First, I wanted to provide a glimpse into who I am, the writer behind these words. I am a Black woman, nearly 30, and I am utterly and madly in love with interior design and creating a space as a form of self-expression.
My dwellings have evolved as many times as I have—my walls have been adorned with faux attempts of post-graduate glamour, the minimalism thing, the maximalism thing. But, through all of my homes in the last five years, I've kept one constant theme of soulful living with me: surrounding myself with Black icons and Black beauty in the home.
We hope both the children and adults who are welcomed into our space receive and internalize the message that Black is beautiful and worthy of recognition.
What Inspired the Interior Decision
In hindsight, I'm sure my upbringing played a part in my home. My parents filled our house with photos of faceless jazz players and soul singers. We had a shrine to Black leaders like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Jackie Robinson. I wouldn't come to realize that this was a "Black thing" until I was older, having sleepovers with friends, and noticing that we all seemed to have the same iconic Underground Railroad painting by Paul Collins.
Being that young, I didn't have a particularly striking opinion on art. After all, I wrapped the walls of my bedroom in J-14 posters well into my college years. Once I graduated and outgrew most of my teenie-bopper idols, I put more energy and creative thought into my living space and what message I hoped to send to visitors, guests, and the casual scroller on Instagram.
The most significant piece of art advice I kept close to my heart over the last decade was given to me by Jennifer Aniston—kinda. In her 2006 movie "The Break-Up," Aniston plays a gallerist working with a bachelor on his new home when he admits that he just doesn't "get" art.
But then, Aniston tosses out a seemingly-forgettable line that still resonates with me, "Never buy a piece of art that you don't have to have. You have to live with it every day. You have to walk by it every day. You have to really love it. You have to really appreciate it."
Never buy a piece of art that you don't have to have. You have to live with it every day. You have to walk by it every day. You have to really love it. You have to really appreciate it.
While I evolved past the J-14 magazine, I still continue to feel a deep connection to pop-culture artists. Therefore, not falling too far from my mother and father's tree, I wanted my home to be an altar to strong Black figures—with an added personal twist to display and honor those who helped me in my coming of age journey as a Black American.
The Icons In Our Home
I live with my husband in Dallas, Texas. We're an interracial couple—my husband is a redhead from Indiana—and both had a voice in choosing which Black figures we paid homage to on our walls.
In the living room, we have Nina Simone and Issa Rae. Nina was his pick, and Issa mine. Before Issa Rae became a household name, I first was introduced to the multi-hyphen extraordinaire through her web series-turned-book, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. She depicted and illustrated parts of my Black experience that I hadn't seen or read in mainstream media.
Since my introduction to her work, Issa Rae has remained one of my heroes as a writer, comedian, and storyteller. Her work has empowered me to share my Black experience as a writer and podcast host. My husband says chose Nina because of her amazing breadth and diversity of music. She was a refreshingly unique artist and singer, unapologetically herself—and she was beautiful.
Our blown-up poster of Solange is an Instagram favorite. When the album artwork first popped up, I remember it moved something in me that hadn't been touched before. Growing up, I struggled with being a token Black student, combating the urge to adopt the seemingly standard white beauty trends. I would catch back-handed compliments telling me I was "pretty for a Black girl," or I would internalize my peers' feedback that convinced me I was most beautiful when I straightened my curls or assimilated to the culture of Abercrombie & Fitch and pink Frappuccinos.
At home, I was taught that "Black is beautiful," but I received everything but that message at school. Fast forward to Solange's A Seat at the Table artwork, and when staring at the image, I saw what I truly needed most during my adolescent years—and it took my breath away. It's what I imagined art was supposed to make me feel. Without a stitch of makeup or the touch of a heating tool, Solange demands attention, honor, and my gaze each time I step into our dining room.
Close by is my husband's next pick, framed portraits of "A Tribe Called Quest." He notes that the art is by a Dallas artist named Arturo Torres and depicts one of the hip-hop groups he first listened to. They keep Solange company. And often, friends aren't always familiar with their faces right away, so it's proven to be a solid conversation starter.
My closet-turned-Peloton-station houses our drawing also done by Torres of Serena Williams. She's an athletic god whose art really doesn't need any explanation, but she's the epitome of strength and ambition. Whenever I simply hear the name "Serena Williams," I envision her sculpted arms in the air, claiming a victory and her mouth open and wide as she collects another win.
Angela Davis now gives life to our dining room as well. This poster came to be all the more meaningful in 2020. Like a flag that demanded a morning salute when in its presence, the framed photo of Davis had the same effect—she is a reminder of the work still left to do.
What I Hope Others Feel About Our Art
Yes, ultimately, the art is for me, Jennifer Aniston. But, I do hope it affects those who enter our home. Though we don't have any children of our own, we're proud to be the "Auntie Jaz" and "Uncle Jordan" to many friends' kids and nieces—no nephews, yet. We try to keep our home filled with some kid favorites: coloring books, reading books, and an iPad. And we hope that the wall art will become part of their childhood backdrop, just as Black art was for me.
We light up when kids ask us who is in the art on our walls. It allows us to engage with a younger generation and tell them about civil rights heroes and artists who we look up to. It's the closest I feel to "passing something down."
It allows us to engage with a younger generation and tell them about civil rights heroes and artists who we look up to. It's the closest I feel to passing something down.
Finally, we hope both the children and adults who are welcomed into our space receive and internalize the message that Black is beautiful and worthy of recognition. I hope guests see Solange's hair and know not to touch it. They see Issa's laugh and know there's no reason to feel insecure in our home. They see Angela Davis and know there's still more to be done.