The Artist

African Americans Influencing Interiors You Should Know (Part 1)

The African American influence on style, the arts and pop culture is undeniable.  From entertainment, sports, and urban neighborhoods across America African Americans have created trends that show up on high fashion runways and have been copied around the world. If African Americans have been such a significant force in the economic growth of fashion, sports and visual arts, why not interior design?

African Americans are grossly underrepresented in the interior design, architecture and home furnishings industries.  According to industry association figures only 4% of interior designers and 2% architects are African American and less than 3% of the students enrolled in programs that prepare for these professions are African American.

There are many with talent and a desire to rise in the field of interior design but it has been a struggle to open doors.  In-spite of the numbers there are African Americans who have been trailblazers in the field that have and are making a significant impact.   Here are 5 trailblazers you should definitely know.

 Cecil Hayes livingroomLiving room by Cecil Hayes

Cecil Hayes bedroom design

 Bedroom by Cecil Hayes

“My decorating talent allows me to see a space as an empty canvas waiting to become a composition of shapes, colors and textures. Everything about me enjoys creating memorable living spaces for each client.”  says Cecil Hayes.

Cecil Hayes Interior DesignerInterior Designer Cecil Hayes

Cecil Hayes is a trailblazer in the field of interior design.  She owns Cecil’s Designs Unlimited in Coconut Creek, Florida and has been an interior designer for ~ 40 years.  She and her husband also started a custom upholstery and case goods company that manufactures her unique design style and has trained 30+ local minority Floridians as craftspeople.

Cecil was the first African American interior designer to grace the pages of Architectural Digest and to be named to Architectural Digest’s “AD100” – Top 100 Architects and Designers in the world.  She is a veteran stylemaker who has designed the residences of many celebrity clients and has had her work featured in hundreds of publications and shows including HGTV, Ebony, Southern Living, The NY Times, Miami Herald and USA Today.

This gifted designer has a long list of accolades.  She was inducted into the NAACP Hall of Fame, the national Historymakers as a “Stylemaker”, and her work is featured in the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum.  Cecil is a graduate of The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.  She has written two books anyone serious about interior design should read: 9 Steps to Beautiful Living and Art of Decorative Details: Creative Ways to Design the Home of Your Dreams.

Sheila Bridges Interior DesignerInterior Designer Sheila Bridges

Since starting her firm Sheila Bridges Designs 20 years ago, Sheila Bridges has experienced  incredible success and become a force in the design world.  Her firm has designed commercial spaces at Columbia and Princeton Universities and residential spaces for numerous prominent entertainers, leaders and business professionals.  Sheila was selected to design the 8000 square foot Harlem office of former President William Jefferson Clinton and his staff.  Bridges was named “America’s Best Interior Designer” by CNN and Time Magazine.  Her work has been profiled in numerous national and international publications including Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Martha Stewart Living, Elle Decor.  She had her own TV show, Sheila Bridges Designer Living, on the Fine Living Network and operated her own retail store in Hudson, N.Y.

Sheila has lent her design talents to create her own line of home furnishings and accessories and a wallpaper line with her signature print, Harlem Toile du Jouy which is represented in the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum’s permanent wallpaper collection.

Sheila was born in Philadelphia, PA and moved to New York as a young woman.  She is a graduate of Brown University and Parsons School of Design, then studied decorative arts at Polimoda in Florence, Italy.  Sheila is author of the book Furnishing Forward: A Practical Guide to Furnishing for a Lifetime, which was one of Amazon’s top 20 decorating books for nearly a decade.

Bedroom in blue Sheila BridgesBedroom in blue with custom Sheila Bridges wallpaper

                        “Design for me makes the world a better place. It makes the world run in a better, smoother,                                              more efficient way, and there is beauty in that.”

sheila bridges roomSheila Bridges uses an eclectic blend of traditional furnishings in this drawing room

Harlem Toile in yellow S BridgesSheila Bridges signature Harlem Toile du Jouy wallpaper in yellow

Bald Mermaid cover Sheila BridgesSheila Bridges has a new book out about her experience with alopecia (hair loss) and discovering her inner beauty.

BOA furniture designer, BrooklynFurniture Designer BOA of OI Studios

Boa is principal designer of OI Studios of Brooklyn, NY.  She creates modern eco-friendly furniture and her design aesthetic is heavily influenced by nature.  Boa was born and raised in St. Johns, US Virgin Islands.  She studied at the Art Institute in Chicago and now bases herself between LA, NY and Bali designing furniture.

bed OI Studios BOA designerBoa platform bed – OI Studios

chad-side-table OI StudiosSide table by Boa of OI Studios

I hope you have enjoyed and possibly learned something to inspire your dreams – These ladies are beating the odds with faith, hard work and perseverance.   Join me for part 2 and I’d love to know what do you think?