WATCH: Inside the Home Tennis Star Madison Keys Bought Herself After Winning a Major Title
The pro athlete and amateur decorator got to flex her creative muscles outfitting her Orlando home with budget-friendly finds and creative DIY projects
Winning a major tennis championship typically earns a player a massive silver cup or plate, but Madison Keys had a slightly larger reward in mind after a stellar season: her first home.
“I had a really great summer in 2017; I won a title [the Stanford Classic], and then I made the finals of the U.S. Open and I just thought, ‘Why not buy a house?’ ” explains Keys, 25, in this week's issue of PEOPLE. She already lived in a small apartment in Orlando, but the interior design-obsessed athlete was desperate to outfit her first real home.
“Decorating is my way to relax and be creative,” explains Keys, who played in her 11th U.S. Open this week ranked 13th in the world. (She was forced to retire from the tournament, where she was the No. 7 seed, on Saturday after incurring a neck injury in a match against Alizé Cornet.)
Growing up in Florida, she says, “I would just have HGTV on all day. When I was 13, my mom came into my room in the middle of the night, and I was rearranging my furniture. Now, having my own space and being able to put holes in the walls, it’s just amped everything up.”
Keys found her ideal first house in a new development and “got to start from scratch, pick my lot, all of the finishes,” she says. “I walked through the show home, like, 18 times. I had taped things out on the floor before I even had drywall up.” The only hiccup was her pro tour schedule, which didn’t allow much time for poring over tile samples. “From my closing to my next tournament was five days,” she recalls. “It was a disaster, to be totally honest. I closed and then pretty much got on a plane.”
But even being out of town couldn’t dampen her desire to get decorating. A proud—and disciplined—bargain hunter, Keys spent the next months surfing furniture sites for her dream pieces. "Since I had so much time from starting to build, to actually getting to move in, I started scouting websites for sales. I did Black Friday, Presidents’ Day, everything I could think of,” she says.
Another creative cheat she employed: Consider pieces for rooms other than the one they were originally designed for. "In the closet, my big black-and-white desk is actually a kitchen island from World Market. It was $280!" she reveals.
While Keys was on the road, she had all her finds sent to her mom’s house in Iowa for safekeeping. A year later, when it finally came time to move in, she had everything shipped in at once.
In the offseason, she also got to tackle a few hands-on projects. “My mom and I installed the wallpaper together," she says of the floral design in the dining area. (Shop Khristian A. Howell's Une Femme wallpaper for a similar style!) "It's not perfect. If you get up close to it, you can see where it was definitely first-timers, but I love the statement that it makes, and looking at it and thinking of this four-hour projects just makes me laugh," she says.
Another DIY in the living room adds a glam touch. Keys took a large vase she found at TJ Maxx, spray painted it gold, added floral foam, and filled it with decorative feathers for an eye-catching feature that adds height and color to a blank corner.
In her bedroom, the wall behind the bed is painted charcoal gray. "I really love dark colors, so I have a lot of dark feature walls," says Keys. All of the wood pieces displayed above are from Etsy, one of her favorite resources for affordable wall decor. (Shop Crafted Glory Design's Hexagon Shelves for a similar style!)
This year, during the coronavirus pandemic, she found herself staying put far more than usual. “In a typical year I’m usually home probably 18 to 22 weeks,” says, Keys. “This is the most time I’ve spent there in a really long time.”
But more days at home also means more time to tweak her design. She admits she's been giving into to her 13-year-old habit of rearranging things — and asking her boyfriend, tennis player Bjorn Fratangelo, who she's been dating since 2017, to help.
"I'm constantly moving stuff. It drives him nuts, but I think it's really fun," she says with a laugh. "I really love the pieces that I have, and just being the way that I am, I like mixing things up!"
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