designer spotlight: courtney sloane

In my quest to find Black role models in the field of Interior Design I came across this phenomenal woman and was so inspired by her story! She's worked with a ton of celebrity clients but still targets her design company to the masses. She's done retail design, corporate design, stage sets, furniture design.... you name it, she's done it! For examples of her work and more about Ms. Sloane, check out www.courtneysloane.net. Her website is so cool too. Meanwhile, here's an article I found that pretty much sums up how awesome Courtney Sloane is!

"Sloane, who is as expressive in her language as she is in her work, derives her unique designs from her clients' personalities. "Living spaces and work areas should read like an engaging novel," she says. "Every room should tell a different story, and each threshold should invite new and exciting twists while maintaining continuity."

Alternative Design's revenues tell a story of steady growth, with last year's sales reaching around $350,000, and projections for this year at more than $550,000. Sloane is quick to attribute the company's success to the strength of her design team: seven employees including an architect, a full-time designer and a project manager.

Sloane has come a long way since 1991 when she started the business part-time while working as a design consultant for Formica Corp., a Wayne, N.J.-based building products company. Sloane, who attended Rutgers University, says she never saw furniture design as a career option. The reason was she didn't know of any African Americans in the field. In fact, the Washington-based Organization of Black Designers estimates that only 2% of all interior designers (there are more than 70,000 in the U.S.) are black.

Government contracts sustain most black design firms because they lack networking opportunities. However, Alternative Design has survived solely on commercial clients. "I would never get the opportunity to do what I like to do if I had to follow the specs," says Sloane, who enjoys having creative autonomy.

At one time, Alternative Design relied heavily on word-of-mouth marketing and black clients. Now, roughly half of its clients are white and Asian, and Sloane is getting some major play in the press. She is the first African American and one of a handful of female designers to participate in Metropolitan Home magazine's "Signature of Style" campaign for the Design Industries Foundation for AIDS. Sloane will stand head and shoulders with such industry virtuosos as Vincente Wolf, Glenn Gissler, Albert Hadley and Victoria Hagan.

While Sloane is attracting more sophisticated customers, she says that disparity still exists in the industry. There are no ground rules in the billing percentage of interior designers, unlike in the billing practices of architects, who receive a set percentage. Most interior design firms can command anywhere from 10% to 20% per design gig, averaging about $4 million a year. However, the average black design firm commands less "work for work" and "dollar for dollar" than its white counterpart.

Which is one reason Sloane is going global. Alternative Design was recently commissioned by a licensing company to design a commemorative watch for South African President Nelson Mandela." Source

Creative spirit living & loving in Raleigh, NC.