Johnna's Articles

A Special Daily Resource Shared by Kerry Ruff

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021




Cecil Hayes was born on April 25, 1945 in Malone, Florida and she grew up to be very creatively gifted and believed her only career option was to be an art teacher. After graduating from high school, she would attend Florida A&M University where she received her Bachelors of Art degree in art education in 1967. After graduation, Cecil began to teach art to high school students in Georgia and while she was renting a small room, she re-decorated her small rented room and considered a career change. She moved back to Florida to enroll at the Art Institute where she would graduate at the top of her class in 1973. An interior design firm in Florida, immediately hired Cecil where she made $80 a week but she was able to gain enough experience in two years to venture out on her own. With a $6,000 loan, she opened her storefront, Cecil’s Designers Unlimited and within her first year, she was able to land a wealthy client where she designed a 4,500 square foot home on a budget of just $1,400. It was so impressive that it earned her local media coverage. With this exposure, her business found new clientele and won bigger budgets over the next few years but a black woman working in the world of interior design was still a rarity. As a member of the American Society of Interior Designers, the organization with a rigorous qualifying examination, Cecil gained access to fabric; furniture and flooring showrooms open only to the trade. With the assistance of her husband, she eventually went into custom-furniture business and she said, “I started doing more custom designs out of fear of the design center.” She explained that people would meet her at the door and ask, are you in the wrong place or if she was walking with a client, the staff would only speak to the client and never considered that Cecil was the designer and she said it was very uncomfortable. Her clientele list included the following celebrities; Wesley Snipes, Mr. & Mrs. Samuel L Jackson, Timbaland and Penny Hardaway. Mrs. Hayes designs have been photographed in Architectural Digest, Ebony, Southern Living, Florida Design, Boston Globe and USA Today News Papers, just to name a few. In 1999, she was honored with the prestigious Presidents Award of Excellence from the Florida A&M University National Alumni Association. She has won the notable African American Achievement Award and for several years, she has received the distinguished Designer of the Year Award from the Designers and Decorators Guild, as well as Service Firm of the Year Award. Cecil has also been chosen as one of the Top Ten Female Interior Designers. Mrs. Cecil Hayes is one of the first African American designers to manufacture furniture, case goods and upholstery and the first African American designer to grace the pages of Architectural Digest. She is the first and only African American and the only designer from the South to be named the Architectural Digest’s Top 100 list of influential designers in the world. Today we honor the woman who created a lane of her own in the world of interior design with such grace and creativity. Thank you. Happy Black History Month.


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