I’ve been thinking a lot about the world of high-end residential interior design and when the 50 Finest Interior Designers list was released, I knew I wanted to write a post about it.
See the thing is the list is going to be white. The truth is that Britain and Europe engaged in colonisation, empire and slavery. The riches born out of those periods still trickle down through British society.
A lot of white people didn’t think twice about the racial makeup of the list. Many more do now because the police killed a man called George Floyd.
I always wonder why it takes such a horrific event to be filmed for some people even to consider that there may be a problem.
Stately Homes and Historic Houses
When I walk around London, I view these grand old buildings with the knowledge that the owners may have had slaves at one point and the uncomfortable feeling that if this were a few hundred years ago, I could have been one of them.
I live in Harlesden, you may know it as NW10. It’s mostly a black area full of Caribbean food places, and for some reason, fishmongers. It’s one of the only places I’ve lived in London where people say hello. Older people, who my heart aches for when I try to imagine what it must have been like here when they arrived. Some are fighting not to be deported back to the Caribbean by Suella Braverman.
When I used to go to work on the tube, another lifetime ago, I used to love picking up ES magazine on a Thursday. It was the only thing I didn’t mind being thrust into my face in the street.
Every article on the cover star, though, without fail, would mention which school they attended and their generational wealth, “She was educated at….” “Her Great Grandfather was the Earl of… It’s wonderful to grow up there, I’m sure. Don’t we all want the best for the next generation? That’s why I write this; I want better for all future designers from non-traditional interior backgrounds. Read my mission statement for We Are Nomads.
Black designers, we can’t wait for these types of lists to acknowledge us, they may not but the people that want to work with us will find us.
I love the saying “build our own table” I’m all for it in all senses, and I applaud anybody who takes the brave steps of setting up their own business. It may not work out, but it may really really work out.
I don’t want a world in which we ask to be included. Don’t include us because someone told you to, do it because you believe at your core it is right. If people need to tell you your list is out of touch then you are out of touch and that’s fine, Be out of touch, our worlds don’t have to meet.
The thing with diversity is that brands can have ASAP Rocky in their campaign, play his music in their shop, but then still have security follow him or anyone who looks like him around the store, that’s not diversity it’s performative and, we people can spot the difference a mile away.
It’s a CV that’s ignored because a name can’t be pronounced, it’s the highly-priced courses that most black people can’t afford. The majority of black and brown people are from working-class backgrounds and fees are another barrier to entry.
The residential design world is somewhat closed off to a huge chunk of potential designers. Interior design is all about aspiration and inspiration, We are used to seeing Ghanaian masks and Indian rugs being sourced for projects, but please acknowledge the heritage behind it.
Read my interior with 91 Magazine on the issue of representation in interiors.