“Wake up world/Wake up and stop sleeping /Wake up Africa/Wake up and stop blaming /Open your eyes/Stand up and rise /Road block oh life penalty ” ~ Africans by Nneka
Hue of the Month is a new feature on A Design State of Mind that showcases the work of African American Interior Designers, Architects and Furniture Designers. Statistics show that African Americans account for only 4 percent of interior designers and less than 2 percent of architects in the design industry. Despite efforts made by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), American Institute of Architects (AIA) and other design organizations to address diversity issues and attract more minorities, these percentages are increasing at a very slow rate. Hue of the Month was created to bring attention to African Americans who work in the design industry and to inspire others to follow in their footsteps. That said, this month’s Hue is Ms. Alyce Amani Bush. She’s an up and coming interior designer based in the Chocolate City who loves to incorporate Afrocentric elements into her designs. Read more about Alyce’s Design State of Mind in my e-interview with her below. Enjoy.
Current City: Washington, DC
School Name and Degree: Northern Virginia Community College, Interior Design, pursuing
Current Employer or Business Name: Amani at Home
Design Specialty: Residential Design, Afrocentric Design
Professional Associations and/or Certifications: ASID
In 3-5 sentences, tell me about yourself (family, hometown, hobbies, interests, personality, favorite quote, etc.):
I was born and raised in Virginia, however I have lived in Washington, DC for the past five years. Last year I purchased my first home. Although it is demanding, it has been an absolute labor of love. Homeownership allows you more liberty to get creative without having to worry about what a landlord might think. When I am not putting sweat equity into my home, I enjoy spending time with my family, traveling, and operating Roots to Freedom, a nonprofit that teaches and promotes the study of African and African Diaspora life, history, and culture.
Tell me a little bit about your design background. How did you get started in the industry?
Interior design is always something I have been interested in since I was a young girl. My grandfather instilled in my mother the philosophy that no matter how much or little you have, you must take proper care of it. She certainly applied this to our homes throughout my childhood. I took notice of her devotion from selecting furniture to making sure everything was spotless! I always felt a sense of pride when I came home and I still do. That is a feeling everyone should have, as I know you are effected by your environment as much as your environment has an effect on you. As I grew older, my first clients were bachelors who had never paid much attention to decorating their homes. It felt great to see my style trusted and respected.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in interior design?
Interior design is a second career for me. I have been a Human Resources professional for the past ten years, five of which have been with the Federal Government. In this atmosphere you are not given the opportunity to think or act creatively. I felt myself feeling somewhat unfulfilled and stagnant. At some point in life, I believe that everyone should be able to do what they love. After mulling over the idea of going to school for interior design for years, this year I finally decided to pursue my passion and enroll in school.
Describe your first interior design project.
My first interior design project was for an old classmate maybe six years ago. He had just moved into an apartment and had no furniture. This was the first time I was given a budget and free range to select the furnishings for his living room and dining room. Afterwards, he told me about all the great feedback he was receiving. I’ve learned so much more since then, but the memory still stays with me as positive experience.
How do you define your personal style?
Wow, what day of the week is it? (smiling) interior design is my fashion. I get more excited about good design and furniture than an outfit or a pair of shoes. There are a few styles that really speak to different sides of my personality like Hollywood Regency, industrial, organic, eclectic, vintage, and bohemian.
My favorite personal aesthetic and my niche, however includes elements of African and African Diaspora culture whether it is textiles, furniture, accessories, and/or art. I want to make these things accessible and show how they can be incorporated in a modern, fresh way.
What inspires you?
When I see good design, it inspires me – it pushes me strive to be more creative. Finding use and purpose out of things that were once forgotten or neglected inspires me. I’ve often been told I have a little bit of a rebellious side. I feed off the challenge of taking things that seemingly don’t go together, for example, industrial and organic styles, and making them cohesive. Lastly, my people and our vast diversity of culture is a huge inspiration of mine not only in interior design, but in life.
What is your dream interior design project? If you had the money, resources and a ready and willing client what would you create and why?
I am fascinated with Harlem in New York. As a history person, there is so much rich history and culture that came out of there. I would love a client who was handed down a brownstone in need off restoration and return the shell to its original glory. Inside, I would include a lot of artwork: a few original pieces from the Harlem Renaissance mixed in with newer local artists, and photographs of the community throughout time. It would be a place where you could entertain groups and have John Coltrane listening parties or the latest Erykah Badu album. There would be African masks and wax print fabrics – rich textures. I guess what I am describing is a place where an African American can go, be rooted, and feel a sense of pride.
Who is your favorite interior designer? What are some of your favorite design vendors, stores, books/magazines, and websites?
I can not say that I have a favorite interior designer, but I would give Candice Olson honorable mentions. I was in awe of her work watching HGTV, you know before I came to know what interior design really entails! (smiling)
I spend probably too much time browsing through www.apartmentherapy.com and www.designspongeinline.com. I love to see what everyday people are doing in their homes compared to what you might see on the covers of Elle Décor or Vogue Living. Living Etc is probably my favorite magazine right now.
Design Rules by Elaine Griffin is a really good book for anyone wanting to learn the basics of decorating. It covers everything from seating arrangements, window treatments, picking colour palettes, and how to incorporate your own personal style and much more.
What do you find most rewarding about your job as an interior designer? What do you find least rewarding?
Creating a story, the home, for a client is the most rewarding part of my job as an interior designer. When they say “this is totally me, I love it”. At the end of the day this is a visual profession and although there are codes and regulations you have to adhere to, it is driven by emotions.
There is nothing I find least rewarding, but let’s just say I really look forward to mastering AutoCAD! Also, when you are designing for your own home you have all the time in the world to collect the perfect piece of furniture or accessory. Interior designers are working on condensed time and this can also be a strain depending on the resources available.
As an African American interior designer, do you feel that African Americans are underrepresented in the design industry? What do you think should be done to encourage more African Americans to become interior designers?
Oh, without a doubt! African Americans make up approximately 4 percent of all interior designers in the United States. I think that HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) should offer more interior design programs. Interior design is at the intersection of architecture and decorative arts. It’s a perfect marriage between two well-respected disciplines. We have to encourage one another to look at it as a viable career option and also the community should support us by finding value in what we do.
Personally, I started a group on Facebook called Blacks Who Love Interior Design to foster dialogue and exchanges between those interested in interior design. There are other groups like BIDS (Black Interior Design Showcase), but we need more.
What advice do you have for other African American interior designers reading this interview?
I would say never let yourself get boxed in. The first interior design business in the US was registered in 1923 when Dorothy Draper “professionalized” decorating. Interior design is a new industry and there is a lot of room for growth. There is a need for diversity. Let your style be seen!
What is something you would like the world to know about you or your ideas?
As progressive I desire to be, I always feel a need to carve out a space for tradition and history. Culture is both traditional and innovative – as much as we are rooted in it, we are also creating it. I want to maintain that fine balance. I want to show the world that people of African descents (whether you were born in Africa, America, Europe, South America, or the Caribbean) contributions are just as important and needed as the Greek, Roman, French or Asian influences in interior design. African design aesthetic need to be exposed in a way that can be incorporated into today’s contemporary homes while maintaining the integrity of the original creators.
Where do you see yourself as a designer 10 years from now?
Wow! Ten years from now I see myself working internationally. I’d love to do branch off and do some commercial work in Africa. Perhaps I’ll write a book and/or create a furnishing line or own boutique. My goal is to become as well-rounded in this business as possible and keep a diverse portfolio. I believe that is the greatest key to success.
You can catch up with Alyce on the worldwide web at http://amaniathome.com/
If you are an African American Interior Designer, Architect or Furniture Designer and would like to be featured on an upcoming Hue of the Month post, send me a quick note in the comment section. Thanks.