Here’s How 9 Black Designers Are Finding Joy and Comfort at Home Right Now

published Jun 30, 2020
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Credit: Esteban Cortez

Between sheltering in place for months because of the pandemic and followed by the ongoing anguish and unrest over the deaths of unarmed Black people like Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, maybe you’re feeling like you could use some relief and psychological comfort. At times like these, homes should be spaces that inspire joy and comfort more than ever.

One small way I’ve cheered myself up is by pulling out a favorite Missoni comforter with a hot pink, lavender, and magenta Art Deco floral pattern that makes me smile. Looking for more inspiration, I reached out to some of my favorite Black designers to see what they’re doing to make themselves feel happier at home, and these nine ideas are all things you can do to put a little more happy into your home, too.

Make room for more greenery

Anyone who follows Justina Blakeney knows the bohemian designer, artist, and author of “The Jungalow” has a home full of colorful patterns and lots of “planties” including pothos, palms, bird’s nest ferns, and a bodacious string of bananas in her bath. “Adding plants to the home, both indoor plants and a garden, are the biggest joys for me in my home,” says Blakeney. “Plants are like living sculptures, and they add so much beauty and positive energy to the home.”

Fresh flowers (and candles!) for the win

Designer and blogger Shavonda Gardner lives in a historic home in Sacramento, California. Gardner’s own interiors are mostly done in tones of black and white, but the details in her sun-drenched rooms make it feel bright. “Fresh flowers are my weekly indulgence, and they make me so happy,” says Gardner. “Also candles! I’m always burning my favorite scent.” Gardner’s choice blooms change with the season, but favorites include pincushion protea, freesia, Peruvian lilies, and cosmos.

An open window or time spent in outdoor space

Sometimes being happy at home is about enjoying what’s right outside it. Furniture and clothing designer Gambrell Renard says opening a window and letting in air and sunlight are helping him breathe easier. “I like keeping my windows open while I work from home,” says Renard. His furniture and clothing design business is based in Las Vegas, but he’s been sheltering in Texas. Not only does opening a window clear out stale air, but sunlight can also trigger the brain to release serotonin, a mood lifter. For those same reasons, Renard’s also spending a lot of time on the patio, comfortably furnished with chairs and a cowhide rug from his line.

Meaningful objects and furnishings

Art gallery owner and stylist Jasmine Rosten-Edwards of One Off to Twenty-Five shows off her lovingly curated, more-is-more London home on her Instagram feed. It’s a home filled with collected decor, furniture, and art that make her happy, such as a bamboo ottoman and a plush green velvet chair. “Always try to surround yourself with personal objects and beautiful things that have personal meaning,” she says. “They will evoke happy memories, and they are lovely contributors to your life history.” Sometimes it’s best to go shopping in your own home, too—trying out beloved pieces in new vignettes will let you appreciate them in a whole new way.

A bookcase with ever-evolving shelfies

As the host and design expert on the Quibi series “Murder House Flip,” designer Mikel Welch is plenty busy. When he’s at home, he likes to spend time editing and arranging treasures on the shelving unit in his bedroom. “I love to source imperfect objects with a rustic patina because they tend to tell a story,” Welch says. “The best part about the bookcase is the flexibility to constantly swap things out as new items come in.” The current mix includes weathered wooden Indian vases, a circular braided serving tray he found in the Hudson Valley, and a Chinese scroll carrying case. A monochromatic selection of thrift store books round out the look on the top shelf.

Smart storage pieces

Philadelphia-based designer Rasheeda Gray of Gray Space Interiors says a sense of order and having everything in its place makes her smile. That’s especially true in her home studio, which has been getting lots of use while sheltering in place. “In a world of chaos and uncertainty, coming home to an organized home and office evokes a sense of calm,” she says. A wall of white cube storage that holds books, magazines, and a printer—plus a few handy desktop trays—help her keep everything tidy.

Patterned wallpaper

For Memphis-based designer and lifestyle blogger Carmeon Hamilton of Nubi Interiors, her bold and splashy entryway wallpaper by Hygge & West gives her a thrill every time she walks in the door—and she even gets to peek at its gold cheetahs on a black background from her desk. “I have newfound joy in our recent hallway transformation,” she says. “The Serengeti wallpaper is now my favorite view from my workspace.”

Indoor trees and gardens

Plants are a big part of self care for Stacey-Ann Blake of Design Addict Mom, a design blogger and mother of three in North Carolina. Her epic fiddle leaf, Glory the fig (who has more followers than some people I know), luxuriates in front of a Palladian window in her living room. That said, her garden room is her favorite retreat. “My indoor garden makes me happy and is a joyful place for me to get away to,” she writes on her blog. “It’s especially gratifying to tend to them and watch them grow and flourish.”

Luxe linens

Besides running her busy Oakland design firm, designer Kelly Finley of Joy Street Design is mom to three active kids. Through her Joy Street Initiative nonprofit, she’s redesigning Bay Area shelters to give women and children cheerful places to rebuild their lives. When she falls into bed, Finley wants a four-star experience. “The number one thing that I’ve done to make my home happier is to invest in upgraded bedroom linens,” Finley says. “Because I can’t go to fancy hotel rooms, it’s nice to have the same quality bedding to make me feel like I’m enjoying small luxuries while being locked down.”