My Seat at the Table: How It All Came to Be

Happy Tuesday folks! I'm finally breaking down my participation in ArtsMemphis Art by Design 2018! This post is probably as wordy as I've been in a while, but I promise it's worth the read!
First things first, this entire process began back in November of 2017. That was the first time I was asked if I'd like to participate in Art by Design. With very little knowledge of the event, I politely declined. Fortunately, I was asked again in December of 2017 and this time, I thought to ask for more information. Once I found out that there was a sponsorship fee required to participate ($$$), I realized that it wasn't something that I could commit to at the time; not to mention having to work it in between the 4 clients that I was juggling then; so, again, I politely declined. Then in January of 2018, the final call asking me to participate came. Oh, but this time, it came with news that there was a generous sponsor that wanted to take care of my sponsorship fee! At this point, it was fate! There was no way I could turn it down now!

After getting over the disbelief, it was time for me to get to work. I was being handed the opportunity to take a 12 'x 16 'x 10' space and turn it into WHATEVER I WANTED! This was uncharted territory for me. Designing a space that was completely mine; not my interpretation of someone else's space, which is exactly what working with clients can be.

Now that this opportunity was in hand, I approached my fellow department heads at Stash Home with an opportunity that we could both share. I design the space using Stash product and they, in turn, get all of the advertising that doing so could offer. Being the amazing people that they are, they didn't hesitate to say YES! Its truly a blessing to work for such an amazing company!

Resources taken care of, it was then time to focus on the space. I took the following statement into consideration:

I was the first black interior designer to ever participate in Art by Design. I can't remember if someone said it to me or if it came from my own thoughts, but the revelation was my inspiration.




The incredibly wonderful people of ArtsMemphis were more than vocal about the lack of diversity in previous years. They were very intentional with every decision they made regarding all of the people that would participate, aiming to create an event that "looked" more like the Memphis that they were raising funds for. Keeping that in mind, I set out to create a vignette that "looked" like me and what I represented: a new seat at the table.

My seat at the table.

It instantly became apparent that I HAD to create a dining space. I had to show my version of this very traditional institution being interrupted by the (theoretical) black form.

The epitome of this in a visual format is Kelly Wearstler's Graffito wallpaper in sand and black. The way the graphic black lines cut through the muddy background gives me all the feels. It was the foundation of my inspiration.

I went through a few concepts for the furniture layout before landing on this one. I didn't want to just throw a table and chairs into a box. I wanted to create a focal point that delivered up my message and then moments, or zones, that would continue to the conversation.

Once the layout was determined, it was just time to plug and play. I knew I wanted furniture and accents made of wood and with tons of texture. I wanted to include literal and figurative expressions of black culture. I wanted this room to feel layered and complex, yet approachable and familiar. I wanted to elevate the unexpected, but impart signature elements of my aesthetic. The color Black, graphic patterns, vintage pieces and plant life were a must. Essentially, I wanted people to walk into the space and know that a person of color created it, without it feeling like a political statement.

And after weeks of searching, sourcing and digging, I had landed on a plan that I loved.

Every piece felt intentional, but collected. Modern, yet reclaimed.

A round table was a much better use of space. I also love that there's no "head of the table" and every seated position if of equal importance. Black elements like the drapery gave the room a sense of drama and contrast. All the wood, leather and metal play together for tons of layered interest. I had to create one obvious "political statement" and it came in the form of a single chair that stood out from the rest of the set. My seat.


Part 2 is on the way! I'll be gushing about the amazing artisans that lent a hand to help my space be all it could be!