This Boy’s Room Celebrates Black Joy In Style
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Over the last two years Nicole Taylor has been working on her much anticipated cookbook, Watermelon and Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations. But she’s also had a side project of an arguably equal magnitude: renovating her home!
Nicole has always been a design enthusiast, rearranging her room constantly as a teen and keeping dozens of Pinterest boards for decor inspiration today. A few years back when she was expecting her son, Garvey, Nicole took the plunge and hired a virtual decorator to help her pull a nursery together. “I was literally running out of time for the nursery, so I went with one of those e-design services,” she says. The service matched Nicole with designer Naïka Andre, who was also based in New York. “After Naïka did the nursery. I was like, ‘She’s great, let’s have her do our entire apartment!'” says Nicole.
When Garvey was a year old, Nicole and her husband Adrian Franks decided to leave their Brooklyn apartment to go back to Nicole’s hometown of Athens, Georgia. The couple had been looking for something to buy in New York City, but 2020 changed their plans, as it did for so many families. “My husband was like, ‘We should move back to Athens just to get out – just to get some space.’ It took me about 24 hours to agree.” She adds, “Seeing the uprisings made us think, ‘Where can Black creatives like us feel free?’”
Their hunt led them to a unique mid-century house. “I’m a fourth generation Athenian, but I’ve never seen a house like this. It was like something you’d see in a magazine—classic 1960s,” she says. “I saw this house online, and I was like, ‘This is our house.’” The couple ended up buying the house after one FaceTime tour, knowing that updates were needed. They were thrilled when Andre, who now has her own firm NJA Interiors, agreed to help them again from afar. Nicole’s mandate for Andre was to design the house with intention. “Our home, our dinner table has always been that space for Black joy, Black celebration,” says Nicole. “For our new home, we said, ‘Let’s infuse it in an intentional way.’”
As Nicole and Andre collaborated on the design for the house, the process has been part of a larger personal journey that has played into Nicole’s work. “I feel like I’ve been coming back home. I was born and raised in Athens,” she says “It makes me remember recipes, stories, smells, tastes — all these things started rushing back to me.” The resulting home and cookbook are deeply personal.
Nicole took Cubby on a tour of her son Garvey’s room and shared advice for designing a kids room that’s packed with style and meaning:
Function comes first: “As much as I love nice things, I want things to function,” says Nicole of her decor philosophy. For example, for curtains in her son’s room, she skipped the cutesy designs. “They’re not expensive curtains; they’re just simple blackout curtains that we got from Target.”
Cubbies are her secret weapon for organization: “I want Garvey’s things to be organized and have a place,” says Nicole. “When you open up his closet there’s a big, long bookshelf that is filled with cubbies. Anytime I need to do a purge, it’s easy for me to go in there and look by category: Are there way too many cars? Way too many puzzles? I’m always saying, let’s be super intentional and create this space where there’s room for everything.”
Invest in the things you’ll use everyday: “As soon as I get some extra money, the first thing I invest in is my home,” says Nicole, but she learned the hard way that it doesn’t pay to skimp on a kid’s room. “The dresser we bought for his nursery was used so much, it was literally falling apart. I would advise anyone to splurge on a dresser or anything else you use daily. I had to buy a new dresser. I would have preferred spending a few hundred more dollars in the beginning for something we could keep forever.”
Design to spark creativity: For Garvey’s room and a couple other places in the house, Nicole splurged on custom doors with chalkboard inserts from local craftsman Gus Darnell of Oneta Woodworks. She says, “People coming in there are pulled in; they want to get the chalk out with Garvey. It’s just a really cool activity.”
Surround your child with stories: The entire house, including Garvey’s room, overflows with books, and in particular books that tell diverse stories. “He has a lot of Black children’s books; there are some that we’ve been gifted two or three times.” says Nicole. “But I really like any kind of cultural books that I feel help him understand his world.”
Weave in history: Nicole is acutely intentional about weaving her family’s story and Black culture into her home —and Garvey’s room is no exception. One example is the ABCs of Black History poster “I really love it because when I want to introduce the word Juneteenth to him, he gets it in very subtle ways: J is for Juneteenth is right there on the poster.”
Give your child real art: Garvey’s room features art that’s on par with the artwork in the rest of the house. “One of the things we have is this cool painting my husband did: It’s a silhouette of Garvey as a baby.” Nicole says Garvey even has his own NFT, thanks to his dad’s work in that space!
The shape-shifting rug she loves: “We were able to use the blue FLOR rug tiles from the nursery in Brooklyn,” she says. “I was happy to reuse it because rugs can be very expensive.” Because the carpet is broken into 20”x20” squares, they could be reconfigured to fit the new space.
Her favorite place for affordable accessories: “I love Meri Meri. I have so much of their stuff. I get a lot for parties, but I also have one of their little rocket mobiles hanging up in Garvey’s room. Their stuff is so cute.”