I had gotten to know some of the black design professionals in New York and their work had never been shown.
I thought, Let's have a show house in Harlem. And we did it. It was a huge success."
If you don't take a moment to do a little research, you might think you are doing something that has never been done before, but there's truth to the old adage, "there's nothing new under the sun." When I talk to other black designers, many love the idea of an exclusive blacks only show house. It's a novel idea that has been tossed around for years, but is it dated? I've been in discussions where passionate designers toss around the idea with the hopes of finally realizing the possibilities of what we can do if we all work together. But a show house-with black designers from all over the country? That would be a monumental undertaking -one that, I'm not quite cut out for. That is why today we commend and celebrate Roderick Shade for not only thinking of an all black show house, but for actually making it happen.
Shade founded the Harlem United Show house, which opened its doors in June of 1998 bringing together over 20 black design teams from around the city. Shade, a show house veteran, used lessons learned from the various show houses he had participated in to lay the foundation for the project.
"Like Kips Bay, every decorator and designer here is different. You can't generalize, " said Ms. Gibbs. "I wanted to pay tribute to the great African-American furniture makers and artisans who worked in this country n the early 18th century." She included an Empire-styled bed made by Thomas Day, "a man of color who had the largest furniture factory in North Carolina in the early 1800's"
For Shade, this project did have its low points. Despite the buying power these designers brought to the table, sponsorship for the show was disappointing.
"For us, sponsorship was few and far between, Mr. Shade said sadly. None of the big national design-industry suppliers were involved.
Shade went on to co-author the book Harlem Style ,which celebrated the modern design movement, inspired by African-Americans. Accomplishing in 2002 what he set out to do in 1998, to have more work by African-American designers known and published.