Lisa Turner - "Black Designers Have Come a Long Way"

Lisa Turner made that statement during our interview and she should know.  She's been working as a professional interior designer since finishing design school in 1980.  In those 30+ years Turner has completed projects throughout the US, Caribbean, and West Africa.  She was one of the first contestants selected to compete on Bravo's Top Design.  Her client list reads like a Who's Who of Black Actors and Actresses, who flock to the LA based designer for her creative take on a life well lived.  Turner is an advocate for the black design community, having tried in pre-internet days, to organize a national network for black designers.  "Reaching out today is easier then when I tried to unite this community years ago" she says.

Turner recently completed a space in the Greystone mansion show house in Beverly Hills where when asked to create a space for a titan of industry, she chose her client and music legend, Stevie Wonder. "I only recently started back doing show houses after several years off to care for my children.  You can spend tens of thousands of dollars of your own money on a show house like this.  I had to decide between that and sending my kids to a great school."

Turner partnered with Fendi Casa to design this moody space for music legend Stevie Wonder

Lisa Turner of Interior Obsession for Fendi Casa.

Music inspired space designed by Lisa Turner of Interior Obsession

No matter the cost, Turner knows what we all know, that you have to pay to play.  She considers herself a survivor of interior design, remembering the women who started out with her and are no longer in the industry. "You have to be able to make a living, to buy a home and raise your children.  You have to make a real business of your passion.  You have to keep pushing forward with everything; marketing, networking and the quality of your work.  You can't just say, 'Give me a chance', you have to build something of value."

Turner marvels at the advances black designers have made saying "We've come a long way.  The fact that I can open up a magazine and see black designers, or turn on a cable network and see a brown face, means we've made great strides."

We have come a long way, but Turner too get calls from young designers looking for mentorship who are struggling to gain footing in this highly competitive field.

"There are so many opportunities out their for young designers.  I just can't feel sorry for them.  There are so many sites to share your work and so many blogs that help to navigate the business side. Here's what I would tell the next generation of black interior designers."
1. Have a good portfolio when you come out of design school.  At school, you have every tool at your disposal to create a great portfolio. This portfolio should include a full house and not just vignettes. 
2. Do an internship while you're still in school. Learn the basics.  There are no short cuts. 
3. Go to work for someone else before starting out on your own. Just because you can put a business together overnight on the internet does not mean you need to. You need to work in a professional environment to see what they are doing right, what they are doing wrong and why. 
4. Get your face out there. Start local. You don't have to live in New York or LA to be a great designer. 
5. Network! Network! Network! Especially amongst your colleagues.  There's enough work out there for everyone. Don't be afraid to share knowledge and resources.
In the end, Turner recommends focusing on the work and having a career. "I can't afford to be daring or trendy.  I'm lucky to have found a career that I love, but it's not realistic to think that I can do it for free.  You have to focus on the business of design."

You can see Turner's space for the Greystone Mansion show house in the winter edition of California Home Magazine

Roderick Shade and the First 'All Black' Show house

Welcome to Pinkeggshell's Month Long Celebration of Black Interior Designers