Designing Woman: Courtney Sloane Gains Clout with Her Alternative Approach to Interior Design

By Shakespeare, Tonia L. | Black Enterprise, July 1995 | Go to article overview

Designing Woman: Courtney Sloane Gains Clout with Her Alternative Approach to Interior Design


Shakespeare, Tonia L., Black Enterprise


For years, African American interior designers have been on the outside of the window of opportunity looking in. Basically, they were outside the deal-making loop. Commissions in this high-end luxury service industry were made mostly among white men on the golf course and at upscale, exclusive social functions. Black designers have traditionally had only a small piece of this business, which generates about $31 billion a year.

Fortunately, Courtney Sloane is one for bucking tradition. The African American, female interior designer is the president and founder of Alternative Design in Jersey City, N.J.

The four-year-old company renovates interiors and designs furniture for both residential and commercial clients. Blending European, American and African motifs into exciting living and work spaces, Sloane's work has a certain cultural edge. One design, for instance, was a bed made of African ribbon mahogany that was accented with a leather bolster headboard. Another of Sloane's creations was a 10-ft.-long conference table of one-half inch blasted glass with aluminum tapered legs and aluminum boardroom chairs.

The 33-year-old designer has gained notoriety, especially in the arts and entertainment industry. Her client list reads like a who's who, and includes rap star and actress Queen Latifah, MTV Host Bill Bellamy and Bad Boy Entertainment President Puffy Combs, to name a few.

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, the Fashion Institute of Technology and Pratt Institute, 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. …

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