“When Black people dream what do they dream about?” Twenty-three Black Artists + Designers Guild (BADG) members and two Rising Stars have taken that question into consideration in creating OBSIDIAN; a virtual concept house envisioning a home by Black Creators for the Black Family in California’s Oakland Hills in the year 2025.
This BADG’s legacy project was born in the vortex of “The American Awakening.” This moment in American history marks a fresh opportunity for healing and the reawakening of the Black imagination. The project addresses decades of environmental injustice and offers its creators an opportunity to share their ingenuity and Afri-centric perspectives on home.
Creators conceptualized their spaces with a focus on four principles; Innovation, Technology, Sustainability, and Futurism, further conveyed through seven key fundamentals that express the intent of OBSIDIAN and its mission; Wellness, Identity, Sustenance, Terra, Legacy, Ancestral Futures, and Dwelling. This legacy project celebrates Black creativity and culture with each creator drawing from their perspective, expertise, and experience to design a domicile highlighting the multiplicity of Black family identities.
Designers: Leyden Lewis and Nina Cooke John
“We bring not only our individual family histories but also our different approaches to design and methodology. We both bring our academic and practical knowledge to the design of Obsidian. The house embodies the hybrid of the theoretical and the practical. The result is a collaboration that embraces the charge of the concept house, i.e imagining a supporting space for the mental, physical and spiritual well-being of the Black family and all of its expressions of joy and creativity.
We researched sustainable building practices including geothermal heating, solar energy harvesting, rain-water harvesting, and passive-house systems. The house is imagined and placed in the Oakland Hills of California in the year 2025. The west-facing structures frame and curate the light and views of the San Francisco Bay. The design, while mindful of the rich, Black cultural identity linked to Oakland, is also mindful of the traditional practices of the indigenous people of the Bay Area, the Ohlone.”
Earlier this year we spoke with Leyden and Nina at length about their process in creating the architecture for Obsidian House. See what they had to say here.
Space: A Place of Retreat and Respite
Designer: Bernadette Berry of b-framework
“My overall intent was to create a visually simple and minimal space that infuses architect Jack Travis’s 10 Principles of Black Cultural Design with my sustainable, holistic design approach.
The bedroom as sanctuary has been a recurring theme recently. This sentiment has taken on new meaning given the global, political, and cultural climate destined for our foreseeable future. The design of this space is meant to be a haven for the body and mind.”
Designer: Cheryl R. Riley
“I was instantly drawn to this space which is separate from the main house because of it’s designation. I lived in San Francisco from 1977 to 1999, a time when meditation, investigations of the spiritualities of ancient or contemporary world cultures and mind/body awareness were very much a part of our lifestyles. My first action upon viewing the plan was to transform the original configuration from a square to a circle. Not only was a circle more aligned with my concepts for the space, it also responded to the shape of the Ohlone peoples’ huts. The Muwekma Ohlone were the original inhabitants of what is Northern California whose lands include the Oakland Hills, the site of our project. Their conical-shaped abodes also guided the contour of the building.”
Space: The Barka Dai – ‘An Abundance of Welcome’
Designer: Cheryl Umbles of Cheryl Umbles Interior Design
“As people of the African diaspora, our heritage has always been about opening our hearts and home to others. Providing an ‘Abundance of Welcome’ comes easy to us as a people, so come on in…… As a designer and homeowner, I love the emotional anticipation that family and friends experience when you first open your front door, and the person on the other side cannot wait to cross the threshold. That emotional anticipation should go beyond a host’s greeting and is what a ‘welcome’ space is all about.
Elements in this space combine for creature comforts in an architectural seating design that demands effortless social distancing and ambiance for winding down from the drive over. At this point, you can sit back and just breathe, or pass through, but not without pausing to take something mindful with you.”
Designers: Penny Francis & Casi St. Julian of Eclectic Home
“The Wine Room interior is designed for a family who appreciates the region and the wine that it creates. Rather than focusing on the function and storage of the wine, we wanted to create a space that could be enjoyed and engaging in the process of tasting and drinking. Center of the lower level of the home, the Wine Room is an anchor, a visually stimulating creation that invites you in to have an experience. Obsidian is a work of art, enveloping you with its multitude of shapes and features which we wanted to express in the interior space by selecting sustainable and visually stimulating materials.
Playing with shapes, we custom designed the racks to have movement and meander on both sides of the room, illuminating the wine and presenting it in a sculptural way.”
Space: Analog Vestibule
Designer: Everick Brown of Everick Brown Design
“Our vision, a transformative space called, ‘Think Play Gather’ is an epicenter for connection, interaction, and grounding. An analog room bereft of electronics, but rich in technology and history. A place where mementos, family pictures, music and books not only remind you of home, they define it.”
Space: The Umoja Room
Designer: Lisa Turner of Interior Obsession
“The perfect family room for the modern African-American family starts with traditional values. The design is a multi-use space for the family to gather, hang out, and play. This key room is a communal space used by multiple occupants whether it be for a night of TV, a round of homework, a family piano recital, or some musical entertainment. Great care was given to functionality and décor.
Overall, the design blends heritage and art into a homogenous whole. Every detail supports innovation, technology, sustainability, futurism, health and wellness within the umbrella of African modernism. A family that plays together stays together.”
Space: The Atlantic
Designers: Anishka Clarke and Niya Bascom of Ishka Designs
“The Atlantic is designed as a green space with drought tolerance, fire resistance, health & wellness, and functionality in mind. Historically, BIPOC cultures sustain their environments and cultures by adapting methodologies that are inherently resourceful and necessary. We carry that ideology into our design solution for The Atlantic, through our choice of materials, furnishings, and plantings. These elements not only take into consideration the environment, but also are inspired by our deep heritage and ancient cultures. Looking back to look forward: there is no future without these persistent methodologies, and our space is a reflection of that.”
Space: Harmony Room
Designer: Laura Hodges of Laura Hodges Studio
“The Dining Room is a vibrant space where family and friends gather to share a culinary experience together. The concept is centered around a large mural inspired by BADG artist, Glenyse Thompson. Thompson’s mural, which is based on one of her smaller works, sets the tone for the space and is both bold and graceful at once. A custom-designed dining table in white oak with a white-painted geometric base plays with both form and shape while anchoring the room’s open space. I designed the freestanding, built-in benches to encourage communal gathering, with vegan cork leather upholstery and ebonized reclaimed oak seats. The form of the custom-designed counter stools was inspired by the shape of stacked African necklaces, while the low seating could be tucked away to allow for an unobstructed view of the landscape.
This room is a multi-use space that serves varying needs throughout the day and supports the family’s evolving lifestyle. The design will showcase the importance of community and shared cultural experience while incorporating a healthy and sustainable environment.”
Space: The Room of Requirement
Designer: Leyden Lewis of Leyden Lewis Design Studio
“This is a place within the home where one’s vitals and all necessary preventative and maintenance of health can be assessed, planned for and addressed at light speed and a touch.
This room is designed with gold as its core featured material. The warmth and light of this material is an ancient birthright of Black people. The warm characteristic of gold pairs with the room’s functions on many levels.”
Designer: Linda Hayslett of LH.DESIGNS
“Instead of thinking lineal and doing a bathroom with updated gadgets, I wanted to think beyond that when approaching the master bathroom. With movies like Black Panther showing us the possibilities of what life could be in terms of new ideas and technology, I wanted the space to have a new take on what the bath experience could be.”
This space also reflects the times we’re living in, so I took into consideration the pandemic as well, thinking that this is a long term situation. So, I designed the space to inhabit presets that would take a person to a totally different place while in the bathroom.”
Space: The Artist Studios & Garden
Designer: Linda Allen of Linda Allen Designs
“I call my spaces ‘I am Good Enough’ – The Artist Studios and Gardens. These are nurturing areas for an artist who learns about herself through the stories and wisdom of jewelry making and beads, as well as the healing energy of stones. I added therapeutic design elements and custom details in these spaces that relieves the artist of academic and mental pressures to create a legacy. The artist studio and gardens were created similar to how an artist creates their art – speaking in raw truths, with messages within my designs that can nurture and inspire. I feel that emotional design expression is where the future can go in Virtual design; healing spaces that help us become our better selves, and give us permission to be authentic.”
Space: Soul Center + Family Foyer
Designer: Kelly Finley of Joy Street Design
“While the kitchen is the heart of the home, it will become less of a visual workhorse but rather a smooth blend with the rest of the house in the future. Designed to focus on the history and culture of Black Americans, the soul center of the house will feature bold colors, references to hip-hop, and sculptural elements that will encourage the inhabitants to lounge as much as any other part of the house.
The family foyer is a private entrance for the house inhabitants that allows them to shed their outer vestments and cleanse themselves before entering. This room is designed as an homage to the city of Oakland and features an oak tree mosaic – the symbol of Oakland – as a grounding component. With useful UV-C cabinetry to remove harmful bacteria from objects, bathing and laundry capabilities (for humans and pets), and technological tools to control the house, the family foyer also becomes the command center of the house.”
Space: The Wellness Suite
Designer: Kīyonda Powell of Kīyonda Powell Design Studio
“In a home, every space has a function and purpose for living and doing. I selected the wellness suite in the Obsidian House to include a home gym, relaxation room with a bathroom with a bonus steam shower. I want to create a place to decompress as well as be inspired. I call it Natural Wonder. Imagine a place where after the activity of the day, you can renew your individuality. A space to be intimately safe within your mind and body while enjoying the balance and synergy of a contemporary space with bespoke design. This suite is designed for a single Black female in her mid-40s. She is an entrepreneur who runs a consultant firm and is constantly on the go, but makes sure to carve out time for her self care practices. She loves pilates, yoga and barre to stay fit. She prefers classroom setting for her workout routines but in the COVID era feels more comfortable doing her practice at home and utilizes technology to create her own version of a class setting or one-on-one personal training.”
Space: Legacy Wall
Designer: Malene Barnett
“The Sankofa-Legacy Wall is a metaphor to our ingenuity, strength and perseverance. Regardless of systemic structures, Black families continue to stay grounded in culture, spirit and gratitude. The walls at Obsidian honor our ancestors, serves as a tool for Black liberation, and also possesses healing properties.
Within the tradition with African symbolism, the wall evokes Sankofa, the Adinkra concept meaning, ‘go back and get it.’ This is a necessary mindset to reclaim our Black identity and greatness. These walls send daily affirmations of self-love and inspire ways to be an active member of the community.
Each tile is hand-carved and incorporates artisanal building techniques used in traditional West African Dogon and Hausa architecture. It’s important for Black families to focus on our history of perseverance and honoring our forebears. The names of family members are etched in tile leaving a long-lasting mark as a reminder to live with purpose.”
Space: The Royal Bedroom Oasis
Designer: Marie Burgos of Marie Burgos Design
“The Main bedroom is the furthest retreat of the home. The most vulnerable and private space. It is a place where you can deeply reconnect with yourself and your loved one, where you recenter and restore your body, your soul, your mind and your identity. Designing this space, I was looking to tone down the outside influence to revive deep connections to the diaspora for a restful and healing effect. Each detail of the space provides a hint of the global Black heritage and creates a nurturing, supportive and empowering result. The couple resources themselves in the strength of their heritage.
My inspiration came from my Caribbean heritage. The Caribbean are at a cultural crossroads so I selected elements from around the world to infuse in my room. from Taino’s Adornos, the religious tray from India, the South African inspired silk rug to the Aboriginal surf sculpture and many other items. The idea was to retrace our diaspora as a global multicultural experience through time from the indigenous, the aborigines, the Africans and the Caribbean Indians.”
Space: The Shaman’s Chamber
Designer: Sheryl T. McLean of McLean and Tircuit
“This holistic space is an expression of the African Diaspora in combination with modern day design and materials, advancing technology and tribal remembrances. My intent was to create a personal refuge that promotes healing, dreaming and relaxing; a place where you could wake up on the beaches of the Seychelle Islands in East Africa or on the bedrocks of the rushing waters in Zimbabwe or even in the mix of the New York City skyline.
My inspiration comes from the love of my many travels and stays where I would wake up to the excitement of a whole new world and experience all of its grandeur, in the comfort of my hotel room with everything I need at my fingertips. I chose this space with the idea of being able to get out into the world without having to leave your home. In this time of COVID, it is the safest kind of travel.”
Space: Moon House
Designers: Cristina Casañas-Judd & General Judd of Me and General Design
“Our design intent for the Pool House is to weave the past into the future. We aimed to create living and breathing elements by utilizing materials, textures, and patterns to evoke rest, wellness, and reflection.
We envision an innovative space incorporating an integrated medicinal herbal garden mixed with native wildflowers. The kitchen will be equipped for harvesting and storing the herbs during winter months to be used as natural remedies for the occasional home birth and to promote physical, spiritual, and mental wellness.”
Designer: Lynai Jones of Mitchell Black
“The cinema located on the ground floor near the wine room and bar, serves as a respite from everyday life. The luxuriously appointed, heavily textured space, creates an atmosphere of extreme comfort to promote stillness and allow the visual entertainment to have a strong impact on the viewer’s senses. My challenge was to design a visually striking space that functions best, when the design elements disappear into darkness.”
Space: The Mancala Lounge
Designer: Nikki Klugh of Nikki Klugh Design Group
“The lounge for the Obsidian Concept Home will be an outdoor respite that caters to both serenity and excitement. Combining elements of fire, water, and an abundance of sustainable natural features this space will be soothing for the individual looking to mediate or enjoy a glass of wine.
Equally so, the lounge will be accented by bold, rich colors, gaming stations making it a place ideal for large family gatherings to enjoy family activities or simply converse fireside on cool Northern Californian evenings.”
Space: Suspended Lanai
Designer: BOA of OI Studio
“My aim was to create a multifunctional space for working, lounging, and entertaining while still retaining my minimalist design approach. The pandemic has forever altered our work life so I wanted to incorporate a comfortable space to work outdoors.
I’ve always wanted to try hydroponic farming, not only for its sustainable properties but also because it allows growers to produce food anywhere in the world, at any time of the year, and to net higher yields with fewer resources. It was definitely a no-brainer to include this concept in the space. My main design inspiration definitely comes from nature, specifically the horizon of the Caribbean Sea. I like linear, clean horizontal planes in nature and I incorporate that shape into my designs.”
Space: Djembe Room
Designer: Danielle Fennoy of Revamp Interior Design
“Vast, with views of the sprawling Oakland Hills, the Living Room at the Obsidian is about celebration and connection; to our heritage, to our successes, to our many talents and our creativity, to our joy, to our rhythm, to our struggle and pain, to our complexity and diversity, to our love of Mother Earth. Blackness can be found in every corner of this room. The design strives to represent all of us. Past, present, and future.
I am very function-forward, so my first thoughts were to maximize the seating of the room, while still allowing the occupants to be open to the views, the fireplace, and to each other. At the same time, I kept in mind that when large family groups do come together, they often break out into smaller sub-groups to have more intimate experiences. Whether that be playing dominos, listening to the wisdom of elders, enjoying music, or just celebrating various milestones and accomplishments, it was crucial to create a space where the family could all just truly… BE.”
Space: Royal Suite
Designer: Erin Shakoor of Shakoor Interiors
“This guest suite, built for a couple, is the only room on the 3rd floor of the house. I think of it as a penthouse suite designed for mature audiences only. The suite contains a spacious entry, royal bathroom and sleeping/lounging quarters. It was created for the gen-x and baby boomer; c-suite executive/retiree who is a globetrotting, art collecting, sanctuary seeking couple with various intellectual pursuits, and a modern artistic perspective. They only engage in luxurious lifestyle experiences at home and when traveling. They make relaxation and self-care a priority.
My intention with this space is to express memorable and inspired, high design through the use of Black & indigenous cultural and historical references. By doing so with functional art & artifacts, the suite becomes an experience, not just a room of furnishings. the standard presentation of framed art has been intentionally omitted from the royal suite.”
Rising Star: Cornelius Tulloch
“The Lumination of ‘Solare’ transports family members and guests to a space for relaxation, exploration, and creation. The Brewery is a space that services multiple members of the family at different times of the day. This space serves as a threshold between the house and the car garage. It sees the circulation of the home as people come and go from the home, it is a space to prepare for your day and decompress at the end of it. With calming light glowing from the polycarbonate and wood cabinetry the industrial materials of Brewery are complemented by these light and natural Palettes.
With silhouettes of stored items dancing across the face of the backlit cabinetry, this design is inspired by the markets of Jamaica. Inspiration was taken from the temporality of the structures and frames that vendors use to sell their items at markets. Looking at light, silhouette, and frame of the market spaces in Jamaica led to the grid inspired design that uses lighting to create and control the calming mood of the Solare space.”