May 20, 2023 - Real Estate

How to support Black interior designers in the Twin Cities

professionally designed open-concept kitchen

Photo: Courtesy of Thomas I. Hill Interiors

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: Minneapolis-based designer Jernell Rochelle says representation in the Twin Cities — and Minnesota — is still lacking, even as consumers seem more attuned to those disparities.

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

What they're saying: "Awareness is broadening," Rochelle tells Axios. But the industry "is not going to change until something drastic makes it change."

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., a national organization.

  • 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 more media exposure and increased opportunities to show off expertise at trade shows and presentations, Rochelle says.

  • "It's probably going to have to come from us," she says, referring to designers of color. "I don't think anybody is losing sleep over not including us in the room or at the table."
  • Mentorship or internship opportunities with designers of color are also key to welcoming more diverse, younger professionals to the field, local designer Thomas Hill tells Axios.

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.

The Twin Cities are filled with talented creatives. If you’re in need of an interior designer, here are three to consider.

5enses Design & Home Staging

  • Book if: You want a custom refresh for your home, or some help making it attractive to potential buyers.
  • What's next: Rochelle, the firm's owner, says she plans to focus on designing spaces for multigenerational homes, which are on the rise.

Thomas I. Hill Interiors

  • Book if: Your dream home is an electric blend of older and contemporary elements.
  • Go deeper: Mpls.St.Paul Magazine profiled Hill — and his whimsical 1970s Edina abode — in 2021.

Ideal Commercial Interiors

  • Book if: Your office needs some elegant furniture or a more collaborative workspace.

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


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