Top Ten Reasons We Love Courtney Sloane
Courtney Sloane, founder of Alternative Design (AD), is one of the country’s leading designers and her influence can be seen most prominently in hip-hop culture thanks to a roster of A-list clients. When she founded AD in 1993, hip-hop was emerging as a powerhouse in pop culture—and Sloane was at the helm when its influence went worldwide. Her company has grown immensely in 14 years and her client base is hugely diverse. She does high-end home and office design, commercial design and set design for hot TV shows like America’s Next Top Model. It seems there’s no stopping this stylish heavy hitter. — Katie Peoples
1. She’s versatile. Sloane has designed everything, from watches to furniture. Her style is a mix of high-tech and soft touch. She combines modern style with African and Asian accents. She’s created the lobby at Vibe magazine, a music studio at Sony and interiors at Disney, among other things.
2. Her company is one of the top design firms in New York City. AD has made a name for itself as the go-to shop for hip-hop style, but also made the House Beautiful Top 101 designer’s list for three consecutive years and Home Design magazine’s Top 100 best architects and decorators list in 2002. Sloane was named one of the “emerging designers of the millennium” by the Decorating and Design Building.
3. She’s accessible: Don’t let her place in the Hamptons or the fact that her clients are celebs fool you. Sloane is down-to-earth, doing educational specials on HGTV and TLC and offering design advice for magazines like Seventeen. She also offers Total Design Prescription, which gives commercial customers one-on-one help with their design woes, and Group Therapy, educational sessions held at the AD studios for groups of commercial customers.
4. She’s worked with Queen Latifah. And Diddy. And Jay-Z. And BET, Essence, Sony Music and Viacom. Sloane’s big break came in 1993 when she decorated Latifah’s house. Ever since, Sloane’s been at the forefront of hip-hop style and design and her influence on them is immeasurable.
5. She’s a self-made woman. “I built the business furniture piece by furniture piece and room by room,” she says about the beginning of her firm. Sloane worked her way through the designing ranks, working for Formica Corporation before breaking out on her own.
6. Yep, she’s a lesbian. Not that it matters, to her or us. “I view myself as a citizen of the world,” she says. “I don’t necessarily identify myself purely by my sexuality. What I bring to the project is me, and that is who I am.”
7. She’s a writer, too! Sloane got her start in media working as a contributing editor and columnist for Essence magazine, where her monthly column, “By Design,” dispensed advice and information. She’s also been featured in two books, How You Livin’ and Designers of Color. She even describes interior design as a form of storytelling. “In essence, I’m creating a story for [the client] that becomes more of a space or an environment,” she says. “I like to think of myself as a storyteller, but in a physical space.”
8. She’s a smarty-pants. Sloane was educated at Rutgers University, the Fashion Institute of Technology and Pratt Institute. She also spent plenty of time simply observing other people create things—from cabinets to fabrics—in order to learn how things were made. The experience gave her a better understanding of her future as a designer.
9. She’s a homebody. Sloane likes to take time to live and move in whatever space she’s decorating—especially if it’s her own. “I like to do more experimental things that I may or may not do with clients,” she says. “My place is like a laboratory.”
10. She’s focused on you. Sloane wants her clients to be as involved as possible. She does extensive interviews on what they want, and tries to bring out their personality as much as possible. But it goes both ways. “They’ve got to be willing to go the distance because it is as much their responsibility as it is yours.”