Linda Allen gives residency to the long lost art of storytelling. A visionary interior and lighting designer, she layers light, texture, and materials to create spaces that tell a story and connect to our senses and emotions. Her designs have been featured in Luxe Interiors + Design, Better Homes & Gardens, Architectural Digest, and Essence, among other publications. A member of the Black Artists + Designers Guild, Linda has been recognized as an African American Artmaker by the Library of Congress.
Where do you find your joy today?
Every morning, when I look up and see the sun coming through the windows, it reminds me of a new beginning, and it brings me joy because I’m given another opportunity to go out and reach my potential for that day.
Looking back to your childhood, are there any moments or curiosities you recall that perhaps guided you toward your passion?
I remember being drawn to my grandmother’s sunroom. At an early age I was already fascinated by the sunlight streaming through the window, how it gets morphed and changes color, how it captures a mood. I don’t know why it’s innate, but lighting was something I’ve just always gravitated towards—maybe it’s something that’s bigger than me.
Before my grandmother passed, she gifted me her vintage table lamp from the ‘60s. I’ve always been attracted to table lamps—the way light hits our face, and how the warmth of light can actually make you feel better. They’re intimate, and they create instant living rooms in a way. I put her table lamp outside to create an outdoor instant living room next to a small jacuzzi I had. She got me there. That’s when I had the idea to create wireless lamps, which was a whole new concept at the time, which then led me to the patent for “Live Anywhere” luxury outdoor wireless table and floor lamps.
Why is self-awareness so integral to your design philosophy?
I believe we all have a story. It’s who we are. So I always ask “how do you want to feel in the space?”
Working with Disney Imagineering gave me that insight. We were creating immersive experiences for theme parks, building environments that connect with patrons. So I was constantly looking at who that person was, what they liked, where they worked, where they came from, what they wore, you know, all of those things that brought them into that moment.
That skillset took me into the deeper meaning of design, because it’s not just about what we like, but actually why we like it.
Design affects how we feel about ourselves, and yet, how we feel about ourselves affects how we choose. If I was around things that weren’t an expression of me, I’d feel like I’m visiting all the time, or like I wouldn’t want to mess it up. I find many of us are moving so fast, sometimes we don’t really know why we truly make decisions – and some of those decisions we have to live with for a long time.
It’s a great practice to see something first, without judgment. Most times we look at things with preconceived thoughts, and I’m guilty of that too. In design, there’s so much intrinsic beauty in life’s little details. It could be just the way things are put together.
Curating Your Environment
In today’s age of immediacy, where everything has to be right now, just know that creating form takes time.
Start by personalizing your experience, as if you’re in a film and you’re the star of your own documentary. Understand your personal story and pull the elements together to help you realize what makes you tick. Do your research and explore, google it. It can be fun to create a story board to pinpoint what moves you.
If you had the opportunity to offer up sage advice to your younger self, what would you say?
I’d tell myself not to worry about how other people think of you. Because really, they may not know themselves and they’re only projecting their perspective on how they think you should be.
Give up trying to be perfect, we’re not perfect. There’s no freedom in that. I think it’s more about embracing our authenticity, and I would love to have had more of that earlier on in my career.
You’ve been a trailblazer at each step, refining your skillset as you go. Would you say that your past shaped you most, or would it be one moment that shaped you?
There were multiple moments for sure, though of course I didn’t know it at the time…
My sister was adopted when she was five, so I think I pushed myself to excel more because I wanted my parents to acknowledge me, versus paying all that attention to her. And that’s how we got into figure skating, because our social worker thought it would be a great outlet.
I credit my coach Mabel Fairbanks, who was way ahead of her time, with the life lessons I carry today. I can remember the words we used to recite in our “off ice” training as we paraded across a mirrored room. We had to say, “I am beautiful. I am gorgeous. I am lovely to behold,” and express it in our body language. So I got early doses of the power of positive thinking. I won my first competition at 14 because I knew I could.
I feel that skating taught me to pick myself up when I fail, and it gave me mental endurance — to continue through the thick and thin. We’re always transitioning, you know, so if you can’t weather the transitions, that’s going to be a stumbling block when progressing to the next step.
When I skated professionally in ice shows I felt wrapped in the music. And that’s when I started getting really romanced by lighting—there I was with sparkles on my costume, listening to the live orchestra, and the whole experience was just so sensory.
What did you most recently say yes to? And what did that allow you to learn about yourself?
I said yes to NOT putting on the Zoom filter that fades out the wrinkles. I feel like when you’re younger, there’s certain things that define your beauty, but when you’re older, what really defines your beauty is being comfortable in your skin. I continue to be a work in progress.
You’re invited to find more inspirations and connect with Linda at Linda Allen Designs.