Architectural Digest teams up with the Black Interior Designers Network for a virtual showhouse
Condé Nast’s Architectural Digest is teaming up with the Black Interior Designers Network (BIDN) for a virtual showhouse set to launch in November. Dubbed The Iconic Home, the immersive digital experience will work much like the sorts of traditional real-world showhouses AD has hosted over the years, with discrete rooms that guests can tour and “shop.”
Ten Black interior design professionals—whose names will be revealed next month as part of a phased promotional cycle for The Iconic Home—will “take over” a 15-room virtual mansion designed by Samantha Josaphat and Luis Medina, owners of Studio 397 Architecture.
The project is being lead by BIDN President Keia McSwain, who tells Ad Age that while her group had an existing relationship with Architectural Digest, the murder of George Floyd in May by a Minneapolis police officer prompted her group and AD Editor-in-Chief Amy Astley to reconnect “to brainstorm ways we could develop a larger, more public-facing partnership” and to further shared goals “regarding inclusivity and diversity in the design industry.” (See Ad Age’s brief Q&A with McSwain and Astley below.)
While giving a high-profile platform to rising Black designers, the showhouse will also serve as an homage to late BIDN founder Kimberly Ward, who had planned to use The Iconic Home name as a platform for celebrating Black design talent.
The Iconic Home will launch as a destination section on architecturaldigest.com in November and will be supported by a comprehensive multimedia/social campaign. Brands including Caesarstone, CB2, Crate and Barrel, Gaggenau, Interface, Purple Innovation and The Shade Store have signed on as sponsors.
The following conversation has been lightly edited for space and clarity.
How did this partnership come about? How did the conversation start?
Keia McSwain: We have had consistent conversations with the AD editorial team over the past few years regarding inclusivity and diversity in the design industry. After the murder of George Floyd, we reconnected again to brainstorm ways we could develop a larger, more public-facing partnership with the BIDN and AD.
Tell us how sponsor product integration will work. Like, will the designers have access to digital renderings of furniture, appliances and decor from Gaggenau and Crate and Barrel, etc., that they can incorporate into their rooms in the showhouse?
Amy Astley: Yes! There will be shoppable hotspots throughout each rendering, plus a selection of products—both sponsored and designer-chosen—in each room, making the whole experience even more available for consumers to browse and buy. In creating their spaces, the BIDN designers will be able to choose sponsored products and editorial selections.
What virtual platform are you planning to use?
McSwain: We are working with The Boundary to bring the showhouse to life with 360-degree photorealistic renderings. Their digital rendering skills are incredible! I’m looking forward to the level of detail that will go into the room designs, down to the way a throw drapes a sofa.
Astley: As for the shoppable hotspots, we get so many reader emails asking where to buy and where to find the products we feature, so this is really an amazing service we’re excited to provide our audience.
Have you talked about the possibility of a real-world showhouse down the line, post-pandemic?
Astley: For almost 20 years, we have been hosting the Architectural Digest Design Show in New York City, and in the center of this amazing experience is a premium space where we showcase a relevant designer’s work as an Apartment or Loft or Lounge. Given how our virtual showhouse has come together with so much enthusiasm behind it, we are starting to think about how we can capture the same excitement in a real-world version once the world is calm again.