The Best Advice from Black Interior Designers Can Be Found in This New Book
Many designers from the West are represented here.
Since 2010, Black Interior Designers, Inc. (BID) has worked to connect, support, and celebrate Black interior designers across the country. The nonprofit organization’s efforts have made a significant impact in many Black creatives’ careers, especially in an industry that still has much more work to do when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
A new book by June Reese, the Vice of President of BID and founder of House of June Interiors, furthers the mission of the organization by showcasing the perspectives and works of 50 A-list Black interior designers across the country. June interviewed these talented industry veterans, asking them questions about design tips, design philosophies, and how being a Black designer influences their work. Many designers from the West are included, like Justina Blakeney, Adair Curtis, Linda Hayslett, Breegan Jane, Brigette Romanek, and more.
We spoke with June about her inspiration for the book, interesting things she learned from the extensive interviews she conducted, and her advice for aspiring Black designers. See what she had to say below.
How did this book first come together? How did you get the idea for it?
The original idea for this book was pretty vague and had been on my mind for some time prior to April 2019. In April of 2019, I added “coffee table book” to the list of possibilities for the Iconic Home brand.
I had no real plan or concept but I knew that it would be clear when the time came. In 2020, Doug Turshen reached out with the opportunity to bring my concept-less idea to life and that is where the brainstorming began.
Creating this book was a compilation of ideas and actions set in motion by our late mentor and founder Kimberly E. Ward over a decade ago. I wanted to embody the original intention behind BID and earlier versions of Iconic Home, which was to amplify the voices of Black designers, create community, and bring our love for interior design into the homes of Black people in a resourceful way.
What were your goals/vision for the book?
My primary goal was to create something that I needed before my career in this industry began and early in my career. I am a firm believer that you cannot be or desire what you cannot see. I wanted to create a bridge for young Black creatives to feel like their dreams are possible even if they are not common.
How did you curate the list of designers?
This process was extremely tedious since when this process started we had over 200 “members” in our database—though we consider any Black designer a member or someone to be considered when any opportunity presents itself. The original list was somewhere around 300; our team narrowed down the list based on our typical criteria. Location, years in business, and existing visibility. All of our activations and projects include a carefully curated list of designers in different stages of their career.
What were some of the most memorable interview moments during the writing/research process?
The most memorable interview moments were definitely in the personal stories. I did research on every person in the book prior to adding them to the list so it was so interesting to hear their stories in real time because a lot of the details don’t make it into final interviews. I laughed, cried, and got angry about some recounts of experience in the industry and their personal lives, but ultimately I was inspired by every single person’s audacity to push forward in spite of any adversity they experienced, not just as a Black designer, but in life.
What were some of your favorite words of wisdom that you learned from these designers?
My favorite words of wisdom are actually not in this book but I would love to share.
Nike: “Here is to living the way we were meant to—in love, in light (and darkness), and feeling connected.” (Instagram 8/19/22)
Justina Blakeney: “The good things are in the hard shit.” (BID INC Conference 2023)
What makes you excited for the future of the Black design community?
I’m excited for our community because the effects of our advocacy are creating a sense of belonging within the industry. The number of Black designers is still small but the increase is easily visible to anyone who has been in the industry over the last 5+ years. I’m excited for us to usher in the next generation of not only designers, but sales reps, tradesmen, product designers, etc.
What more work do you think needs to be done/what changes would you like to see?
I think we’ve made huge strides in equality but a focus on responsibility, accountability, and equity not just as buzzwords or for marketing purposes is vital for us to see sustainable justice in the design industry.
What advice do you have for young aspiring Black designers who are just getting started?
Be yourself. No amount of assimilation, code switching, or tolerance of micro or macroaggressions will change the minds of people who simply do not see you as belonging. I experienced all of these things early in my career which made it hard to operate authentically which in turn made success in the industry seem unattainable.
Find a community with not only us but brands that are doing the work and believe that equality and equity are important.
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