May 20, 2023 - Real Estate

How to support Black interior designers in Chicago

professionally designed open-concept kitchen and modern living room

Photo: Courtesy of Glasshouse Interior

Conversations about diversity in the interior design field have picked up since the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. Now, it's time to take action, industry experts tell Axios.

The big picture: Only 2% of interior designers are Black; it's one of the least diverse professions in the U.S., per 2022 Census data.

  • Lack of access, exposure and funding make breaking into the industry harder for Black designers.

What's happening: Chicago-based designer Marissa Nelums says representation has improved but inclusion is still lacking when it comes to lucrative projects.

Data: BLS; Note: People referred to as Hispanic/Latino may be of any race; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios
Data: BLS; Note: People referred to as Hispanic/Latino may be of any race; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

What they're saying: "If the opportunity isn't given on a large scale, you take away the opportunity to actually enhance the visibility of people of color in this industry," Nelums tells Axios.

Context: Diversity is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to creating equal opportunities for folks of all races, says June Reese, vice president of Black Interior Designers Inc.

  • Diversity is asking Black designers to speak on panels that have traditionally only been offered to white designers, for example.
  • Equity is offering the tools, and even financial resources, to make it happen, Reese tells Axios.
  • "Our circumstances are so different than everyone else's; it has to be different," she says.

Steps toward equity include getting more Black designers on big projects, "giving them the opportunity to have a portfolio that's reflective of what other races would necessarily have," Nelums says.

Be smart: Consumers can help by supporting Black creatives and Black-owned businesses — "and maybe even going out of your way a little bit to do that," Chicago designer Candace Griffin says.

  • She suggests seeking out designers of color to diversify your social media feeds.

What's next: Inspiring the next generation of Black interior designers by talking to students.

  • Knowing that interior design is a career option, and providing access sooner, is a big part of growing representation, Reese says.

Chicago is filled with talented creatives. If you’re in need of an interior designer, here are several to consider, listed in no particular order.

Glasshouse Interior, where Nelums is CEO and founder.

  • You can visit the brick-and-mortar home decor store at 2910 S. Wentworth Ave. on the South Side, or shop for goods online.

Candace Mary Interiors, where Griffin is founder and principal designer.

  • Her firm specializes in luxury home staging and interior design.

Alluring Designs Chicago

  • Owner April Gandy has been designing Chicago-area interiors since 2006.
  • She shared her tips with Axios Chicago for designing happier homes.

Joyful Designs Studio

  • The firm founded by Joy Williams focuses on artful and sustainable design.

Design A Rose Interiors

  • Designer Quiana Rose is an expert on tailoring peaceful spaces to clients' needs.

JM Interior Stylings

  • Jamilah Mottley Brown's designs promote wellness in residential and commercial spaces.

Pro tip: The Black Interior Designers Network can match you with a local designer. Email [email protected] for more info.


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