African American Interior Designers

Sheila G. of Loni M. Designs talks this Season's Trends, Successful Manufacturing and Branded Arts

The name Sheila G. may not immediately ring a bell but if you know anything about fashion and e-commerce, you know this woman is a force to be reckoned with. With much success tied to the fashion industry, Sheila managed to make quite a name for herself in the downtown LA garment district.

You may be thinking, "how does that translate into a flourishing manufacturing company and interior design showrooms in downtown Los Angeles and Las Vegas?" Well, Sheila is a artist whose creativity knows no bounds.  

After deciding to take the time out to travel, Sheila G. reinvented herself. Five years ago, she started Loni M. Designs and began to experiment with different prints and textiles. Sheila then  partnered with brands like One Kings Lane and Joss & Main to create an exclusive online boutique for furnishings at a time when online retailers were far and few. 

We caught up with Sheila to talk about how she got her start, fall trends and upcoming projects.

Pinkeggshell: So, tell me about how you got into e-commerce. 

Sheila G: I went to an event and it just so happen I met a guy who was in the beginning stages of building an online shopping site. Haute Look had a great new concept and plenty of potential. So, the founder and I got to talking and business followed. I partnered vendors with the e-commerce site and the rest is history. 

PE: What inspired you to try your hand in the interior design industry?

SG: Well, I wanted to do something different. I'm a very creative person and traveling really made me reevaluate the direction I wanted to take. I was inspired by all the places I'd seen, the culture, the people and it grew from there. After 21 years in the fashion industry, there's a certain kind of grind you have to have and I knew that. I carved a niche for myself, that and my work ethic has made my business successful. 

PE: Let's talk about trends: What can we expect to see this fall?

SG: You can expect something different every quarter from Loni M. Designs. There's no down time. That being said, a lot of neutrals, a lot of graphics and patterns, which are certainly the areas I specialize in. I started out putting patterns on pillows and now I'm putting art on furniture. 

PE: You mentioned you've teamed up with many vendors but now you're working with artists. Tell me more about that.

SG: We're screen printing licensed art onto chairs! I'm working with an arts foundation on designs for interiors from their capsule collection. We have some things in the works with Caesar's Palace and let's just say I'll be ordering a lot of leather for this project. 

PE: What is Branded Arts?

SG: Branded Arts is a creative group in the Los Angeles area whose founder happens to be a good friend of mine. Over the years they've managed to produce and curate art exhibitions and public mural projects. We've teamed up to find a way to use a portion of the proceeds to feed the homeless. It's art for a cause. 

PE: What's next for Loni M. Designs? 

SG: High Point Market. After that, I'm focusing on perfecting the spring collection. The silhouettes are complete. It's really coming along. I mean, even we're sleep we're getting business orders so I'm always busy. 

Photos: Courtesy of Loni M. Designs 

The 2015 African American Top 20 Interior Designers

African American Top 20 Interior Designers Official Logo

The AATOP20 acknowledges those, who over the course of his or her interior design career, have established a body of superior work demonstrating creativity, skill and innovation.  This group of professionals is recognized for their individual achievements and social consciousness in the interior design field.

The African American Top 20 Interior Designers List would be nothing without the efforts put forth by those that help to comprise it.  Each of these designers-with their distinctive styles and relentless work ethic- are nothing short of commendable.  They take on projects in some of the most luxurious places and are bringing personalities to life with every sketch and concept.  But a job well done is a job done with gratitude, humility and appreciation.  It is the generous referrals and support from colleagues and clients that contributed to the nominations for the Top 20 List since its beginning.

We aim to continue to provide this list a community resource that can be accessed by others who aim to carve out their own space in the design community.  These designers stand ready and proud to represent our mission and be exemplars in their own right.  The designers are at the forefront, in support of each other and the movement.

From million dollar projects to servicing an international and A-list clientele, these Black designers are setting global trends for excellence in interior design.

2015 African American Top 20 Interior Designers


Linda Allen * Linda Allen Designs * * Los Angeles

Michel Boyd * Smith Boyd Interiors * * Atlanta, GA

Rayman Boozer * Apartment 48* * New York

Tiffany Brooks *Tiffany Brooks Interiors * *Chicago

Anishka Clarke *Ishka Designs* * New York

Tonya Comer * Tonya Comer Interiors* * Philadelphia, PA

Joan Goodwin * Verandah Interiors  *  * Columbia, SC

Lorna Gross- Bryant *Savant Interior Design  * *Bethesda, MD

Byron James- Rodrigues *House of Oasis * * New York

Corey Damen Jenkins * * Detroit, MI

Alecia Johnson * Pearl Design * * Houston, TX

Nile Johnson * Nile Johnson Design * * Philadelphia, PA

Alicia Lamar *Alicia Lamar Home *  * Los Angeles

Joy Moyler  * Joy Moyler Interiors  * * New York

Janice Palmer * Palmer Design Group * * Atlanta, GA

Rae Revelle * Ray Norris Design *  * Arlington, VA

Robin Wilson * Robin Wilson Home *  *New York 

Ron Woodson * Woodson and Rummerfield *  * Los Angeles

Erin Shakoor * Shakoor Interiors  *  * Chicago, IL

Lisa Turner * Interior Obsessions  *  * Los Angeles

The AATOP20 Celebration Was Epic... Here's Why

We had some amazing sponsors who believed in me and this project, and who took a chance on the dynamic group of designers who make up the African American Top 20  

Thank you!
ADAC Atlanta, Hansgrohe, Zinc Door, Baker Furniture, Robert Allen, Kravet, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Robin Wison Home, The voice That is, Nest 301, The Tile Bar, Bjork Studio, Abbey Carpet & Floor, Hines Furniture, Lights Online, Faux Decor, Peacock Alley, Catania Silks, Verde Home,  W Hotel Downtown, Uptown Magazine and KBG Multimedia.

We were at the "whatever, whenever" W Atlanta Downtown.  It was the perfect place for the Welcome to Atlanta Mixer,  to get a late night drink,  talk design and walk to great restaurants with new friends.  Loved the W team who went above and beyond to make our stay flawless.

African American Top 20 Interior Designers Presented By Kimberly Ward of Pink Eggshell

African American Top 20 Interior Designers Presented By Kimberly Ward of Pink Eggshell

There were so many design students, bloggers and young designers who were elated to be in the presence of so many talented designers as well as design legends Sheila Bridges, Ron Woodson, and Roderick Shade.   They took pictures with HGTV Design Star winners, Danielle Colding (Season 7 winner) and Tiffany Brooks (Season 8 winner) and got a first hand glimpse at what's possible for their design careers.

Our panel discussion was fun and insightful.  The designers really opened up about their design careers, their high profile clients and the business behind what they do as a designer.  I was inspired by the candid nature of the panelist and appreciate their openness about the wins and loses that come with this industry.

Bake Furniture went above and beyond with the lunch reception for the panel.  The showroom was beautiful and the food delicious!  Hope Deer at Baker, made the experience even more personal by included a DJ playing hip music that keep everyone moving and grooving. It was the perfect place for the lunch and I hope they sign on for next year.
African American Top 20 Interior Designers Presented By Kimberly Ward of Pink Eggshell
Loran Gross-Bryant, Ron Woodson, Lisa Turner and Michel Boyd on the Panel at ADAC
My one on one with Sheila Bridges was an out of body moment for me.  I have followed Sheila's career since 2002.  I had to contain my enthusiasm and ask the questions that the audience wanted to hear, but all I really wanted to do was hold her hand and talk design like we were old friend.  Sheila was a gem! Even though the friendship only exist in my head, the conversation was everything I expected.   She was very transparent and just an over all amazing spirit.  It was refreshing to hear about her life  and her journey from her perspective. The crowd loved her as well and gave her a standing ovation at the conclusion of the talk.  We sold out of her book "The Bald Mermaid, soon after arriving at the Robert Allen showroom. It seemed everyone wanted to take a piece of Sheila home with them.

There are times when the stars align and everything is just perfect.  The Blogger Loft Party at Atlanta Designer Michel Boyd's home was one of those times.  First of all the decor was AMAZING.  Michel is such a force when it comes to Style and his home is no exception.  I was in awe of the space from the moment I walked in the door.  Everything was perfect!  As the night progressed and the guest arrived, we enjoyed drinks and food and laughed into the night. Some naughty guest found their way upstairs to Michel Boyd's closet where an impromptu fashion show and photo shoot broke out.  This is the same closet that was a finalist for the Architectural Digest best closet contest, so you know it was fashion fun to be had.
The party fell on the eve of Michel's birthday and we all raised a glass to him as a spontaneous round of Happy Birthday broke out in the crowd.  Some party goers who were not use to how things go in our community,  didn't know what to do when at the end of the traditional version, we went right into the Stevie wonder version of Happy Birthday.  Pictures were taken and friendships were forged.  Wendy Estes of Zinc Door sponsored the HashTag printing which allowed guest to take home memories from the event and serve as proof that they were indeed at the hottest party in town.

African American Top 20 Interior Designers Presented By Kimberly Ward of Pink Eggshell

After touring the Atlanta Symphony Show house and relaxing in the spaces created by Smith Boyd Interiors and Palmer Design Group, we met up for brunch at Del Frisco's Grill in Buckhead.  Both Janice's and Michel's spaces were the topic of conversation at brunch, prompting the group of designers to toss around the idea of pulling together their resources to do a show house at an upcoming #AATOP20 celebration.

The brunch was the last event planned for the weekend, but no one wanted the party to end.  The socializing and hanging out continued well into the night.  After noticing  that a large amount of people where still in town, Janice opened up her home for Sunday evening Dinner by up and coming Caribbean chef Carlington Brown.

African American Top 20 Interior Designers Presented By Kimberly Ward of Pink Eggshell

The weekend concluded with the launch of our new magazine "Iconic Home" Stay tuned for ways to get your hands on a copy. It has some great articles and features a special profile of the designers on this year's list.
African American Top 20 Interior Designers Presented By Kimberly Ward of Pink Eggshell

I hope you'll want to join us next year as we join together to celebrate the best of African American Interior Design.

All Photos by R Ashford Photography

UPDATED!!!! The Top 20 Revealed And You're Invited!

There are rarely times when I am speechless, but today, I found myself at a loss for words.  I am overjoyed by the outpouring of support for the 2014 African American Top 20 Event.  My team and I have been working around the clock to bring you a first-class event that celebrates black designers and our future in this industry.

Many of you have the same story as I did starting out; you love design, but lack the knowledge on how to enter the industry or, better yet, how to find mentors.  I get your emails and read your Facebook posts.  You are on the hunt and are looking for people in the industry that look like you and who share your worldview.

I get it.  {

See the list here.


When I was the president of the Home Economics Club in high school, I wasn't sure what an interior designer did.  Education and access is what kept me from pursuing a degree in design earlier in life.  I, like many of the designers on the list,started designing only after pursuing a different field.

 Now, here I am. Twelve years and more than 80,000 square feet of decorated space later, I've finally found my way. It has taken lots of trial and error and a never-ending dedication for furthering my education.  I've had some lucky breaks, but if others are going to grow and prosper in this industry,  they are going to need a little more than luck.

Hopefully, having the a reference of African American designers will be an important step in maximizing their efforts.  I knew that talented black designers were out there, but the question remained: Where are they?  I realized that I had to take the initiative to create a platform to showcase the African American presence in design.  When I started the African American Top 20 List in 2011, I simply wanted to provide a resource for any one looking to work for or with a designer of color.

 I want to thank you for supporting my efforts to expand opportunities and exposure for Black designers.  I've given my all to bringing you a mix of professionals whose style and approach to design are as diverse as you all are.

 It has been a labor of love. I have truly enjoyed getting to know each of the designers on the list and doing what I can to support and uplift them.

I want to include you in this celebration and so I'm extending a special invitation to you.

Please mark your calendars, and book your flights! This year's events are taking place in Atlanta, May 8 - 10.
Join us as we roll out the red carpet for the best and brightest our community has to offer!

If you attended the event in New York, you know we really had a wonderful time.  Designer and bloggers mixed and mingled with celebrities and media executives who all reveled in the opportunity to talk design all evening long.

This years' events will be a great follow-up to the New York event.  Although we won't have Jay-Z's 40/40 club as a backdrop, we will have the ever stylish W Hotel Downtown as our milieu. Join us there on Thursday evening, as we raise a glass and congratulate the 2014 recipients.  
Then, wake up Friday morning and make your way to the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (ADAC) for a panel discussion with renowned designer Ron Woodson, Lisa Turner, Michel Boyd and Alicia Lamar.  This group has a stellar client roster and will share behind-the-scene tips and strategies for growing a business in this highly competitive industry.
After the panel discussion, come mingle and take pictures with your favorite designers from the Top 20 list during a reception in the Baker Showroom.Following the reception, Baker Furniture will welcome Sheila Bridges for a fun Q + A and book signing.
Then take a break or nap or both and get ready for an intimate social loft party hosted at the mid town loft of Michel Boyd of Smith Boyd Interiors.  This is going to be a high-energy event with lots of music and fun giveaways.  We have some really cool partners and can't wait to shower you with all kinds of design novelties.
On Saturday morning at 10:30a.m., we will meet in Buckhead for a guided tour of the Atlanta Symphony Show House.  Join Michel Boyd and Janice Palmer as they lead you though the space they have created. Please follow this link to get your tickets.

Space is filling up fast; so please RSVP today! I'll see you in May.

I can hardly wait!

Erin Shakoor- " I see it all as Art!"

Erin Shakoor
Image Shakoor Interiors
Imagine having the freedom to exist with no restraints on your passion or creativity.  Now imagine you're given task that challenge you and allow you to stretch and grow in ways you never dreamed possible.  Imagine making something that not only gives joy but is nurturing to the soul. Now imagine being able to push not only your limits, but those of everyone around you. Now, throw in the ability to create in this way every day of your life  and  you'll have Erin Shakoor's Life. 
This is Erin Shakoor's world.  She sees it all as art. Interior design for her is no different than a song, a novel,  or a poem. 

erin shakoor
Image Shakoor Interiors

I interviewed Erin for our series on African American Interior Designers and was taken in by the Zen-ness of her thoughts and process.  I started with some pre selected questions, but quickly tossed those aside opting to 'go with the flow' instead.  I couldn't cover everything we discussed in this post, so be sure to register for the #AATOP20 May 9th events.  Erin will be there and would love to meet you.

PE:  Erin, please tell our readers a little bit about your business and how you got started.
ES:  Yes, I started out as a visual artist before becoming an interior designer.  My perspective is unique in that I approach projects from an artistic viewpoint. 

PE:  You mean, a creative perspective?
ES:  No, more from a craft person's perspective.  We are crafting environments much like a carpenter would make cabinets.  I'm drawn to the process. I love building things for the environments that I design.  Sometimes that's custom furniture; other times it's a custom wall treatment. I get my hands dirty by crafting many of those things myself.

PE: Wow! I like the idea of that.  I believe that when you make something you leave a little of your soul with it. So, tell me, where do you find inspiration?
ES:  In travel.  I love to see how other people live around the world.  I love all of it, the bright colors of the islands, to the clay floors of African huts and the ornate surfaces and textures of European architecture.   It all teaches me something and feeds a part of my soul.  

PE: Traveling is a huge part of my life as well.  I can't say that I've looked at it from your perspective though.
ES: Oh yea. I love all of it from how they set their tables, to how they use art and design in everyday applications- I take in all in.

PE: What does a successful interior design career look like for you?
ES: For me it would look something like this.  A design firm with a very diverse clientele. A product line, again because I'm a maker. A high end product line that leans more towards bespoke offering than mass-produced items.  And definitely a firm with a charity component.  That would be success to me.

PE:  Complete this sentence.  I could spend all day...
ES:  Creating space plans for people.  That, or making cocktails.

PE:  Finally, what is your fantasy project?
ES: I would love to design the green room at an award show. I love the glamour of it all.

Meet Marian Akinloye of MA Design Studio

OK. I have a confession; I knew I would love Marian Akinloye long before we actually met.  I found her accidentally as I am a huge Jamie Drake fan and she was one of his senior designers for many years. There were only a few images of her work online when I started to vet her, so I had to trust my gut about her talent.  I put her on the list with only one image to present to the panel for her consideration.  I pulled for her in part because of what I knew she had learned at Drake Design Associates.  

When I finally got images of her work and a chance to speak with her, all my politicking on her behalf was justified. Her portfolio was colorful and thoughtful - well layered and inviting.  I was happy.

Fast forward and Akinloye has evolved into quite the design talent. Her design perspective is clear and she is branching out and developing her own signature style.  She recently completed a condo project in Aruba that she feels allowed her to use every bit of her design knowledge.

Akinloye designs homes in the priciest zip codes in the country.  From lofts in Tribeca to Upper East Side residents, she just might be the best interior designer you've never heard of. Until Now!

Image via Marian Akinloye of MA Design Studio
Upper East Side Residence Designed By Akinloye

Today's African American Top 20 Interior Designer feature is Marian Akinloye of  MA Design Studio 

PE: I ask this question to everyone.  What does a successful design career look like to you?
MA: For me a successful design career means continued growth.  I want to continue to grow my business and grow professionally as a designer.  I want my body of work to be inspiring to other designers out there.

PE:  Have you ever done a project where you were surprised at how well it turned out?  What made it special?
MA: I'm always on pins and needles until every piece of furniture is in its place.  When I was working on the private lounge in Soho, it was the first commercial space I had worked on and we were on such a tight budget.  I didn't know how I would pull it off, but it turned out so beautiful, I just felt proud.  Seeing the smile on my clients face was everything to me.

PE:  Your family was extremely excited about your selection to the Top 20 list, how did that make you feel?
MA: Well, It made me feel proud,  my husband, my mom and my brothers have always been my biggest supporters.  Through the ups and downs of my career, they've been there for me.  Being on the Top 20 List is an honor.  I feel so blessed that my name is being mentioned with the great African American veterans of interior design.

PE: As I mentioned in the introduction, I have a good feeling about you and your career.  What plans (that you can share) do you have for the future of MA Designs?
MA:  I'm flattered to hear you say that.  Well, right now I'm trying to focus on the projects that I have in front of me, I'm working on a new construction project in the Hamptons, so I'm taking it one day at a time.

PE: Finally, Do you have a signature style when it comes to design?
MA: Not really, I feel like I'm continuing to develop as a designer so I don't have a signature style. I'm still learning with each project that I work on and I think I like it that way.  I don't want to become too predictable.

PE: Complete this sentence.  I make sure every home I decorate...
MA: Makes my client happy.  Every time they walk in to their homes I want them to exhale and smile.

Marian Akinloye
Marian Akinloye and friends at the Top 20 events at the 40/40 Club

Joan Goodwin - Sharing Business Advice For the New Generation of Interior Designers

Every time I get a chance to speak to Joan, I feel exuberant! She is so much fun! Full  of energy, hope and passion for interior design.  Joan is another Top 20 African American Interior Designer who has also been recognized as one of Architectural Digest Top 100 Designers.  Joan was hard to find when I first started this list  back in 2011 because she like many undiscovered design stars lives in Middle America.  I could have really used Houzz back then.  I started vetting designers in 2010, Houzz was only one year old, so I had to depend on showrooms, word of mouth and chance encounters.

Joan Goodwin
Joan Goodwin Master bedroom Design via Vcustomdesigns
Back to Joan, I meet her at an HGTV audition where she was a ball of energy, laughing and talking to the contestants, making everyone feel at home.  Joan has been in the industry for many years, but was looking for ways to expand her brand into new markets.  We talked for hours about interior design, her passion for traveling, and why she's dedicating the next phase of her career to moving the design conversation into small towns across America.
Joan Goodwin
Joan Goodwin as Photographed by Kevin Goolsby

Lesson #1 - Define success in your own terms.
JG: For me a successful design career means that my work is being regularly photographed and published in leading design magazines. It is working on projects that require travel, preferably international. Defining design success for me also means opening my design academy which would solidify my dream of helping other young designers learn this art and attain their goals. Finally success as a designer means having so many projects that only the most creatively inspiring and lucrative projects are accepted.  

Lesson#2- Persist . Always see a project through to the end.
JG: There was this very large show house, about 9000 sq ft. As always with Show house projects, everything was way behind schedule. I find that builders never meet their deadlines, making it impossible for me as the designer to meet mine. About three weeks before opening the color selected for the conservatory walls, as well as the dining room ceiling began to look really, really wrong to me the dining room chandelier was damaged and there was absolutely no time to reorder leaving me no choice but to reselect.  From lighting ,  drapery installation, furniture deliveries, everything that could  go wrong did. Go wrong. But in spite of all the calamities the house was completed on schedule and was a huge success,.  Everyone loved every thing about the house. Some people revisited 3 or 4 times. I would just stand there looking around, sometimes in disbelief at how fabulous the finished project had turned out. The thing that made it so special was that it all came together well and looked exactly as I envisioned. So rewarding!

Lesson#3- Expand your knowledge base. In interior design that means knowing what's out there.

JG: I could spend all day looking. I am always looking, looking, looking, in stores, on line, one to help give them a more professional finished project. All of this is good for my business.

 I also ask my clients a series of questions. I ask lots of personal choice questions because I want to know what they really love. Their color, their style of furniture, their favorite flowers or maybe they don't like flowers at all ... the process has taught me how to be a good listener.
Then I incorporate those insights into the design project.
Knowledge is power.

Lesson #4 - Practice makes perfect.
JG: My work is forever evolving, I do what I love, I have good taste, I have style, I love color, and luxury. I bring all of this together when I work on a project. I am told that I have a  very recognizable creative footprint in design project.   My aim is to produce a vibrant custom design that gives clients my signature aesthetic while surrounded in the warmth of all their favorite things.  I deliver each client an impeccable professional finished project which is great for my business. My work and your work will get better over time.  What will seem like a signature style will actually be your commitment or not to excellence.

Lesson #5 - Don't Believe the Hype
JG: The Internet makes everything look wonderful and possible.  Truth is, having a successful interior design career takes discipline. Anyone can start a business.  Ordering the business cards and building the website, coupled with your excitement to be "doing what you love" can be somewhat intoxicating. Don't mistake it.  This is a business!  There will be ups and downs.  The economy will tank and recover.  Build your business slowly, be honest and transparent.

Joan is not only our African American Top 20 feature today, but also my special guest on tonight's  Blog Talk radio show.  Please call in at 6pm EST and speak with her LIVE.  347-327-9451

Leaders of The New School: Anishka Clarke

One of my favorite things about the African American Top 20 is its ability to introduce you to designers that you might not otherwise be aware of.  I have been following Anishka Clarke of Ishka Designs for several years. It has been fun and exciting to see her style evolve and company grow.  We added Aniska to the Top 20 list in 2012, understanding we were a little late to the party.  Her company was already making a splash in New York area.  This week Lonny Magazine highlighted the Brooklyn-based company adding them to their  "10 Designers to Watch" list.

I wanted to get to know a little more about Anishka so I asked Anishka a few questions about her career, finding inspiration and her plans for the future.

Image Ishka Designs via
PE:  What does a successful design career look like to you?
AC: Years from now, when I look back at Ishka Designs' trajectory, I would like to say that we developed a leading international interior design firm supported by a globally diverse, multi-cultural design team.  Our success would be measured by profitability of course but also quality of life (see answers to question 6, 7 and 8 below).  Our primary focus would be the hospitality and residential design markets.   

PE:  You were one of the favorites from the New York event. I got a lot of positive feedback about your space.  The pattern on the chairs were a knock out, where do you normally start a design project?
AC: Thanks!  Every project starts with the client.  Our in-depth interview process, which is a major part of our research phase, allows us to really dig deep into our clients' personalities, desires and needs.  Once we feel we understand them well, we dig our heels into a concept and apply it to all our decisions, whether space planning or material selection.  Ultimately, we always strive to elevate our clients' taste as well as encourage them to take a lot of risks.

PE: Have you ever done a project where you were surprised at how god it turned out? What made it special?
AC: For most of our projects there is always that moment of "wow, that really came out great didn't it?".  But I would say whenever we get a chance to create a piece of furniture, there is always a significant feeling of accomplishment.  For instance, we designed and built a bar cabinet for one of our projects recently. I spent the day with the fabricator piecing together scrap wood and exotic woods to create the main design element.  May not sound glamorous but I was in my element.  It was like building my own puzzle (I love puzzles) or creating some kind of sculpture. I think what made it special was how organic the experience became and how hands-on I had to be in the fabrication of the piece.  I want to do a ton more furniture pieces that require components of organic design and puzzle-making. 

PE: What role does the press play in establishing yourself as a designer?
AC: For Ishka Designs, press is primarily about building brand awareness for longer-term objectives, as opposed to client conversion today.  Very few publications result in actual client prospects.  I have discussed this with other published interior designers, and they agree on this whole heartily.  Press coverage definitely lends further credibility to a designer but only if that is important to their target market.  It is time consuming if you don't have a PR team promoting your work, or it can be costly if you do.  One has to weigh the benefits of pursuing press opportunities by looking at the cost and time dedicated to doing so.  Interestingly, many designers are successful without ever having been published, typically because it is not important to their clientele.  The lack of press in no way diminishes their talent and success.  

PE:  I understand that there was a recent dinner in NYC where black women designers got together.  How important is that type of networking to your success? 
AC: What I have found as an entrepreneur is that you cannot operate in a vacuum.  Being able to share struggles whether personal or professional definitely helps to alleviate the stress of running a business.  So yes, being in an intimate environment with designers who share similar struggles is hugely important and definitely aids in both our personal and professional successes.  

PE:  Finish this sentence.  I could spend all day....
Daydreaming on the beach.

PE:  How important is downtime between your projects?
Very important.

PE:  What do you like to do during your down time?
AC: My what??? Kidding. There really is no one thing.  When I do have downtime, I like to catch up with the real, friends, new restaurants, travel, beach, shopping. 

PE: Do you have a signature style when it comes to design?
AC: We continue to hone that signature style daily.  Our tendency is for our designs to be modern, eclectic and deceptively simplistic. 

PE: Complete this sentence please.  I make sure ever home I decorate...
is a true reflection of the owner.

Joy Moyler, A Day In The Life Of An Interior Designer

I think interior designers make the best bloggers.  Hopefully I'm not being too biased. :)  There is something about the processes of interior designers that makes peeking into their daily lives magical.  I love discovering what inspires them, what annoys them, and what daily discoveries can send them into design euphoria.

Over the years, I've become obsessed with several really great designers who blog.  Be it their personal style, commentary on all things design, do-it-yourself nature, or sheer dedication to building their design career, I just can't stop virtually peering into their lives.

One of my favorites is Joy Moyler of Joy MoylerInteriors. I really love Joy because not only is she one of the African American Top 20 Designers, but she is also an industry veteran with her finger on the pulse of what's next.  In a 2013 interview with Uptown Magazine, Moyler credits a trip to Spain for inspiring her to become an interior designer. I traveled with Joy to Curacao last spring and got to witness first hand her generosity as well as her ability to turn out a spectacular space even when given limited resources.  I'm always inspired by what she is doing and is lucky to consider her a friend.  

She'll be joing us for the Top 20 African AmericanInterior Designers event in May. You have to come out and meet her.  If you can't wait until May or if you are in New York this week, and you want to meet Joy, you can find her participating in the "Our Voices" panel discussion hosted by the New York Chapter of ASID

Joy Moyler at the Top 20 Event in New York
Who: Joy Moyer and other select design professional 
What: An Open Panel Discussion 
When: Thursday February 13, 2014 from 6:00pm - 8:00pm 
Where: 200 Lexington Ave {B/T E32nd and E33rd Street}

The Darryl Carter Empire

Today's African-American Top 20 Interior Designer feature is D.C. designer Darryl Carter. We know Darryl form his numerous appearances in our favorite shelter magazines such as Elle Decor, Architectural Digest and House Beautiful. But there's more to Carter than pretty rooms and glossy magazines.  Carter also has the unique distinction of being able to secure endorsements and partnerships with major industry brands like Thomasville furniture and Benjamin Moore Paints.

His furniture line with Thomasville furniture and paint collection with Benjamin Moore  puts Carter in an elite group of designers of any color.   With those partnerships he joins the ranks of the industry's most celebrated and sought after design talent such as Alexa Hampton, Jamie Drake, Celerie Kemble and Vicente Wolf.

Carter is a veteran interior designer who has enjoyed success by following his own path and ad hearing to his own sense of style. Today, as we take a look at the many contributions blacks are making to the interior design field, we celebrate the work and products of Darryl Carter.

The Books

The Collaborations

See Carter's video series after the jump

Darryl Carter on Color [Video Series] with Benjamin Moore paints.  Hosted by Sanu Matthew of the blog living in color with Sanu.

Janice Palmer - On Finding Success While Pursuing Her Passion

My Bedroom Design for the Atlanta Symphony Showhouse
Hello Pink Eggshell readers,
I'm Janice Palmer and I'm an Atlanta-based interior designer.  I want to thank Kimberly for giving me the opportunity to share with you a little bit about my life as an interior designer.
When I was added to the African American Top 20 interior designers list, I had just completed the Atlanta Symphony Decorators Show house. It was 2011 and I was the first black designer to ever be selected to participate in this prestigious show house.  I was extremely excited and proud because I understood the honor that had been bestowed upon me.  I wanted my space to represent everything about me, which is why I used so many vibrant colors in the space.  It's also the reason I include lots of texture in my spaces.  I was very pleased with the outcome of the room and optimistic for what I hoped being a part of the show house would mean for my career. 
I received praise from the organizers, the public and the other designers, but it was your support that impacted me the most.  I was humbled and surprised at how much my presence in the show house meant to so many people of color.  From St. Thomas, Jamaica to cities over the US and Europe the letters, phone calls and emails poured in. It was overwhelming. The kind words flooded my heart with joy and for that, I am eternally grateful. Thank you!  
I was born to be a designer. I wanted to be a designer before I even knew what that was.  I have fond childhood memories of the beautiful colors of the island where I grew up as well as my teen years spent wondering up and down Madison Ave looking at furniture.  My mom thought I was crazy when I'd walk all the way from 23rd Street to Kips Bay. Or when I would walk all over Manhattan from Flat Iron to the Village to Alphabet city and all over the west side which is now the Chelsea area.  I didn't know it them, but I was being pulled from within into the world that would eventually become my career and the center of my universe- interior design.

Janice Palmer Post

The two words I would use to describe my career as a designer would be passion and luxury.  I chose this image because this is the type of fierceness that resided in my head at all times. I am always thinking color, texture, beauty and richness.  My spaces come alive with my use of color and luxurious textiles.  

Romo Fabrics

This image is from one of my favorite showrooms -Romo.  They really get me.  I can't recall a home that I've completed that has not included something from Romo. In fact, I just completed the Cathedral show house and the Callanwolde show house here in Atlanta and they both featured Romo Fabrics.

For me, it's about finding the richness in all things. I prefer hand-made to mass-produced.  I use Romo and other fine fabrics,  but I can find luxury anywhere. Over the years I've trained my eye, so now I can spot it anywhere.  I also surrounded myself with luxury in my everyday life as well.  My clothes, my shoes, and even my linens, are chosen to envelop me in luxury.  Some people confuse luxury with expense. That is not the case with me.  It's about being able to spot that special thing that feels good to the touch and is pleasing to the eye.

I have a quote in my office that says, "I don't want realism, I want Magic!"  I've found success by following my passion and becoming a designer.   But, I've found joy in the passion, by providing my clients with an environment that exceeds their expectations, delivers them to a place they didn't know existed, and blankets them in layers and layers of luxury.

Janice PalmerJanice Palmer of Palmer Design Group Janice share more personal inspirations and insights on her blog ORANGE HAVEN

Roderick Shade and the First 'All Black' Show house

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.

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

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

African American Top 20 Website

In May we will celebrate the 4th installment of the African American Top 20 Interior Designers.  For two days in May, the world will be able to interact with some of the best black designers in the business.

The celebration will start with an opening reception at a gallery in downtown Atlanta and end with a Panel discussion/meet and greet at the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (ADAC).

With the panel discussion, our goal is to bring you an intimate discussion about career success, building a top-notch client roster, and what it takes to rise to the top in this highly competitive field.

Seating is limited, so please RSVP as soon as you can.

In the meantime,  join me here all month as I bring you interviews and insights from designers from the top 20 list.  We're talking more than 'diversity in design'. We're talking style and success and how to sustain a design career in an every changing market.  As Lisa Turner of Interior Obsession states in her interview which will go up on tomorrow, "we've come a long way baby!"

We're working hard to put all the information you need about the Black design community at your fingertips.  Please visit, FOLLOW, LIKE and SHARE the following resources as needed.

The African American Top 20 Website
Here you will find information pertaining to the top 20 interior designers as well as the details about all Top 20 events.

The African American Google+ and Facebook Fan Pages
We use these social sharing sites to share updates from and about Black interior designers, product designers, retailers and artist. Got a tip or something to share?  Please send your updates to

Pinkeggshell Google+ Page
I've collected many of my favorite books and best decorating advice on my Pinkeggshell Google+ page.  Consider it your virtual mentor. I've gotten so many emails from young designers that I've decided to establish these resources just for them.  Now they can ask questions and post comments directly to the page and get an answer directly from me.

Let's Talk Home with Kimberly Ward-
Blog Talk radio show every Monday at 6pm est
Join our weekly conversation about interior design trends and hot topics.  Produced by Mathis Media Hub LLC.  Tonight's special guest is HGTV host and Season 8 Design Star winner, Tiffany Brooks of You and Your Decor.

Google Plus For Your Interior Design Business

This post is for Interior designers who already have a Google plus page and want to get the most out of their Google plus experience. I've listed some valuable resources at the end of this post for those  of you who have no idea what Google Plus is or how to get started.


Image 1) Chris Brogan's book cover 

Image 2) Breakfast area designed by Michel Boyd of Smith Boyd Interiors 

Last week, I got a call  from a design firm wanting help updating their Facebook page.  The owner attend my keynote presentation at ADAC  on "Facebook marketing" and wanted industry specific updates made to her page. I started  by telling her: Although the tips I gave two years ago were still relevant , I no longer used Facebook to market my design business. " I'm now using and loving Google+" I explained.

I'm sure your reaction is  a lot like hers. "Oh no! Not another social media site."

I get it.  Social media is still in the early stages. Sites and services get introduced and phased out all the time.  Just last week there were tons of articles about the changes Google made to Gmail.

Apparently they suck for those who use email marketing for their business.  These new changes do not deliver the ad, or update directly into the primary email folder but categories incoming emails into one of three areas: primary, social or promotions. With these new changes and the ones I'm sure will come, I've  learned to take the good with the bad and to continue to allow myself to change with the times. But it's not all "happy happy, joy joy." I too cringe when a feature or service that I've grown to love and depend on is discontinued. 

Today I want to share how I use Google Plus for my design business. In Google Plus, like Facebook, you can set up both a personal page and a business page.  I've learned from my Facebook days to keep it simple and not manage too many pages at once. I've decided to use my Kimberly Ward page for everything.  There you will find all my loves in one place. That includes PinkEggshell and my work with the #AATop20 Interior Designers.

1. Start by circling the furniture companies that you use in your design projects.

 This includes companies where you have trade accounts, as well  as companies that are turning out products that inspire your designs.

2. Circle brands that offer tools that make your job easier.

 I like  Olioboard for 2D and 3D room presentations and Base Camp for project planning. By following them, I get updates on new features as well as tips on how to use the products more efficiently. I also have paint vendors and window covering companies in this group.  Google Plus updates from them make it easy to stay up on the benefits and special features of their products.

3. Circle companies that are making waves in the interior design industry.

The Kravets have a fascinating company with strong family and historical ties. Because of their passion and  unique approach to business, they are able to do some cutting edge events and  have formed partnerships with trend setting designers.  These events and partnerships set the Kravet family of companies apart for their competitors.  You want to be where innovation is happening and it is happening at companies like Kravet.

Barbara Barry  presenting her Indochine collection for Kravet at Blogfest 

4. Circle the designers who inspire you.

It's OK to have a design crush. In fact, it's not uncommon to have a design idol whose style you love. These rock stars of the design industry are doing the projects that inspire you to keep on keeping on.  Show your support on Google Plus by leaving comments and sharing their projects.  Build relationships and ask lots of questions. 

My design crush Designer Michel Boyd of Smith Boyd Interiors via The Atlantan Magazine

5. Circle your favorite shelter magazines.

This goes without saying. It's exciting to get information about upcoming issues as well as events sponsored by your favorite publications. I attended an event sponsored by House Beautiful earlier this year. I was surprised when I saw that I was included in the story about the event in the actual magazine. 

6. Circle  interior design news sources like Editor-at-large.

I love Editor at Large because of the up  to the moment design information you'll find on their  site. I use  it to keep up with industry happening in the cities where I don't live. I'm obsessed with the behind the scenes video coverage of exclusive industry events. 

7. Circle special interest groups or pages and join their community.

 Pages like African-American Interior Designers or  WITHIT  provide industry knowledge that pertains to a specific sub-group of interior designers. In addition to pages, these groups often have communities. Communities are a fun place to participate in online hangouts or group chats.  Circle any regional design groups or organizations under this category as well. 

Image ADAC Atlanta designer and showroom collabration

8.  Circle decorative resource providers.

You should circle  ADAC, America's Mart, ASID or  any decorative resource center in your area in order to stay ahead of industry events, keynote speakers, or continuing education classes.  Focusing on this group is important for the growth of your business.

9. Circle the page for the community or building that you live/ work.

I do a lot of business in my building. I've made friends with the Realtors who live here and we keep each other busy. Circling your community's page will not only let you know who's selling a great piece of furniture, but will help you to know who's new to the community, and what units and/or homes are for sale. If you follow the larger community or area near your home you might even find out about planned construction years before it actually takes place. 

10. Finally, circle your favorite bloggers and magazine contributors.

Bloggers are always looking for original content, so they want to know what you are working on. They can also be a resource.  The nature of their job keeps us them contact with people who are interested in interior design content. Follow them and interact with them.  I always pass along a project that I think a print editor could use.  

You can circle me here. I hope this helps. I know that once you give Google plus  try you will love it.  I just finished "Google Plus for Business" by Chris Brogan. It's a great book and covers the more technical side of Google Plus. Here are a few additional resources I think you'll find helpful.  Good luck!

If you found this information helpful please share!

Additional Resources:

Hootsuite: Google Plus For Business

Small Business Trends: How To Create A Google Plus Page

Google on Google Plus

Google Plus For Business / Social Media Examiner

7 Benefits of Google Plus for Business

Designers and Design Bloggers Favorite Rooms on Pintrest

Have you been following our 'Designers and Design Bloggers' Favorite Rooms' board on Pintrest?  We are having a ball and it's a lot of fun to see what everyone else is lusting after.  Here are a few rooms from last week.
Fantastic right?  You can follow the Disigners and Design board  here or all Pinkeggshell boards by clicking here.  There is always something new and fun to discover on Pintrest.

Now that you know what we are pinning, we want to know what you are pinning. Leave a link to your Pintrest page in the comments section. 

 We want to share the  Pintrest love.  Until next time.

My Dream Home Experience -Curacao

I just returned from a six day trip to the Island of Curacao. Located in the Caribbean, this colorful island is a true gem.  The trip was amazing!  A designer's dream. During the day, we worked with our host and interior designer, Nadin Bento talking global design and creating spaces for her "Update My Space Dream Home 2013 Experience" show house and TV show and during the evenings we dined  on 4 course meals, catered by celebrity chefs, even a food network favorite or two. It was all just divine!

I am not one of those people who take things like this for granted. This opportunity was a true blessing.  From the beginning I was drawn to Nadin. It was very ambitious of her to attempt such an event. She and I worked on the interior design aspect which was crazy and ever changing. I had no idea of the magnitude of the project, until I got to the Island, to learn that she was also coordinating chefs from several countries, local and internationally media and countless sponsors on the Island.  I appreciated being apart of something bigge than myself and I'm glad she reached out. 

More fun with the chefs. Images here.

"Update My Space" is a local decorating show that is shown through out the Caribbean, the Dutch Antilles and Holland.  The shows host and producer Nadin Benito was the sole designer for the luxury estate at the center of our trip.  She worked on one of the penthouses at "Residence Le Blue"-at the Blue Bay Resort, room by room until it was perfect. Assuring that it represented the future of luxury design on the island. 

Image of space designed by Joy Moyler for the "Show house experience"

One of the highlights of the trip for me was our visits and design workshops held at The Building Depot.  Again, I could not have imagined the preparation that was made on our behalf.  The people of Curacao showed up in droves to view the spaces we designed for the Building Depot and to attend our decorating seminars.  They came with drawings and pictures of their homes and we answered questions well into the night. In the end, I felt that they really appreciated our being there and know that I've made friendships that will last a lifetime. 

View additional images of the events at the Building Depot here

Between visits to the Building Depot and Dinners in the evenings,  we were escorted on breath-taking tours around the Island. You can find pictures here of the beautiful architecture and colorful abodes. There is no way for you to understand the magnitude of the beauty of this place unless you go. 

View additional images from the Island of Curacao here

Speaking of going. Before I go, I want to send a few shout outs.  I'd like to thank Cedrick and Nana Sprock of Cafe Barista for hosting us for our lunch on Good Friday and also the  Easter Brunch. I would also like to thanks Roderick Lucia  and the team at the Building Depot for all your support and hard work.  Also the tour drivers of Wild Curacao and Fun Bini, TDS, the local food center at the Plasa- Gracia di Dios", the Curacao Aloe and of course the team who worked with Nadin.  And last, but not least, Nadin Benito from "Update My Space" for persevering during this 1 year of preparation, without giving up on her dreams. 

Until next time...

{All Images taken with my Iphone. See more here}