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If interior designer Kiyonda Powell were to break down her design style into just a few words, she would call it "eclectic," "casual" and "fun."
Take one look at any of Powell's past projects, and you'd easily agree. As the founder of a Washington D.C.-based boutique design studio, she creatively mixes textures and patterns to make beautiful and cohesive living and commercials spaces. And while her designs often showcase her artistic flair, the rooms are meant to feel livable and where "you [can] spill something and that's OK," she said.
"I don’t want to create spaces where people don’t feel comfortable," Powell told Shop TODAY. "It’s about not taking it too seriously — when things feel more relaxed, people can relax and kind of lean into it."
She brought this signature style to one of her most recent projects, The Obsidian Virtual Concept House, a collaborative effort from 23 members of the Black Artists + Designers Guild ranging from interior designers, artists and architects meant to expand conversation around designing homes for Black families. The digital project, which launched in late January, uses a 11,000 square-foot virtual home in California's Oakland Hills to showcase the future of wellness, sustainability, legacy and more.
In an industry that notoriously lacks diversity (according to the executive vice president and CEO of the International Interior Design Association, Cheryl Durst, less than 1 percent of its members are women of color), Powell said it was "amazing" to be working with so many Black creatives.
"When we started presenting our ideas, I just became filled with pride, because we don’t typically get to see projects like this," she said. "You flip through a magazine and it’s never that diverse."
Powell designed the wellness suite, which features a futuristic home gym and relaxation room. She said she used herself as inspiration for the room: a single Black female, a go-getter. "But (she) needs to pay attention to her wellness," she added. "Looking at a lot of the health challenges that Black people face, Black women in particular, I wanted to make sure that she had those outlets in the home."
Designing the suite, she said, gave her a new way to push herself creatively. "I think the project as a whole was a challenge to most of the creatives because we were really just thinking outside of our norm in reference to the technology, Afrofuturism, wellness and all these different components that we want to include in our spaces but may not get to do normally because of a budget or a client," she said.
Kiyonda Powell's home picks
While Obsidian focused on the future, lately Powell said she's been interested in finding pieces that can accommodate the modern-day needs of people who are working, living and spending most of their time at home. When the dining room doubles as your conference room and the kids' classroom, you want practical pieces that will serve more than one purpose for your space. With that in mind, Shop TODAY asked her to share her home essentials for creating a more functional — and livable — space whether you're WFM or hanging out at home.
"Sofa tables can be the perfect satellite desk in the home," Powell said. They're compact and efficient, and options like this one are more affordable than a typical desk. This one also has a shelf underneath, so you can store away your everyday items to avoid clutter.
"I like bar carts for their versatility," Powell said. Bar carts, like this midcentury option, can also be converted into a supply cart to hold your WFH essentials or used as a moving desk that can be rolled and stored away at the end of the day.
Powell also likes this option, which features a more modern minimalist aesthetic with a sturdy iron frame, so it will hold up no matter how you plan to use it. The compact design is also sure to fit into any home or apartment.
While this piece is a serious investment, it's worth it because extension dining tables can do double duty, Powell said. You can keep it small during the work and school day, and then use the extension feature to stretch out for dinner parties or entertaining guests. If you have multiple people working at the same table, you can also extend it so no one feels too cramped.
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