua Gillow, founder/lead designer of MasterPLAN Outdoor Living. “Choose a location with a stone or solid surface base for good drainage, and be sure the structure is well ventilated.”

Justin Krzyston, principal founder Stonehurst Construction and Design, said his preferred concealment method of choice is Mother Nature.

“Adding landscaping in the form of larger bushes is the easiest way to camouflage outdoor garbage bins. Plus, landscaping is always a good investment if you’re focused on selling your home down the road,” Krzyston said.

Gillow recommends evergreens for the job.

“You can plant taller and skinnier evergreens, such as arbs, hollies or boxwoods, which can create a natural fence to block views of garbage cans,” he said.

The best spot for a garbage can cover-up area is ideally not too far from where you take out the trash, yet not too close to windows or doors where the waste can be viewed or smelled. Avoid any spot that can be seen from the front of the house.

“Easy access is very important — if this space is too far away, tough to use or not the right size, it will soon become more of a burden than a benefit,” Gillow said. “Next to a garage exterior wall tends to be the best location, plus it provides a built-in fourth wall.”

“Easy access is very important — if this space is too far away, tough to use or not the right size, it will soon become more of a burden than a benefit,” Gillow said. “Next to a garage exterior wall tends to be the best location, plus it provides a built-in fourth wall.”

Ronda Jackson, principal of Decor Interior Design in Los Angeles, suggests picking a location where you can hide other outdoor nuisances, as well.

“If your space allows, look for opportunities to cover other unsightly things in that area, including mechanical and air-conditioning equipment,” said Jackson.

Whatever strategy you choose, “be sure to consider the person who is taking out the garbage, not just the aesthetics,” said Cayeiro. “You want to create a concealment area with enough room for easy access to remove, maneuver and return the bulky cans to their space.”

Overcoming the daily grind


Installing a garbage disposal adds a tremendous benefit to the usefulness of your kitchen sink and creates less worry about what makes it down the drain.

Ever think about what goes down your kitchen sink drain? When you consider all the food scraps and grease alone, it’s enough to make you shudder — and worry about clogged pipes somewhere down the road.

And what doesn’t make it down the drain, of course, collects in your strainer basket, which can be a messy and unpleasant job to empty out into the trash day after day.

These are big reasons why nearly three out of four American homes built since 2000 have a garbage disposal unit beneath the kitchen sink, per the U.S. Census Bureau. And worthy arguments for why you need one, too, if you don’t already have one, say the experts.

“Garbage disposals are the unsung heroes of kitchen appliances and can make the difference between your kitchen lasting five years or 50,” said Ronda Jackson, a certified interior designer in Los Angeles. “Cleanliness is a design trend that will never go out of fashion, which is why I recommend a garbage disposal for every well-designed kitchen.”

Installing one of these appliances adds a tremendous benefit to the usefulness of your kitchen sink and creates less worry about what makes it down the drain, said Chuck Khiel, vice president of a home improvement company.

“If used properly, a garbage disposal will minimize waste in your trash can. These units are designed to grind and flush the food waste smoothly down the drain when you operate it with plenty of running water,” Khiel said.

Using a disposal can be better for the environment, too, said Chris Ambrose, operators manager for B&W Plumbing and Heating Co., Inc., in Indiana.

“Food waste passed on by a disposal is processed with other solids at wastewater treatment plants instead of being sent to landfills. This reduces methane emissions of decomposing food,” Ambrose said.

Today’s disposers are engineered to handle almost any type of edible waste, including hard food scraps, fats and meats, making kitchen cleanup easier. But not all disposers are built alike, and features will vary depending on the model.

“When selecting a unit with a homeowner client, I review products based on the “three H’s” — horsepower, hush and household — which will determine if the device can quietly and effectively handle the volume of compostable trash and offer the best value within a given budget,” Jackson said.

Horsepower (hp) is the first crucial criterion to ponder. Units with ½-hp offer basic grinding capabilities but may not be able to tackle the tougher stuff. Instead, the pros recommend a ¾-hp or 1-hp motor.

“Noise is another item to consider. In most cases, the unit is installed in a sink base cabinet, which can mask the noise a bit,” Khiel said. To help, some companies offer an insulation barrier around the disposal to reduce the noise, but it takes up a lot of space in the cabinet.”

Other desirable amenities include auto-reverse mode, which can solve jamming problems; grinding components made of stainless steel for a longer lifespan; a quick-mount neck that makes installation simpler (appreciated by do-it-yourselfers); an electric cord that prevents the need for hard-wiring the apparatus; and a longer warranty in case something goes wrong.

A new garbage disposal ranges in price from around $100 up to $1,000 or more; and professional installation starts at $100 and up, said Jackson.

“It’s always advisable to have a registered plumber install the unit, as the waste pipe will need to be modified so that it connects to the disposal correctly,” Khiel said. “And a licensed electrician should run the wiring for hard-wired units.”

Extra costs to consider before buying include the electricity required to power the unit and the tap water you’ll need to run while operating the disposal. A recent analysis by Consumer Reports cautioned that you may end up using an extra 900 gallons of water a year for this purpose.

Additionally, be aware that some municipalities prohibit the use of garbage disposals due to sewer and water limitations or the use and size of a septic system.

“When main waste goes from the house into a septic tank, it will cause the solids in the tank to fill quickly, creating the need and cost for pumping the tank more frequently. This is why most jurisdictions in which folks are on septic will not allow, by code, the installation of garbage disposals,” said Khiel, who added that some new models are designed for septic systems.

To clean a disposal and make it smell fresh, “grind up ice cubes and citrus fruit rinds in it while running tap water,” said Ambrose, who advises using the unit regularly to prevent mechanical problems.