The home decor landscape was once saturated with white voices dictating what design styles were in, what was out, and who got to be involved in the decision process. People of color are not new to the design world, nor are their influences, despite the fact that there is still a lack of appreciation for Black designers in interior design. The influences of Black designers can be seen all around, like those of Harold Curtis Brown, the designer—often credited as the first recorded Black interior designer—behind the iconic interiors of some Harlem Renaissance-era nightclubs like The Cotton Club.
While there is still work to be done, we’re highlighting talented Black interior designers who are thriving in the industry today. Brooke Lang Design is a Chicago-based interior firm founded by principal designer and namesake Brooke Lang in 2012. While their design and operations teams are small, it is by choice so Lang and her team can provide a personalized and positive experience to each and every one of their clients. Lang leaves a little bit of her own personal flair in every space she designs, using her travels for inspiration, and is a pioneer in her field who makes sure to network with other Black designers when she gets the opportunity.
What made you decide that being a designer was your calling?
Growing up, I was fascinated with math, art, and solving puzzles. Being a great designer has a lot to do with solving all the pieces of a home together. When we have a complicated layout that needs creative solutions or a married couple that has two conflicting styles, we have to bring it together cohesively. It also takes creativity to work with architectural details and structural issues that need a unique perspective.
As a kid, I knew that I wanted to eventually do something creative, but I wasn’t sure how that would work. I majored in architecture in college and I thought that would be enough creativity for me, but after getting my master's degree in Architecture from the University of Illinois and working for some of the nation’s top architecture firms, I realized I wanted more. I came across the field of interior design and realized it requires a lot of the same skills, with a few tweaks. It didn’t take long before I started designing for family and friends, which over time helped me build a business that provides residential and commercial interior design services nationwide.
How would you describe your style and approach to designing spaces?
My go-to style is “relaxed sophistication.” I never want anything to feel overly precious or unapproachable. In my interior design business, we approach design through the lens of livable luxury. We always want something beautiful to catch the eye at every turn and make sure that every surface is treated with a beautiful detail, fabric, wallcovering, or texture that makes the whole space feels warm and inviting.
What are your design inspirations, whether from your culture, other cultures or anything else in between?
I draw inspiration from traveling, which helps me gain new experiences and learn more about other cultures and their approach to design. I recently visited Cape Town, South Africa, and was so inspired by the natural landscape of the mountains, ocean, sunsets, and safaris. Photography is one of my side passions, so I photographed as much as I could. I put together a lookbook of my photography and am already using some of the colorful moments as inspiration for our design projects.
What's a design project that you've done that's stuck with you throughout your career?
I’ve had several career-defining projects that I’m proud of. One of my latest projects is a cocktail lounge in Chicago, where we’re based, called HUE CHICAGO. About 80% of our projects are residential, so it was exciting to design a space that can be enjoyed in public by friends and peers. We transformed a dark, dingy space into an inviting, upscale hangout for locals. It’s rewarding to know that our design can make an impact on someone’s night out, whether they’re celebrating a milestone, having a girl’s night, or simply connecting with friends.
What's your favorite design project?
I had the opportunity to complete the breakfast room in the Lake Forest Showhouse, an elegant estate designed by Walter Frazier in the 60s. It is a beautiful, 16-room red brick structure on a 5-acre conservation area. It was my first time designing a space with zero client input. I’m really proud of how it turned out because I had to lean on my creativity and my ability to push the envelope. Because the showhouse is open to the public, your work is subject to public critique, both good and bad! We want our designs to evoke an emotion and give an immediate feeling, so it was incredibly rewarding to get that type of feedback in real-time.
What's your favorite part of your own home?
My bedroom is my favorite part of my own home. There is no greater feeling than coming home after a long day and getting into a comfortable, clean, warm bed. We have designed our primary bedroom to be maximal and moody. We used a moody dark green shade on the walls paired with dusty rose tones in the rug and shades of lighter green bedding. It’s the perfect oasis to unwind and end the day.
What’s one thing you try to incorporate in every space you design?
In every space we design, we always bring in a little Parisian flair and an element of contrast, usually black and white. It can be in a texture, artwork, wool rug, drapery fabric, or pillow cover. It’s such a dynamic yet approachable colorway and can go with a neutral palette, bold colors, or a minimalist look.
To me, being Black in this industry means rooting for other Black designers. I want everyone to win! When I meet other Black designers, we instantly connect and bond. We freely share information about design practices, vendors, and other recommendations to help each other succeed
What does it mean to you to be Black in your industry?
When I first started my design career over 17 years ago, there weren’t as many Black designers as there are now. Over the years, thanks to social media and networking, I’m able to easily connect with other Black designers all over the country who are just like me.
To me, being Black in this industry means rooting for other Black designers. I want everyone to win! When I meet other Black designers, we instantly connect and bond. We freely share information about design practices, vendors, and other recommendations to help each other succeed. I’m a big believer in paying it forward and holding the door open for other Black designers who are just starting out in this field, whether it’s through mentorship, client referrals, or sharing useful information. We are a community within the larger interior design industry, and it brings me so much joy to cultivate these relationships.