Design

Meet The Designer Behind an Iconic Office

Amhad Freeman on designing a sophisticated workspace for a first-of-its-kind virtual showhouse with Architectural Digest and the Black Interior Designers Network

A few months ago, Architectural Digest partnered with the Black Interior Designers Network to create the Iconic Home: a first-of-its-kind virtual showhouse featuring the work of leading Black interior designers and architects. It’s just one example of AD and CB2’s commitment to amplify diverse voices, expand inspiration and move the industry forward with diversity and inclusion at the forefront. (For more, check out this roundtable discussion we hosted, also in partnership with AD and BIDN.) That commitment is also why we were so excited to sponsor the home office, designed by Nashville-based Amhad Freeman Interiors.

Envisioned as a modernist getaway in upstate New York, the Iconic Home’s entirely digital rendering means you can experience it no matter your location—including Freeman’s serene, inviting home office that makes the prospect of working from home actually enticing. The space is full of Freeman’s signature touches such as sophisticated neutrals, custom shelving and a balance of masculine and feminine elements. “I wanted to elaborate on the bones of the room—the elegance of the space itself—and not hide behind a lot of decoration,” Freeman explains.

In fact, Freeman always begins his design process by studying the architecture of the room and its details—a skill he’s honed since childhood. “My grandmother designed and built several houses for her children in Alabama, where I grew up. She would take me along as she worked on those houses, and that was really the beginning of wanting to be in design,” Freeman says. “I think every space has a natural balance. I allow the room to speak to me and follow its lead. When you fight against what the room says, you’ll almost always lose.”

WORK/LIFE BALANCE

For many people, all aspects of life have transitioned to happening under one roof, forcing our living spaces to become more and more multi-functional out of necessity. Working from home is no longer a novel concept, even for jobs that previously relied on the office grind and daily commute. There’s a renewed focus on creating a space that encourages productivity, creativity and inspiration, which is exactly what Freeman has achieved with his design for the Iconic Home.

“I believe spaces should be designed for everyone, but honestly the secret to this office is that I designed it for myself—something I rarely get to do,” he confesses. “It’s exactly what I would love and it’s versatile. Everything you need to get through a workday is there, the design is elevated enough to host a meeting, and because of those thoughtful details, it’s a space you want to be in, even as a private retreat or for a drink with a friend.”

The design of the office perfectly balances beautiful, inspiring details (“Did you notice there are two different wall coverings in this room?” Freeman points out) with clean, pared-back surfaces. No distracting clutter here. “I’ll confess, I’m one of those people who cannot leave work until my desk is cleared off. That’s just who I am,” Freeman says. “But I think a clean, orderly space makes things easier for everyone and reduces stress, too.”

Freeman’s trick to a calming, clutter-free design? “This may sound counterintuitive, but I often advise clients to do away with extra storage. You’ll likely just fill it, often with things you don’t need. Pare down to the things you actually use and like, and build in just enough storage.” Freeman favors a balance of closed storage and open shelving, preferably with built-in lighting to create an “instant display space” and shift the focus to beautiful things. “You want your favorite things to shine. It leads to good design and a good way to live.”

TIMELESS, NEVER DATED

When it comes to design trends, “everything runs its course.” For instance, Freeman is ready for reclaimed barn wood to go but excited about the resurgence of warm neutrals: greys, browns and other autumnal tones. “They’re so relaxing. Bold colors can feel old quickly, but I can never get enough of the relaxing feeling of a neutral interior.”

Designing with neutrals isn’t as simple as stripping away all color, though. Freeman has two tricks for making it work: undertones and texture. “Neutral colors will have either a cool (bluish) or warm (yellowish) undertone. Choose a favorite shade that is either warm or cool and work from there. Once you have chosen the perfect color and tone, make sure that the rest of your palette has matching undertones. This allows the rich blend of neutral shades to emerge,” he explains.

When you fight against what the room says, you’ll almost always lose.

Bringing in plenty of textures adds layers and depth to a neutral palette, as well. “One item may be flat, another waffled, something matte, something shiny—it is all about the materials,” Freeman says. “Texture adds shadow, depth and contrast. Every room needs textures, but in a neutral space different textures are a must.”

Another Amhad Freeman signature present throughout his Iconic Home office: balancing masculine and feminine design elements. “It’s a theme that runs through a lot of my work, and I am honestly always thinking about it,” he says. Freeman strives to create design that crosses boundaries and creates visual contrast and balance, often achieved by mixing hard and soft materials or curved shapes with crisp, straight lines. “I get excited when both characteristics show up in a single piece of furniture, like the Fitz Russet Swivel Chairs. I appreciated how they were scaled, with arms that really wrap around you—that felt masculine. But then the warm, rich color and soft fabric gave them that feminine twist. Beautiful.”

DESIGN FOR ALL

Diversity in design opens up the design world to so many possibilities, sources of inspiration and unique points of view—things Freeman is passionate about. “The whole purpose of the showhouse was inclusion and celebrating designers of color, but to me that also meant focusing on broader inclusion and bringing more people into the story of design,” he says. “When I design a space, everything has a story and I really want to include everybody. For example, female artists and artisans play a big role in the pieces I chose [for the Iconic Home office].”

Freeman describes working with Architectural Digest and the Black Interior Designers Network on this project as “incredible. The expectations were high, but I felt AD, AD PRO and BIDN supported my vision every step of the way. I felt this was a chance to really open up, lift people up—and I love that sense of inclusion.”

Like Freeman, we believe that including a wider array of voices and points of view in the design world creates a sense of inclusion and opens up greater possibilities for new ideas and innovations. It’s why we’re proud to continue our partnership with Architectural Digest and commit to change.

Quick Fire

  • Soundtrack of your life: Daydream by Mariah Carey
  • Cocktail order: Lemon Drop martini
  • We’ll never catch you without: A smile!
  • Guilty pleasure: Little Debbie cakes
  • Airport reads: GQ magazine
  • Style icons: James Bond
  • Favorite designer: Thomas Pheasant
  • You’ll never get sick of: The Golden Girls
  • Your current state of mind: Inner peace is my goal
  • Favorite place to travel: Cape Town, South Africa
  • Where you’d most like to live: Chicago or London
  • On your nightstand: Lamp and a candle (Remember: no clutter)
  • Last thing you binge-watched: The Queen’s Gambit
  • Your greatest extravagance: Vacations at Delaire Graff Estate, a winery and luxury hotel right outside of Cape Town
  • Most overused word or phrase: “Luxury”
  • Tea or coffee: Sparkling water
  • City or country: City
  • Vintage or new: New or bespoke

This interview has been edited and condensed. Office images courtesy The Boundary; Amhad Freeman photo courtesy Nicholas McGinn.

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