Being Purposely Noire

Designer Ashley Ross shows where to source products made by Black entrepreneurs

In 2019, one year after launching Muse Noire Interiors in Charlotte, NC, Black interior designer Ashley Ross was compelled to add a service to her client offering.

Like many good ideas, the new service evolved from an unmet need.

Since opening her business, Ross made a habit of sourcing Black entrepreneurs and artisans for Muse Noire’s commercial and residential design projects. “My intention initially was to spend money in the African American community,” she says.

Cheryl Luckett upholstered furniture collection for Sylvester Alexander, photo by Erin Comerford Miller

The furnishings and decor items from this curated list of vendors would soon resonate with her Black clientele. As her company’s first-year projects neared completion, the new opportunity was coming into focus.

“Clients want things in their surroundings from someone who looks like them,” she says, describing her design for a child’s nursery, to which she added Justina Blakeney’s whimsical Vida Luna doll, produced in a collaboration with Pottery Barn Kids. For a hair salon interiors project, she hung “White Feather” on the wall, a striking black and white portrait by the art photographer Gregory Prescott.

“Clients want meaningful pieces with a relatable story behind them,” notes Ross, who positioned Blakeney’s Feroz Tiger and Tigress designs for Loloi Rugs in the common areas of a new gym and yoga studio, opening in the Charlotte area.

Feroz rug by Justina Blakeney for Loloi, photo by Tiffany Ringwald

With the new service Ross calls Purposely Noire, clients may request that a portion of the products specified for a design installation will be purchased from Black-owned businesses or people of color (POC).

Anecdotally, Ross adds that some clients are surprised when they learn about Purposely Noire. “They’ll tell me, ‘I didn’t know there were Black people in this field.’”

Justina Blakeney collections for Loloi Rugs

Yael & Valerie

Mikel Welch accent items for Yosemite Home Decor

It is fair to note that the furnishings industry has not long been representative for people of color. Representation is one avenue on the road to economic parity, and, Ross concludes, “It’s good for the economy at large.”

“It’s important to have a platform for people of color,” she adds, acknowledging trade media and shelter publications for enlarging their focus on Black designers and brands during a time of social upheaval. Ross is willing the momentum to continue. “This has to be more than one news cycle,” she says. “It can’t be a one-off thing.”

Nikki Chu rug collection for Jaipur Living

Corey Damen Jenkins lighting collection for Hudson Valley Lighting

Michel Boyd art prints collection for Leftbank Art

Ashley Ross is doing her part to shine a light on exhibitors and collections which fit the bill at High Point Market. On a mission to grow the list of vendors for Purposely Noire, Ross arrived for her first Market in October with a hyper-organized schedule of showroom appointments, including exhibitors who collaborate with Black and POC designers on product development.

Her curated list of must-sees for Spring Market, June 5 - 9, includes:

Corey Damen Jenkins lighting collection for Hudson Valley Lighting

Nikki Chu rug collection for Jaipur Living

Michel Boyd art prints collection for Leftbank Art

Justina Blakeney collections for Loloi Rugs

Cheryl Luckett upholstered furniture collection for Sylvester Alexander

Mikel Welch accent items for Yosemite Home Decor

Yael & Valerie textiles, wallpapers and accent items

The list is a starting point. It takes conversations like these for growth to occur, says Ross.

As for future attendance at High Point Market, she has practical advice to share with first-time designers and buyers.

Make showroom appointments before you travel, she says, and when you arrive, know that printed materials quickly add up in weight to carry, no matter how cute the exhibitor’s tote bag is.

“Don’t pick up the catalogs!”, she says. “You can ask to have them emailed to you.”

About Ashley Ross

Ashley Ross, MPA, is owner and principal of Muse Noire Interiors, a bespoke interior design firm based in the Charlotte Metro area of North Carolina. Ashley’s passion for supporting creatives of color laid the foundation for her transition from studying criminology to opening her design business and creating meaningful spaces for work, living, and play. She has traveled extensively, landing in fourteen countries on four continents to date, and she cites global travel as a top source of design inspiration.