If you want to source luxury handbag designer Brandon Blackwood’s design roots, look no further than New York construction sites.
The Jamaican-Chinese Brooklynite, 30, grew up among the sawdust of any myriad of projects his mother—the only Black female contractor registered in New York for 10-plus years—was spearheading. “I would literally be sitting down on a pile of Sheetrock doing my homework while all these Jamaican guys are doing electrical work,” he happily recalls. “And during the summers, before college, I would help her out. I’d be the one putting up the insulation or drilling the little things.” His mother’s influence has equipped the designer not only with solid home improvement skills (Her motto? “Don't worry about the square footage: shittiest house, best neighborhood”) but a Rolodex of skilled builders to help him with constructing the home of his dreams.
So when it came time for Blackwood, the creative mind behind last year’s most profitable handbag brand in the world, to design his own five-story Brooklyn brownstone, he took matters into his own hands and followed the same ethos that has made his signature line of crocodile-embossed mini box bags and fur-trimmed leather totes so popular: Luxury is meant to be lived in.
In other words, don’t save the expressive, special pieces for an occasion. Rip the tag off now and use the bag tonight: Life is the occasion.
It’s a feeling that any one of his brand loyalists—including Kim Kardashian, Saweetie, Doja Cat, and the slew of TikTok users who unbox Blackwood’s creations with a certain reverence—pick up on when toting his bags. With their accessible price point (pieces start at $70) and polished composition, the designs demand to be seen rather than waste away in a dust cover. “I never understood when people bought nice clothes or nice bags and were like, ‘I’m going to save it,’” Blackwood says with a laugh. “The way I rip that shit out of the box!” Blame it on his Libra sun sign.
It’s a groundbreaking strategy, given that the high-end handbag market is by definition exclusionary, historically catering to a predominantly white audience while boasting aspirational price tags and months-long wait lists. But by easing the barrier to entry and redefining who can be a consumer, Blackwood’s eponymous line increased sales by 50,000 percent last year.
The same logic fuels all of his decor and real-estate decisions. In the past year, the designer purchased three properties—two of them in the very Brooklyn neighborhood he grew up in (one is his new home, the other is his glass-encased business headquarters) and the third in Mexico. His current brownstone, which he closed on last summer and where he lives with his partner, stylist Roberto Johnson, and their dogs Trill, Mink, and the newest addition, Juicy, is teeming with priceless furnishings that lack pretension. Rather than hide the Picasso he sourced from Sotheby’s last year behind cold UV glass, it casually hangs near the staircase by his kitchen. A cognac brown Terrazza couch, the centerpiece of Blackwood’s living room, is no relic of the past to simply be ogled at. He wants you to sit and enjoy yourself, while surveying the robust gallery wall that boasts a sensuous Bony Ramirez portrait and a steely-eyed Lil’ Kim mug shot, among other standouts from Keith Haring and Tschabalala Self.
Not that you can take your eyes off the latter. Blackwood commissioned the rare, one-of-a-kind Self rug—featuring one of the artist’s signature apple-bottomed muses squatting in a come-hither stance à la his favorite rapper, Nicki Minaj—from the painter, a longtime friend and former Bard College classmate. In a rare move that contradicts his “luxury is for every day” M.O., Blackwood thought the piece too precious and grand for the floor. Instead he hung it on his dining room wall so that it would capture guests’ attention as they glanced up from the curved glass CB2 dining table. “I’ve joked with Tschabalala about this all the time: Girl, if one of these gallery people ever came over and saw this, they would be like, ‘Ugh, what is going on?’” says the former New York City Museum high school alum. “But Roberto and I are obviously really heavy on Black art.”
The duo shares a sensibility for investment pieces and blends their respective tastes throughout the home—and when they moved in, they assigned each other a different floor to decorate. Blackwood took the living room; Johnson curated the third level; and they collaborated for their bedroom on the second floor. Not to say they always agreed. “Roberto is from Honduras. He is super-tropical, likes very bright colors, and needs a palm tree. I’m super-wabi-sabi, like—can our fridge be stone?” quips Blackwood. The result is an earthy opulence, from the rich palette of browns and creams to the curvy ’70s shapes and lush botanicals. Take the bouclé and linen modular sofa that Blackwood found at a Greenpoint vintage shop and stationed in the third-floor living room—a Diego Rivera painting and a portrait of two women Johnson painted hangs above it.
In November, Blackwood and Johnson attended Gucci’s 100th-anniversary runway show on Hollywood Boulevard—now the chairs from the event are permanent fixtures in their hallway.
The couple’s worlds converge again in their pristine, all-white kitchen, where Blackwood regularly cooks up curry dishes for his and Johnson’s families. It is the heart of the home and constantly filled with guests for over-the-top dinner parties. Blackwood relies upon a menagerie of vintage dishware he sources from eBay and Reuse America that he mixes with serving pieces Johnson picked up on his trips back to Honduras.
Blackwood confesses that the second-floor bedroom is all him, especially the RH Yeti bed—made of shaggy sheepskin—that he sourced online one night during a furniture deep dive. He was taken with the plush platform frame that recalls a postmodern decadence from a bygone era and texted his mother immediately. “Is this ridiculous?” he asked. “Absolutely, but you need it,” she confirmed. Four months later it arrived and has become the focal point in his otherwise minimalist bedroom. “Everything else is secondary: ‘Yeah, sconces, cool.’ It’s the bed!” he says.
While the bedroom stays minimal, the closet is purely maximalist, with the stylish couple’s wardrobe spilling out into two guest spaces on the same level. His dream closet, says Blackwood, is coming in 2023, when he plans to gut the entire brownstone with the help of interior designer Leyden Lewis. As you can imagine, the revamp will include indulgent details: refrigerated bathroom cabinets for Blackwood’s beauty products, a sauna, and clothing storage that consumes half a floor. The home will also likely be filled with ceramic pieces he is launching this summer. It’s a new endeavor, but he’s excited to produce a fresh fixation for his core audience, the fashionable, young Black female who is decorating her own apartment for the first time. “I’d love to make something affordable that lives in my home and that I can put in other people’s,” says Blackwood. Because in the same way he’s the poster child of young Black fashion, he’s now becoming the face of young Black homeownership, too.
At accessories designer Brandon Blackwood’s Brooklyn brownstone, a museum’s worth of Black art and vintage furniture defines his decadent world.
Photography by Angela Hau
Words by Marjon Carlos
Styling by Naomi Demañana and Julia Stevens
Life is the occasion.
Don’t save the expressive, special pieces for an occasion. Rip the tag off
now and use the bag tonight:
“Absolutely, but you need it,”
“Is this ridiculous?”
Shop the Story
Stature Chair, CB2 ($399)
Shaw 1 Light Wall Sconce by Hudson Valley Lighting, Burke Decor ($328)
Yeti Sheepskin Platform Bed, RH ($12,375)
Cotton Tufted Lumbar Pillow, Beam ($60)
This image: Terrazza Sofa by Ubald Klug for De Sede, 1stDibs; Plateau Marble Coffee Table, France & Son; Handwoven Pillow by Hawkins New York, Beam; Untitled, 1982, by Keith Haring. Above: On Blackwood: Jumpsuit, Levi’s; Boots, The Row. On Johnson: Vintage Sweater; Pants, Melitta Baumeister.
This image: Easy Armchairs by Pierre Jeanneret and Adjustable Side Tables by Eileen Gray, 1stDibs; Sadzi Carved Rug, France & Son; Art, Bony Ramirez, Xavier Scott Marshall, Lenworth McIntosh, Evan Browning, and Jonny Negron. Left: Rattan Sea Urchin Pendant Lamp, The Wicked Boheme; Stone Gray Dining Table and Stature Chair, CB2; Rug (on wall) by Tschabalala Self.
Vintage Mirror; Table Lamp, CB2.
Burl-Wood Pedestal Table, CB2; Urn by Antonio Rulo, Loewe; Tête, 1969, by Pablo Picasso.
This image: Vintage Sofa, Dream Fishing Tackle; Vintage Floor Lamp, Reuse America; Handwoven Pillow by Hawkins New York, Desert Pillow by Ferm Living, and Cotton Tufted Lumbar Pillow, Beam; Art, Roberto Johnson. Left, from top: Vintage Mirror, Reuse America; Shaw 1 Light Wall Sconce by Hudson Valley Lighting, Burke Decor; Director’s Chair from Gucci’s 100th Anniversary Show.
This image: Yeti Sheepskin Platform Bed, RH; Hinsdale 1 Light Wall Sconces, France & Son; Birch Coverlet and Sham Set, Parachute; Art, Lenworth McIntosh; Floor Lamp, Pablo Macon. Right, from top: Milsbo Cabinet, IKEA; Bathtub, MAAX; Faucet, Grohe; Pile Bathroom Mat by Ferm Living, Beam.
Drag wrestler Jassy tackles chains, colorful IKEA hacks, and ’80s-era grids at his New Orleans home.
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