This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of ESSENCE
Kiyanna Stewart and Jannah Handy’s nineteenth-century Victorian-style home is unapologetically Black. From the moment you walk into the couple’s New Jersey digs, Black cultural ephemera, Black memorabilia, Black artifacts and beautiful brown faces gracing the covers of vintage Black magazines confirm that you are in a familiar space, an experience that has been intentionally outfitted to honor us.
“The aesthetic is rooted in affirmation, which is the linchpin that guides our design decisions,” says Handy, who cofounded BLK MKT Vintage with Stewart in 2014. The online shop carries pieces similar to those featured throughout their cozy crib. The couple also offers other design services, including interior consultations, staging, and rentals.
In the foyer, a Chiquita Banana crate from the 1940s is modernized with metal hairpin legs and serves as stylish shoe storage.
Just above that is their “sentimental places” wall, where a 1937 Martha’s Vineyard/Nantucket steamboat travel schedule poster hangs alongside a 1900’s almanac street grid of the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Brooklyn neighborhood where both Handy and Stewart were born and raised. Across from the crate is the original street sign for the MLK Recreation Center in Indiana, which once directed visitors to the entrance of the complex.
And that’s just the entryway. The triumphant narrative of the Black experience is dotted in every crevice of Stewart and Handy’s home. “Each of us has a responsibility to honor Black heritage in our own way,” reflects Stewart. “Ours is through decor, thoughtful curation and making the vintage and historical relevant.”