Karamo Brown is all about giving back.
The Queer Eye star returned to his alma mater, Florida A&M University (FAMU), to “refresh” a student lounge with help from HomeGoods, creating a communal space for students and faculty to relax, study and get inspired.
“This trip was my first time returning since graduation and I was so excited to go back!” Brown tells PEOPLE. “It was great to see how the school has changed and the things that have stayed the same.”
One thing that hadn’t changed was the student lounge, says Brown, who stars in the fourth season of the hit Netflix series, now streaming. “The space before was just as I had remembered it – which meant it needed a refresh!” Before the redesign, the room consisted of an air hockey table, pool tables and a few places to sit or study.
“I couldn’t have been more excited to really transform this space,” says Brown, which he has “great memories of spending time [in] with friends.”
Spending time in communal spaces was a vital part of the former Real World cast member’s education, he explains. “If my experience at FAMU taught me anything, it was that my voice matters and my words have the power to inspire others, so I wanted to be sure today’s students had a communal place where they could gather and let their voices be heard like I did.”
Using affordable back-to-school finds from the cult-favorite home décor destination, Brown revamped the lounge to include a “Zen” nook, game area, study spaces and more.
“One of my favorite finds for the lounge was the oversized brown leather couch from HomeGoods in the ‘Zen’ area,” he shares. “It completely inspired the relaxing look of the whole space. I filled it with comfy woven pillows, floor pillows, and throw blankets,” he continues, adding, “It’s now a perfect spot for students to chill out and let their minds recoup after a busy day or in between classes.”
The new lounge is well-stocked with study supplies as well, with a variety of notebooks, writing utensils, chargers and more to help facilitate group studies or one-on-one meetings.
In addition to the fun and functional aspects of the space, Brown, who is best known on Queer Eye for his compassionate pep-talks and words of wisdom, “added a little something extra to make the environment feel personal and welcoming — an inspiration wall!”
Motivational phrases, photos and colorful artwork are arranged alongside “odes to Florida and FAMU” to celebrate school spirit.
“Whether you’re in the space to cram for a final or just trying to unwind, my goal was to inspire every student to be their best self,” he says — and as a bonus, “it makes for a great Instagram backdrop!”
Overall, Brown hopes the transformation of the space will facilitate a transformation for the students who use it. “I hope the new layout brings the students a better balance of work and fun. When you’re in college, you work so hard, it’s important to remember to give yourself a break!”