Quintece Hill-Mattauszek was used to flipping through home-decor magazines and noticing that nearly all the designers featured in their pages were white.
But that didn’t make it any easier.
“Or when you would go to a conference or a panel where there was a discussion being had, the majority were Caucasian designers,” says Hill-Mattauszek, who runs her own interior-design firm, Studio Q, in Alexandria. “You weren’t getting that point of view from different cultures.” That seemed like a huge waste, especially given where her business is located. “The DC design landscape is such a melting pot of cultures,” she says. “It made sense for us to be pioneering some of the efforts to put more diversity and inclusion into the design industry, where it was lacking.”
Hill-Mattauszek (at bottom left in the photo above) is one of the founding members of Design Collective DC, a group of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) interior-design professionals that formed last year after the widely publicized police murders of several Black citizens, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. While Hill-Mattauszek had been gathering with groups of her Black colleagues over dinner since 2018 just to bond over friendship, design, and business, they soon realized that there was a need to fight for more representation in the industry. Soon, Hill-Mattauszek joined forces with four others—Iantha Carley, Dennese Guadeloupe Rojas, Shawna Underwood, and Charles Almonte—to form DCDC.
The problem, as they saw it: Designers from non-Caucasian racial backgrounds weren’t getting the representation they needed to expand their businesses. Furthermore, most people had no idea that was happening. “Imagine the amazing collaborations that could come from hearing from Native American designers, that could come from the Latino perspective, [from] family aspects of Indian culture,” says Hill-Mattauszek. “There’s all this information that is not being included in the design industry, and it could really reshape the fabric and the fibers of the design industry into something even more beautiful than it already is.” After all, other cultures have different ways of using certain materials or colors and often combine unique patterns and textures in ways not widely seen before. Picture the subtle embroidery of an Indian textile, for example, or the combination of brick and terra-cotta hues seen in primarily African designs—details that could form a wealth of inspiration for any designer.
DCDC now aims to promote racial diversity within its field in the DC metro area, while also providing industry-wide support for its members. To that end, the organization holds events that shine a spotlight squarely on underrepresented architects and designers. They reach out to media and PR partners who may be able to represent their members, help connect members to one another, create or refine business plans for their members, and get the word out about the organization as a whole so that members can be considered for media appearances, panels, and other events. “We are looking to create a resource-based library and collection of vendors that can also help level up [a member’s] business to offer their clients more,” says Hill-Mattauszek. “In addition to that, we do plan to give back to the communities.” Last December, the organization participated in the Special Olympics Night of Trees, where they decorated Christmas trees that were sponsored by area businesses and raised money for the township as a whole.
The collective is still currently fielding memberships on its website (designcollectivedc.com) and meets once a week to finalize new initiatives and ideas. On the horizon: design pros offering mentorships for students at local high schools and colleges. “The organization is going to be ever-evolving,” says Hill-Mattauszek, “because the design industry is just that way.”