In honor of Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room, we’ve collaborated with New York City–based interior designer Sheila Bridges (American, b. 1964) on a new collection featuring her celebrated Harlem Toile de Jouy pattern. This contemporary vision of 18th-century toile—a classic French fabric abounding with pastoral imagery—playfully illustrates the absurdity of Black stereotypes: women styling hair, men playing basketball, girls enjoying a round of Double Dutch.
The motif originates from Bridges’s tenacious search for an existing toile that suited her sensibility as a decorator as well as her perspective as an African American woman living in Harlem. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Bridges about her work and inspiration. Read our interview below and be sure to visit The Met Store to shop the collaboration.
What inspired you to become a designer?
I have always loved art and design and wanted to work in a profession where I was able to tell visual stories while creatively problem solving.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey in the design industry?
I attended Parsons School of Design and worked for architectural/design firms before starting my own design company in 1995.
What is your design ethos? What do you hope your work will accomplish (any particular impact, impression, end result?)
To create beautiful, thought-evoking spaces and products that inspire and challenge people.
What inspired you to create your now iconic Harlem Toile de Jouy?
I have always loved French toiles but could never find one that spoke to me personally, so I designed one for my own home!
Your Harlem Toile de Jouy has been exhibited in a number of museums, as well as being in the permanent collection of The Cooper Hewitt, and now your Harlem Toile babouches are included in Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room. How does it feel to have your work spotlighted at The Met?
It feels incredible. It is such an amazing honor and being included in museums is an important part of my legacy as a designer.
How do you feel about your print being included in a dialog with Afrofuturism and the history of Seneca Village?
Everyone should know about the history of Seneca Village (particularly if you live in NYC), and I am honored to be included in this important conversation.
Can you tell us a bit about your collaboration with The Met Store?
I am so excited about my collaboration with The Met Store. It is a wonderful opportunity to introduce new customers to my Harlem Toile products and brand!
Stay tuned for more Harlem de Jouy products coming later this season and in spring 2022.