Turning something old, broken, ugly, and forgotten into something beautiful and useful is what interior design is all about.
Whether you’re a homeowner, apartment renter, or renting a room, you know the importance of having an aesthetically pleasing space that can lift your mood and help you stay productive. Having a beautiful space can help you to feel happy and comfortable in your home
With home improvement projects being an ongoing endeavor, it makes sense that interior designers are popular careers. Yet, for black women in or trying to enter this career space, the odds seem to be skewed against them.
If you have a knack for turning dull spaces into vibrant living quarters, interior design is your career path. However, thriving as an interior designer may not come easy.
The harsh reality for black women in the Interior design world
If you tune into any popular interior design show, you’ll notice that the prominent designers usually are white. This dominant ethnicity isn’t just on television shows but also spans the real world.
Did you know that 72.7 percent of designers are White (non-Hispanic), according to the Census Bureau? Even more shocking is that only 4.84 percent of interior designers are black.
While there is a significant disparity in the field, WOC interior designers are actively working to make the career space more inclusive—women such as Sheial Bridhes, Kesha Franklin, and Cecil Hayes.
Yet the struggle for equality and recognition is an ongoing battle. Designer Marie Burgos told Architectural Digest about a moment when her skin color affected the design event she attended. She retold her experience of having her chair design featured at NYCxDesign. When events goers realized she was a featured designer, they turned away in disbelief.
But despite skeptics, it is still possible to have a successful career as an interior designer as a black woman.
How to grow a career in the interior design world as Black women
To succeed in the design world, you’ll need talent and skill. Here is how to make waves in the industry,
Hone your skills
As a woman of color, no matter the field, professionals, managers, supervisors, business owners, clients, etc, are expecting you to be good. Sometimes they expect you to be excellent. Therefore you must gain more than a proficient skill set. Critical skills to develop as an interior designer are creativity, problem-solving, detail-orientedness, interpersonal skills, and attention to detail.
You want to be able to approachable as well as an out-of-the-box thinker. In addition, focus on what unique skills you bring to the table.
Show up as your whole self.
Walking into the office as your most authentic self can be scary because you never know if you’ll be praised or shamed. Simple acts such as wearing your natural hair, packing a particular food for lunch, or simply dressing in a way that is representative of your culture can be deemed unprofessional.
However, the more you enter different professional spaces as your whole self, the more chances you have of being accepted for who you are.
Own your work
To succeed, you must get your work out into the world. Start by building and expanding your portfolio. In addition, share your work with others. Sharing could be on social media, having a personal website, participating in design contests, and collaborating with other designers.
Join black design organizations
Being in a space where others recognize and understand you is essential. Thus joining a black design organization can help you network and create a space to grow confidently.
Some black design organizations to look into include:
- The Black Interior Designers Network
- The Black Architects and Interior Designers Association
- Black Artists+Designers Guild
Find a mentor
Joining some of the abovementioned organizations can also help you find a mentor. Having someone that will guide you, especially if they are a person of color, can help you avoid common missteps in the business. A mentor can also introduce you to new contacts and professionals. And most important, they can help keep you motivated.
Don’t give up
Starting a career where there is little representation may mean you are the only WOC in your company. It may mean you have to prove yourself and fight for your seat at the table.
When the struggle starts to feel like a 100-pound weight you carry on your back each day, remember you are making a difference for years to come. By pursuing a career in a place of little diversity, you are helping to open doors of opportunity for future generations of women.