This month we celebrate Black History. This year, the first since an important national reckoning with our history and reality of racial injustice, at Havenly, we wanted to mark the occasion with a celebration of Black History in the home design industry and highlight some talents that we think everyone should have on their radar.
I first started looking at the history of the Black community and interior design when starting Havenly. Almost all of our designers at that early time identified as white, and while, sadly, I didn’t nearly do enough about it in the moment, I did wonder why an industry that was all about celebrating a multitude of creative viewpoints had so few well-known interior designers of color. What I learned was the history of POC and home design was at least partially rooted in the story of homeownership and race in America. Structurally racist policies in real estate sales and mortgage origination resulted in a nearly insurmountable racial gap in homeownership, which meant that the residential interior design industry was built around the needs of white homeowners.
In an industry largely catering to the white customer’s point of view, and where historically high barriers to entry for minority would-be designers continues to exist, a lack of representation of people of color continues. As noted in Architectural Digest last year, according to statistics from the interior design industry’s largest professional organization, ASID, less than 2 percent of their members identify as Black. At Havenly, roughly 20 percent of our designers identify as people of color, short of our goals, but we continue to maintain a commitment to transparency (as the old management adage states, you do what you measure) and aiming for more diversity on our team and in our designer, employee and customer base.
In posts like this I sometimes struggle with the concept of tokenism. Being a Black designer, or Black design, isn’t just a fad, or something to be highlighted only in the month of February. There are many talented voices of color that meaningfully contribute to the interior design zeitgeist in America and deserve to be part of the ongoing mainstream conversation around interior design. But because we still have a long way to go to achieve real parity in the industry, we thought it worth dedicating some of our time this month to celebrate just a few of the talented, creative, and diverse design talent that I’ve been following over the past year. We’ll highlight many more across Havenly’s social channels and blog, not just this month, but over time, so we can all draw inspiration from the many vibrant and diverse perspectives in the design world.
A pioneering force in interior design, Sheila Bridges has been designing since the 90s, with projects that feature a lot of color mixed with the classics. Her memoirs, released in 2013, are also worth a read to understand the fascinating story of a Black woman in design, and hear some great dish on a few of her clients.
Corey Damen Jenkins
Jenkins’ exuberant style is a stand out. This Michigan native and his namesake firm bring color and pattern to his designs, creating standout looks across his projects.
The ultimate “New Bohemian,” Justina Blakeney celebrates all things boho. The creative behind “Jungalow” style, she brings a travelers eye and an appreciation for all things pattern, color and greenery.
The husband-and-wife team of Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason partner together to create designs full of vibrant African culture at Aphrochic. The duet also pairs together to showcase other Black designers and artists.
LA-based Romanek’s style is incredible, and I love seeing her work. The apartment she designed for ballerina Misty Copeland with her firm, Romanek Design Studio, is emblematic of her aesthetic — textured and luxe, but awash with color