HOW WE LIVE HOME TOUR WITH DJALNA MCSWEEN
Her Caribbean roots infused with design education in Philly, Djalna McSween is a interior designer with an unapologetic approach to decorating her home.
Filled with African art, plants, books and two cats you can imagine her downtown loft has all the Afroboho vibes we love! Let's take a look at her Newark, NJ home.
Tell readers a little about yourself and where you live. My name is Djalna McSween, founder and owner of Djalna McSween Interiors a virtual and full service interior design studio based in Newark, NJ.
I was born in Trinidad (the birthplace of the steel pan and limbo), and raised in America’s Paradise, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. In 2006 I graduated from the Interior Design program at the Art Institute of Philadelphia and have been working in the design industry ever since.
I live in a sunny plant-filled loft in downtown Newark, NJ with my creative partner James and our two bossy tabbies, Lunar and Nova.
How would you describe your decorating style in three words and who or what influenced that style? Unapologetic Black Pride. Growing up in the Caribbean was a major source of inspiration. The Carnivals & Festivals are a kaleidoscope of colors and textures. Combined with the juxtaposition of colonial and modern architecture, I have no doubt this is where my love for eclectic and Afroboho design started.
As I work with more black people across the diaspora I’m exposed to an even broader array of cultures outside of my own as I help them create spaces that reflect their roots.
Do you have keepsakes or family heirlooms incorporated into your home decor? If so, what are they and why was it important to incorporate them? I don’t have any heirlooms but my desk, made of solid sonokeling rosewood From the Source, is a keepsake I intended to pass down to one of my nieces or nephews someday.
What was one major decorating challenge you faced in your home and how did you solve it? My kitchen doesn’t have a tile backsplash and because I’m renting I opted to go for a more affordable and temporary solution. I installed a peel and stick vinyl wallpaper from Mitchell Black to protect the wall, making clean up much easier and it looks so much better than before!
Why was it important for you to incorporate African decor in your home? What types do you have and what countries are represented? African décor tells my story. It’s important for me to stay grounded and remember my roots. African decor reminds me of the strength of my ancestors, how far I’ve come and no matter how far I go they will never be left behind.
I have collected Kuba cloths from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, mud cloths from Mali, a batik from Ghana, a carved stool from The Gambia, and masks from Senegal.
For those that are hesitant to incorporate African decor into their home or don’t know where to start, what's one piece of advice you’d give them? Go for it. It’s almost impossible to get wrong. A black and white mud cloth throw or pillows is a good place to start. They are easily interchangeable and can work with a range of décor styles from traditional to modern.
I also suggest choosing pieces that speak to you on a spiritual level. Some carved pieces and patterns give me goosebumps and those are generally the ones I’d source for myself or projects. If it speaks to you, go for it!
If you were hosting a dinner party, what three people would you invite and why? I’d invite my favorite actress, Regina King because she seems so down to earth to me. Planetary scientist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, for the dad jokes and real estate investor, and New Jersey native Shaquille O'Neal aka Shaq to learn more about his vision for Newark.
At Reflektion Design our mantra is, See Yourself at Home. How does your home reflect who you are? My home reflects who I am because it displays my passion for plants, books, and African decor. When people come to my home, they often comment on how calm it feels and I think the plants play a major role in that.
By most people’s standards, I have a ton of plants but in my best Luther voice I say, “never too much, never too much”! I love to host and create a warm and inviting atmosphere for my friends. I encourage guests to play albums from my vinyl collection, take a look through my partner's paintings or curl up on the day bed with a novel or magazine from the bookshelves. At the end of the day, my home feels like me. I’ve been blessed with a culturally rich life and my home reflects that.
Looking for African decor that reflects who you are? Head to the shop: www.reflektiondesign.com
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