When interior designer Amber Guyton first visited Shanelle Walker’s Grove Park home, she noticed lots of art propped up against the walls—but that didn’t surprise her. “My client, Shanelle, is a woman of many talents,” says Guyton. Walker is a freelancer in Atlanta’s booming TV/movie industry and owner of the local apparel line Freedom Company, a brand “rooted in Black Empowerment and Love.” She’s also a writer, an activist, and a podcaster. Guyton says, “Her home is the core of all this creativity. She wanted it to be a place where ‘Dreams Don’t Sleep.’”
The designer planned the interiors around Walker’s collection, using rich colors on the walls to make everything stand out visually. The goal was to inspire her client’s day-to-day life. “Shanelle’s specific ask was for her home to be sophisticated and cozy, and to look like a Black writer for TV and film lives here and writes million-dollar movies,” she says. “I immediately thought of Issa Rae and Lena Waithe, and I was up for the challenge!”
Prominent in Walker’s collection are paintings by California artist B. Moore, whose series Imagine a World, Brown like Me includes people of color in classic cartoons like Peanuts and the Jetsons. As a background for these works, Guyton chose moody colors and jewel tones. She used an existing rust-colored sofa—from Albany Park, a minority-owned furniture company in Texas—to anchor the sitting area and inspire the color scheme. Walls were painted a deep navy, with accent pillows bringing in more texture and saturated hues.
Frames in atypical colors provide a subtle design statement as well. “I usually like to frame photos or art with brass, gold, or black, but since Walker had already framed a few pieces in colors pulled out of the art itself, we did the same—and they came out looking beautiful and unique,” says Guyton.
Once the art was framed, Guyton began planning how to arrange the gallery wall above the sofa. “I laid them out with the largest piece first—the James Baldwin art—and positioned it at the center,” says the designer. “I then added the smaller pieces on each side, about four to six inches apart, making sure there was distance between pieces so the arrangement felt diverse and balanced.”
Elsewhere in the living/kitchen area, a wall of black-and-white photography displays portraits of Walker’s favorite figures from Black history: Martin Luther King Jr., Nina Simone, Malcolm X, Shirley Chisholm, and others. The photos are arranged on a board-and-batten wall painted black, with nameplates beneath each image.
A collection of original art isn’t necessary to compose a compelling gallery wall, Guyton notes. “You can arrange art prints and photography straight from your iPhone, and it can still be impactful. Gallery walls are the perfect way to add personal interest to a space.”
This article appears in our September 2023 issue.