In “60 Seconds With,” Siweb editor Charles Curkin chats with creatives and industry leaders, getting the scoop on their life and work in one minute or less. In this installment, he talks with Leyden Lewis, the Brooklyn-born and -based interior designer and founder of , who was featured as part of a story on the Black Artists + Designers Guild in the April 2019 issue of ED. Earlier this month, during High Point Market in North Carolina, Lewis curated the exhibition “Beyond the Mask,” which highlighted the work of various members of the guild. Lewis’s one minute starts...now.
How was your time at the wonderfully exhausting trade fair?
This was my first time. It’s pretty intense. Aside from setting up the exhibition—which we only had one day to do—I walked around for a day. It was much-needed downtime.
You certainly got your steps in. See anything you liked at the fair?
I have a filter like a spidey sense. I ignore 80 percent of the stuff I see. Resin-encrusted tables made in Thailand that I’ve seen for 15 to 20 years? Those are not on my radar. Then I’ll come across the work of South African photographer , and I’m blown away.
How long have you been in business?
I’ve been at this for 32 years. I started as an interior decorator’s assistant in 1987, then I got my degree at Parsons in architecture.
How does that training inform your work?
As a trained architect, I’m looking at the spatial quality of things as well as the furnishings.
Just like Peter Marino.
Absolutely. Marino is a design hero for me. I mean, I’ve used leather on a staircase in a project before. We also took four tenement apartments in the East Village and made them into one duplex. Such a Marino move, no?
What annoys you about architects?
They often try to boil everything down to pure materiality to express the maximum function. Boring!
Which furniture brand exhibiting at High Point would you like to collaborate with most?
, without question.
Why is that?
Because of the history of the company and its emphasis on design. It has a direction and an idea that is sustainable. I would say does that, too.
Tell me all about the “Beyond the Mask” exhibition you put on down there at ?
It’s a small compilation of 17 individuals of African descent, including interior designer Sheila Bridges and fine artist Lisa Hunt, all with varied talents and ways of addressing design. I think people think of black art and design as ethnographic. We were picking away at what people consider blackness.
Was it well received?
Very well received. A lot of people were excited about it. They just didn’t know going in what was happening. Like, “Oh my god, they make tables in Trinidad?!” Yes, they do!
Last, and possibly most important.... Is North Carolina barbecue superior to that of, say, Texas?
Dammit, I didn’t eat any barbecue! No one told me about that. I was surrounded by vegetarians.