Neffi Walker | Black House Founder Focuses On Black Experience – Flaunt Magazine
You are from Harlem, how does that play out in your life and your career?
Harlem in the ’80s and early’ 90s was filled with dope boys in shiny cars, jazz music at Grant Grave, hip hop, 125, Apollo, and 8 bullet jackets. Harlemites are known for going big and being awesome. A very “see me” environment. I feel that I have continued this daring in my creations. Very elegant and eloquent visuals.
The biggest influences to come?
I lived right next to Dapper Dan and on the other Brownstone in the next block was Doug E Fresh and his family, so my block was always super bright. Growing up seeing all the fashion, celebrities and music in my neighborhood has really helped me become who I am. Really 80s hip hop, breakdance, all that boom.
How did you start
Prior to interior design, I ran basketball clinics and events for the NBA career hopefuls, which required constant travel. Once I got pregnant with my last child, I decided I wanted to do something new, which kept me close to home. I moved from the East Village, New York, to a house in the suburbs of Jersey. It was like The brilliant Back then, watching deer in the yard and the lack of city noise was strange to a die-hard New Yorker. Immediately after the birth, I started renovating my house, which I felt was therapeutic. I instantly realized that this was what I wanted to do with my life because of the immense joy she brought me. The renovation took about 5 months from top to bottom. This led me to redesign 5 of my girlfriend’s houses too just for the kicks. A friend of mine sat me down and said, “Babygirl, I think this is a real career. You got to look into that; you’re pretty good at it. “So that’s where it started.
What inspires you the most?
People and having the pleasure of designing spaces where people can feel comfortable and happy. Your home is your safe space. I meet a lot of people going through transitions, I understand and I can understand that. Have the opportunity to help families with their plan based on favorite colors, items they have collected, etc. Create a space where they feel like, ultimately, with this crazy world, now I’m home. Now I feel comfortable. That’s all for me.
When did you get the idea for The Black Home? How is he influenced by your heritage?
I decided to open a store and signed the lease a month before COVID arrived. Since I was locked in the lease, we had to go ahead. I wouldn’t say it was hassle free, but overall it was a wonderful experience. You’ll be able to purchase the full line of The Black Home products, as well as seven other businesses that are organized seasonally, flowing in the spirit of The Black Home brand in the space. It is important for me to share the space with small businesses who can benefit from our extensive network of dedicated clients. Community rather than competition is one of the mottos.
Why Newark, New Jersey?
Newark is a black city on the verge of gentrification. It would have been really easy for me to do this in Harlem, super easy for me to do it in Brooklyn. Newark is untapped. I wanted to be anchored in a space where people who come to the neighborhood can use our space to meet the residents for life. Gentrification is difficult when the community changes to not represent the community it serves. I want this space to be an intermediary between the two in order to be able to meet, get to know each other, respect each other and learn from each other. Newark is intentional because of his darkness.
How does the store celebrate your African American and Latina heritage?
All I do is make the culture completely honest. Even with the wallpaper line that Verna Fogg and I created, the addition of banana leaves was intentional. Banana leaves are the main ingredient in the Puerto Rican dish called pastels. We thought about what we can do for our culture that can be put on the walls, add a peel and stick feature so that it is easy for people living in apartments to put on and take off. Let’s create a line of wallpaper! I’m glad we got such a positive response because wallpaper isn’t the easiest thing to sell to people, but they love it. I am here for this.
I try to have an intention with everyone I create with culture at heart. It’s called The Black Home for a reason, 99% of the items in store are picked by people of color. The point of the in-store experience is for people to come in and celebrate heritage, black culture, people of color, culture. Between me and the 7 in-house companies, we hit the nail on the head.
How did you end up with the name The Black Home?
This is actually my second store that I opened. The first was called Le Noir Home which is The Black Home in French. People would always come to the store and ask “are you Le Noir?” I realized I was extra and instead of naming it in French, I made it simple: The Black Home in English. This includes the fact that I do almost everything in the color black. I’m known for black walls, black bathrooms, black kitchens.
What’s your favorite item?
We created these wonderful cribs in Indonesia, so this gigantic black peacock chair makes you feel like a queen or king sitting on a throne. I’m known for their velvet sofas and chairs, so we’ve got a bunch of them here. Our candles are also AMAZING. We also have a marble tic-tac-toe game which is a bomb I’m excited about that.
What impact do you want to have on the community?
Show people in a transparent way that certain things can be accomplished. The whole store rollout, if I didn’t show all the backstage it would feel like an impossible feat. I want the community to know that we are all one, and we are all here to help each other. This is really my goal. I like people in general, so as many people as I can help along the way I want.
Any advice for people who want to do what you’re doing?
A lot of people don’t want design degrees. If you have the eye, you should go ahead and try to do as much DIY for the environments as you can. Get through this before you have to get stuck on getting a degree. Going ahead and getting started is always the best way. Even though it’s really small, at least you are starting out and you can see what you think about being in this career field.
Any goals yourself as an artist at this point in your career?
I am hoping to open a second store in Atlanta as I delve into boutique hotel design. The main goal is to create as many products as possible to go to customers. I move from the client aspect of design to product design. This is the five-year plan. We are already doing this with the store, but just expanding.