HGTV Designer Veronica Valencia on the Role of Heritage and History in Design
HGTV sat down with Veronica to learn more about her Mexican and Native American family roots, as well as the philosophy that informs her designs.
If there's an adjective to best describe Los Angeles designer Veronica Valencia, perhaps it's impassioned. She's also creative, prolific, dedicated and, after working behind the scenes on more than 500 episodes of home makeover shows, she knows how to "design beyond the obvious." It's a deceptively simple statement that plays during the opening of her HGTV show Revealed.
Though her style is distinct — rooted in a metropolitan aesthetic influenced by New York and L.A. — she has a profound and expansive process when it comes to the execution of her art: "I've learned (that) to design a successful home, you really have to get to know the person."
For Veronica this means digging deep and helping clients connect with their cultural roots. "I want to tell every family's story by bringing their history and family heritage to life,” she says. "When people discover who they are, it influences everything, including their home."
I am always seeking to redefine the concept of a 'perfect' home. I truly believe beauty lies not in the flawless aesthetics but in the imperfect, lived-in homes that embrace the laughter, tears and shared experiences of those who dwell within.
Culture, ethnicity and family are the elemental underpinnings in Veronica's approach to her craft, so it's unsurprising that she's very connected to her own family's history. We spoke with Veronica to learn more about her Mexican and Native American ancestry and heritage.
Q&A With Veronica
HGTV: Both Mexican and Native American cultures are steeped in tradition and history. What was it like growing up blending your family's different heritages?
Veronica: I grew up in a lively and always entertaining Mexican household, deeply connected to both Mexican American and Native American roots. It was a beautiful mix of love and culture. Our home was always filled with family knick-knacks and photos, each with its own history and story. My parents always did a great job at surrounding my siblings and I with family heirlooms that mattered. My deep appreciation for heirlooms and my desire to share their significance with others is why I hold sentimental value so dearly, not just in my family's home but also in the homes of my clients. It's the heart and soul of our heritage, wrapped in the joy of sharing it with the world.
HGTV: What are some of your favorite family traditions?
Veronica: Family traditions hold a special place in my heart, and holidays stand out as some of our favorite moments. While I know this sentiment is shared by many families across different cultures, there's something heartwarming about the traditions we hold dear because they connect us to one another. For me, it's the moments spent in the kitchen with my family and children, coming together to prepare a meal that creates memories around the dinner table. I can vividly remember the aromas of those times: my Grandma Valencia making tamales from scratch and her pumpkin bread, and my parents making dozens of homemade chicken enchiladas. These scents are like a time machine, transporting me back to gatherings at my grandparents' house, where love and tradition came together in the best way possible.
HGTV: Are there traditions you’re continuing to celebrate with your children?
Veronica: In our household, we've worked really hard at creating our unique blend of traditions that stem from my Cali-Mexican heritage and the vibrant character of Kris' upbringing in the close-knit neighborhoods of New York City. At the core of it all is our shared love for food and where it comes from. Our kitchen is not just a place to cook; it's a sacred space where we teach our children about their roots and celebrate our local community. We work hard at cultivating some of the basics in our backyard garden and take family strolls to connect with our favorite local coffee stops, spice shops, farmers' markets and bodegas.
HGTV: Do you have a favorite family story you’d like to share?
Veronica: Every year, our extended family on my mother’s side would come together at a local park, not just for a family reunion, but to celebrate the birthday of my sweet great-grandma, Lola, a tiny, bird- and flower-loving woman who astonishingly raised 14 children. As the first of April rolled around, [our family members] gathered with children and grandchildren, creating a mix of generations, all connected by our shared family tree. Those annual park gatherings, surrounded by hundreds, served as a powerful reminder of our connection and the significance of our shared traditions. These reunions weren’t just about family, they were a heartfelt example of the power of belonging and the importance of embracing our heritage. Although today our family reunions are much smaller, they're still something I look forward to sharing and passing down to our kids.
HGTV: Is there a specific person in your family that influenced or inspired your design beginnings?
Veronica: My parents, Armando and Anita, were a young, hardworking couple when they welcomed me into the world. In our household, DIY was practically a way of life. They encouraged my siblings and me to unleash our creativity and dive headfirst into hands-on projects without worrying about perfection. Whether it was deciding to repaint a room on a whim or orchestrating one of our legendary "midnight makeovers," my Mom's response (always with a big smile on her face) was, "Alright! Let's do it together!" Meanwhile, my Dad had an undeniable love for building. On his days off from his job at the Fire Department, you'd find him laying bricks or installing tile … The home they still live in today is the very one they bought when they first became parents. Their inspiring work ethic, hands-on approach, commitment to family collaboration and admirable, no-fuss sensibility has significantly shaped me as a designer. They've shown me the true essence of design isn't just about aesthetics; it's about creating spaces where people can live, love and build their own memories.
Growing up, I didn't have role models in design that looked like me. Being Mexican American and Native American, I hold that very close to my heart. You should be proud of where you come from, and that's why I like infusing someone's culture and heritage into their home.
HGTV: How do you think your heritage has influenced your design style?
Veronica: Growing up in my close-knit family, I grew a deep appreciation of our uniqueness, togetherness and diversity. It fueled my curiosity and expanded my awareness of the rich mix of cultures in the world. I feel my upbringing, family and heritage has significantly impacted my design work and laid the foundation for the warmth and connection I aim to bring to all projects. Although it may not be a particular style, my appreciation for the connection and individuality is what helps set the tone for almost every home I work on. I really strive to design homes where every detail is not just decorative but deeply personal and purposeful. In my view, a home should prioritize family traditions over passing design trends, achieving that perfect harmony of functionality and beauty that truly resonates with its occupants.
HGTV: Revealed is all about bringing a family’s heritage front and center in their design. Why do you think that’s so important?
Veronica: While design styles may evolve, I've come to believe that a person's core identity and heritage remain the constant anchors of their home. I call this my Design North Star. It's in this alignment of design and personal identity that people truly thrive within their homes. For me, growing up as a young designer wasn’t always easy. I often felt like I had to work to fit in. However, as I matured in this field, I came to understand the importance of fostering a sense of belonging and embracing one’s true self, especially in one’s own home ... I realized purposeful design transcends any particular style. Instead, it revolves around embracing the essence of who individuals are. This realization is what led me to focus more on understanding people's backgrounds and identities before shaping the design of their homes.
Design by Veronica Valencia
HGTV: While working with the historians from Ancestry.com, have you had the chance to discover some interesting family history of your own?
Veronica: Working with Ancestry was truly an enlightening experience, exceeding my expectations. While I've always known about my Mexican American and Indigenous roots, the specific cities of origin for my grandparents, great-grandparents and even the names of my fourth great-grandparents added another layer of belonging and appreciation. I knew I had ancestors in Zacatecas, but to hone in on exact regions was really special. I also discovered my Spanish, Portuguese, African and Basque roots. Learning particularly about the Basque culture has been both fascinating and educational, mainly because I have a large percentage of Basque in my DNA from both of my parents, and they had no idea! Also, learning more about my husband's African and Irish heritage and the regions of his ancestors has been something really special. We're both passionate about sharing this knowledge with our children. The whole experience has strengthened our commitment to preserving and passing on our shared heritage to the next generation.
HGTV: Do you have a special heirloom that you’ll never part with?
Veronica: I'm the most sentimental person ever, so everything passed down to me carries a piece of my heart and history. Jewelry passed down through generations is at the top of my list. Wearing rings that once graced the fingers of my dad's parents and my mother is a daily connection to the strength, love, struggles and joy of our family. Also, as the world goes increasingly digital, photographs also hold a big place in my heart as treasured heirlooms. My father's well-worn baseball glove is another treasured heirloom for me, filled with memories of strength, character, triumph, teamwork and love. Lastly, my mother's collection of crystal vases lights up my home with so much happiness. They remind me of her endless love of her children. I don't know what it is, but I could be in the worst mood ever and seeing her vases with flowers just fill our home with such a cheerful and warm energy. I love it!
HGTV: Could you share something that people may not know about you and your heritage?
Veronica: Something that a lot of people may not know is that I am third-generation Mexican. Both of my parents are second-generation Mexican and Indigenous. Growing up, English was our primary language. While not learning Spanish at a young age is something my siblings and I regret, we understand why our parents prioritized English as their first language during our upbringing. They simply wanted to provide us with the best opportunities possible. Today, I’m taking the initiative to learn Spanish alongside our children, and it has become a fun journey for our entire family. It’s a beautiful part of our heritage that we are determined to preserve, enrich and pass on.
*Text edited slightly for length and clarity.